The John Ystumllyn Rose

John Ystumllyn Rose is launched as a symbol of friendship, love and community – the first rose named after an ethnic minority Briton.

The Harkness Rose Company has joined forces with the We Too Built Britain campaign to create the first ever rose to be launched in the UK that is named after an ethnic minority person in John Ystumllyn. He was an 18th century gardener who was the first recorded Black person in North Wales and with his marriage to Margaret Gruffydd, part of the first interracial marriage in Wales. We wanted to breed a new rose as a symbol of friendship, love and community and to inspire people from all backgrounds to see gardening as a career or activity for them.

John Ystumllyn

Harkness Roses has been breeding and growing over 200 varieties of exquisite British Roses for more than 140 years. David White, Managing Director of Harkness Roses stated his pride in creating this rose:

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 the first rose after an ethnic minority Briton.

We wanted to create a rose that does justice to the story of John Ystumllyn and that anybody in the country could easily grow, whether in a garden or in a pot on the patio. The John Ystumllyn Rose is a Hybrid Tea Bush Rose. It grows to 80cm tall and 60 cm wide. The flower itself 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. 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”.

What makes this rose even more special is that for every rose sold, we will put £2.50 into a fund that will support community gardening schemes and help young people from under-represented backgrounds.

David White, Zehra Zaidi and members of the Harkness Community Gardening Scheme at the John Ystumllyn rose planting at Buckingham Palace.


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 (to then also understand and value our uniqueness and differences). Previous campaigns include the new 50p ‘Diversity Built Britain’ Royal Mint coins and the ‘Hidden Heroes’ statues campaign supported by Tom Tugendhat MP and Preet Gill MP. Zehra Zaidi’s Horticulture Week article on John Ystumllyn created a groundswell of support for a new rose. Zehra Zaidi states:

“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 society, 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”.

Britain truly is a nation of gardeners. When you are undertaking a project with the aim of connecting people, the rose is the ultimate connector. It has deep resonance in British culture but also other cultures and across history. Whether it was for production of rose water in Iraq in 2000 BC, to the cultivation of roses by the Chinese by 500 BC, to the Rosa Alba introduced to the British by the Romans (considered the White Rose of York), roses have been around – and loved – for centuries. It is a perfect way to honour the memory of John Ystumllyn.” 

Advolly Richmond, social historian and key campaign supporter has 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.”

The Harkness Rose Company and We Too Built Britain want gardening to be for all. First, we are working with an advisory group from the horticulture sector to see how we can better open opportunities for young people from under-represented backgrounds. Second, we are developing a community garden scheme that can be rolled out nationally. We see gardening as not only having benefits to bring people together, but also for mental health. Harkness Roses have set aside 5000 roses for community gardens and will send out roses for free to community garden groups. All groups must do is: (a) write in and tell Harkness Roses “why inclusion and community in gardening matters”; (b) send images of their group planting the rose for the Community Wall on Harkness Roses’ website.


  1. 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 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.


Colour: Golden Yellow

Flower Diameter: 12cm

Flower Type: Double

Rose Type: Hybrid Tea

Size: 80cm x 60cm

Fragrance: Good

The colour is uncomplicated, a refreshing yellow which hardly fades at all. The plant is good looking, bushy with even growth that is densely covered with glossy dark green leaves. Starting to flower, early the buds open into double old fashioned style blooms, up to 12cm wide, they sit proudly above the dark leaf. With a long flowering season, this is a valuable plant in the garden. Use in beds, borders or low hedges.


PRESS contacts: 01462 420402 and (Hannah, Harkness Roses)/07720 705 022 and (Zehra Zaidi, We Too Built Britain)



The Harkness Rose Company
Briar Patch Nursery
Ickwell Road
Upper Caldecote
SG18 9BS

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