Rose breeder in Upper Caldecote creates first ever rose to be named after an ethnic minority Briton

Harkness Roses teamed up with We Too Built Britain to create The John Ystumllyn Rose

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 2:45 pm
The John Ystumllyn Rose

A rose breeder based in Chronicle Country has teamed up with a campaign to create the first ever rose to be named after an ethnic minority Briton.

Harkness Roses, in Upper Caldecote, joined forces with the We Too Built Britain campaign to create the beautiful yellow gold rose, named after an 18th Century Black gardener.

John Ystumllyn was the first well-recorded Black person in North Wales and with his marriage to Margaret Gruffydd, part of the first interracial marriage in Wales.

The campaign wanted to breed a new rose as a symbol of friendship, love and community and to bring people together after the divisiveness of recent years – as well as inspiring people from all backgrounds to see gardening as a career or activity for them.

Harkness Roses has been breeding and growing over 200 varieties of exquisite British roses for more than 140 years.

David White, Managing Director said: “We believe in the power of gardening to bring people together and want to make it more inclusive.

“When We Too Built Britain approached us, this felt like such a positive and joyous thing to do. This might be one of the most important roses that we have ever launched.

“We want our roses to reflect and resonate across society and we are proud to launch our first rose after an ethnic minority Briton.”

The John Ystumllyn Rose is a Hybrid Tea. It grows to 80cm tall and 60 cm wide. The flower is a beautiful golden yellow variety that doesn’t fade. It starts flowering early and goes on to the first frosts and has a lovely scent to it.

David added: “We chose yellow because it conveys warmth and is associated with friendship. Even if some people do not garden themselves, we hope this rose will brighten up homes”.

We Too Built Britain, founded by Zehra Zaidi, has campaigned to tell the stories of under-represented people in Britain with the aim of building social connections and to show what we have in common.

Previous campaigns include the new 50p ‘Diversity Built Britain’ Royal Mint coins and the ‘Hidden Heroes’ statues campaign. Zehra Zaidi’s Horticulture Week article on John Ystumllyn created a groundswell of support for a new rose.

Zehra said: “Lockdown and the pandemic showed us the importance of community and the restorative power of nature. When we talk of ways of bringing us together as a nation and building a connection, gardening may not be the first area that people think of.

“However, every gardener will tell you that gardening is communal, restorative, and creative. There is something magical and grounding about planting something in the land, it connects you to the land. It was poet William Wordsworth who said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”.

Advolly Richmond, social historian and key campaign supporter said: “There are so many forgotten gardeners in our history, they helped to create and nurture some of our most iconic gardens and designed landscapes, but their stories and voices remain in the shadows. John Ystumllyn was a gardener and a ‘florist’ in the original meaning of the word, someone who grew and loved flowers.

“This is why I am absolutely thrilled that he will be commemorated with this beautiful rose. What a fitting legacy for someone who found solace in their garden.”

Harkness Roses and We Too Built Britain are working with an advisory group from the horticulture sector to see how it can better open opportunities for young people from under-represented backgrounds.

It is also developing a community garden scheme that can be rolled out nationally.

Harkness Roses have set aside 5,000 roses for community gardens and will send out roses for free to community garden groups. To be sent a rose, all groups need to do is: write in and tell Harkness Roses why inclusion in gardening matters and send images of their group planting the rose for the Community Wall on Harkness Roses’ website.

The rose will be available to order now via Harkness Roses’ website, ready for October and November planting season. The rose will be formally presented at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022.

Who was John Ystumllyn?

After a traumatic start in life, being taken from Africa aged 8, John Ystumllyn found love and a life in Wales.

John was the first well-recorded Black person in North Wales. He was sent to live with the Wynn Family in Ystumllyn, in Gwynedd, North Wales. The women in the family taught John Welsh and English and he was baptised John Ystumllyn.

He became a talented gardener, a knowledgeable plantsman and florist, a skilled craftsman, and importantly a free man.

John fell in love with Margaret Gruffydd who worked as a maid for the same household. The couple eloped and found work elsewhere but were eventually reconciled with the Wynne family and were given a cottage with a significant garden called Y Nhyra Isa or Nanhyran in recognition of John Ystumllyn’s service.

John and Margaret had seven children and their descendants lived in the area for generations, with their eldest son working as a huntsman at the Glynllifon estate. The story of John and Margaret survived and grew in North Wales, passed down as a testament to resilience and enduring love. It is the first record of a mixed-race marriage in Wales.