Hands up who's heard of Mottisfont? No, I hadn't either. (Then again, I'm a novice gardener and still learning about these things.) A friend in London told me about this place, describing it with the kind of reverence one usually reserves for, say, a new-born baby, a beautiful new pair of shoes from Net-a-Porter at 80% off, or a vintage Mercedes convertible.
"Mottisfont," he said, "is the most beautiful rose garden in the world."
"Really?" I said doubtfully.
"Go and visit it, and then come back and tell me you agree," he replied, with the confidence of One Who Knows About These Things.
So I did. It's tucked away down in the depths of Hampshire but if you're going to Salisbury, as I was for the two new Cecil Beaton exhibitions, it's only a short drive further. There's a hike from the carpark to the actual garden – or rather, a cluster of walled gardens – but it's good exercise, even in the rain.
At the end of the short hike across the estate, you'll come to a rather humble walled garden. Don't be fooled. Keep walking. You'll soon reach another walled garden, twenty times as large. And then another. Each filled with thousands of roses.
By the first of these walled gardens you'll begin to see what serious rose gardeners are talking about when they mention this mecca.
The best thing is that each rose bush is named, so if you like one of them you can just jot down the details. The gardeners are helpful too. One told me her favourite was 'Quatre Saisons'– a lovely pink rose – and then warned me off others.
My friend was right. It really is one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.