John Ystumllyn Rose planted at Buckingham Palace

The historic John Ystumllyn rose - signifying friendship, community and tolerance - has been planted in Her Majesty’s rose garden at Buckingham Palace.

Harkness Roses' John Ystumllyn rose
Harkness Roses' John Ystumllyn rose

On 23 May 2022, a diversity and social cohesion campaigner, Bedfordshire rose breeder Harkness and members from several community garden groups gathered in the garden of Buckingham Palace.

The occasion was the planting of the John Ystumllyn rose in Buckingham Palace and recognition of the community garden scheme “We Too Planted Britain” that it inspired -, which sent out 5,000 free roses to community garden groups all over the United Kingdom. The group was met by Mark Lane, Buckingham Palace’s gardens ,anager and his team for a tour of the rose garden, followed by the planting.

The rose will be accompanied by a plaque explaining the origins of the rose, for members of the public at events such as garden parties and gold award Celebrations to see and enjoy. 

In 2018, Zehra Zaidi started a campaign called We Too Built Britain to tell the stories of under-represented people in Britain. The campaign used cultural symbols with the aim of building social connections and to show what we have in common (to then also understand and value our uniqueness and differences). The question she began to grapple with was how to create a campaign out of the beauty in our world that connects to people’s hearts so that we can open up understanding and tolerance? In 2020, she wrote an article for Horticulture Week calling for a #RoseForJohn.

This would be the first ever rose named after an ethnic minority person in the UK. John Ystumllyn was an 18th century gardener who was the first well- recorded black person in North Wales. Despite a difficult start in life, taken from Africa aged eight, he found love and life in Wales. His marriage to Margaret Gruffydd is believed to be the first interracial marriage in Wales. Zehra’s article on John Ystumllyn created a groundswell of support for a new rose.

Matt Appleby, the editor of Horticulture Week, introduced Zaidi to Harkness Roses and David White, its managing director, who immediate agreed to help create a rose.

In October 2021 (Black History Month), the creation of the John Ystumllyn Rose was announced in Parliament by Liz Saville Roberts MP, the MP for the area where John Ystumllyn lived. In the Commons exchange that followed, the then Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg replied: "If the Ystumllyn rose could be the rose of friendship across political parties, I think that's something we could plant with pride."

Between February and April 2022, 5,000 free roses were sent to community garden groups all over the country to support community connections and mental health.

Zaidi said: “When we talk of ways of bringing us together as a nation and building a connectionsociety, gardening may not be the first area that people think of. However, lockdown and the pandemic showed us the importance of community and the restorative power of nature. There is something magical and grounding about planting something in the land, it connects you to the land, and doing it communally, connects you to each other.”

The Chelsea Flower Show 2022 (its opening day is the same day as the Buckingham Palace planting) will be the first presentation of the rose at a garden show anywhere in the country.

The rose symbolises friendship, community and tolerance.

The We Too Planted Britain community garden scheme

Harkness Roses were keen to improve access to gardening and diversity in horticulture and spread the joy of rose growing across communities all over the UK.

Harkness Roses' David White said: “We have been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the We Too Planted Britain Scheme and the stories that people have shared about their community garden initiatives and what the rose signifies to them in terms of helping to bring people together. After the last few years of the pandemic, and the struggles people face with the cost of living crisis, we need to focus on our collective healing and mental health. We hope our scheme goes some way to supporting people and bringing communal joy and togetherness.”

In year one, the community garden scheme was oversubscribed within months of opening in October 2021. No conditions were placed on community garden groups - anyone could apply for free roses. Some of the community garden groups, who were the most active and represent a selection of groups from around the country, have been invited today to Buckingham Palace for the planting.

In October 2022, the We Too Planted Britain scheme will open again. However, given the cost of living crisis, our focus will be on sending roses to those community garden groups who are about access to gardening, sustainability and the therapeutic effects of nature (whether allotments, balcony gardens in high rise flats, neighbourhood schemes for well-being or grow your own to give back to the community or projects for more vulnerable groups). To learn more about the community garden scheme, please email: info@communitygardens.uk.

Profiles of the community garden groups invited to Buckingham Palace 

Criccieth in Bloom and Cyngor Tref Criccieth Town Council, North Wales - the community where John Ystumllyn lived and is buried.

● Some roses have been planted at the Natur Prosiect Cymunedol Cae Crwn

Criccieth Community Project. During the pandemic, the Town Council received a £20,800 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales and the Welsh Government to help fund a community allotment and butterfly garden near the town centre. This initiative is a partnership with Ysgol Treferthyr primary school, youth services, community volunteers, Gwynedd Council’s Nature Partnership and Friends of the Nature Garden;

● 20 roses have been planted at the Criccieth Library to be maintained by Criccieth in Bloom. A friendship bench has been created by students from Coleg-Meirion Dwyfor so everyone can sit and enjoy the rose garden.

Ubele Initiative, Haringey, London

The Ubele Initiative is an African diaspora led organisation. Its Black Rootz project is the first multigenerational black-led growing project in the UK, where the older generation share their expertise on growing while also supporting youth engagement in their surrounding natural environment.

Growing Together Levenshulme, Manchester

Growing Together Levenshulme is volunteer-run, user-led, Manchester-based charity which runs a therapeutic horticulture project for disadvantaged groups. The group works with asylum seekers and refugees, providing opportunities to work in the garden and share meals together, reducing isolation, building friendship and a network of support. Given the refugee crisis in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries, its services are required more than ever.

Strawberry Hill House Community Garden

The garden at Strawberry Hill House is free to visit and a space for family, picnics, learning and relaxing. The communities that are helped at Strawberry Hill House include those with learning disabilities, the socially isolated and those with chronic health conditions. It is an ethnically diverse group with the majority of volunteers and participants coming from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Touchpoint Stanstead

TouchPoint Stansted is a community hub in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex that offers a welcoming café and community garden for the community. Their services for the local community include a Community Food Share to reduce food waste and help to distribute produce which supermarkets would otherwise dispose of but is still perfectly good to eat.

Grow for Talgarth

In 2015, a small group of volunteers decided that the town of Talgarth in Powys, Wales, needed cheering up as the only flower display in the town was by the war memorial. This group of enthusiastic gardeners has transformed Talgarth with flower beds and planters to such an extent that the town was awarded a Gold Medal in the Wales in Bloom 2021 competition. They have created a shade garden, sensory garden and riverside garden.

Clay Farm Community Garden (CFCG), Cambridge

CFCG comprises a group of local people getting together to design a community garden on the Clay Farm site. The community garden offers a rare opportunity for the people of Trumpington to design a neighbourhood space and is a place for gardening, learning about gardening (with regular gardening drop-in sessions) and community building, with all health and mental benefits of a light outdoor exercise. It has a Queen's Platinum Jubilee Picnic for residents planned for 25 June 2022.


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