Short bloom for Chiswell Green’s Gardens of the Rose

ROSE lovers have a seven-week window to visit a St Albans tourist attraction – and they are already pouring in.

The Gardens of the Rose in Chiswell Green, which has been locked in a parking battle with the neighbouring Butterfly World for the past couple of years, has planning permission to use its overflow car park in Chiswell Green Lane for visitors until July 31.

And to show her support, the new Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Aislinn Lee, officially opened the gardens on Saturday and spent a couple of hours looking around the site.

The gardens, owned by the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS), have had a chequered recent past which included a lot of money being lost on a project which did not materialise and the ongoing problems with parking and access from Butterfly World which is built on adjoining land sold by the RNRS.

But chief executive Roz Hamilton said this week that the gardens could still raise thousands of pounds from opening just for seven weeks and she was very hopeful that by next year, they will be able to open for four months.

She explained: “We put in a planning application last September for car parking and that was turned down.

“We were given three reasons and what we have done is deal with these points so we are putting another application in again, probably for the end of July.”

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If that is successful, the gardens would be able to open for four months next summer which would make its turnaround from a loss-maker to making a small profit complete.

Despite the short period of opening, the gardens have a tea room run by students who have Food Hygiene Certificates and are able to make sandwiches to go alongside the cakes which are brought in.

There are rose sales to the public and in Roz’s own words, “The gardens look fabulous, they have really matured now.”

The transformation in its fortunes has not happened without having to part with some staff but the gardens are now getting help from students at Oaklands College and Capel Manor. In addition, the international aspect of the RNRS attracts students from overseas.

Although the gardens have only been opened a few days, Roz has already welcomed three coach parties, two from Japan and one from Germany, and said that even though they were open for a similar length of time last year, visitors brought in �52,000 which matched the income from RNRS membership.

A four-month opening period would boost income significantly and also enable Roz to apply for a wedding licence for civil ceremonies.

She said: “Even if we don’t get the car parking, I don’t want to make millions but break even and continue with some of our projects. I would love to have the car park situation resolved by our 50th anniversary in 2013.”

Admission to the Gardens of the Rose, which is accessed from Chiswell Green Lane although tourist signs are still suggesting entrance from Butterfly World, is �5 per adult, �4 for parties of 20 or more and children free up until the age of 16.