This year more than ever, as we have been confined to our homes while the natural world flourishes around us, we are reminded of the wonders of nature. Spring is a time of hope and optimism when bird song crescendos and flowers greet us with heady scent and vibrant colour. As we approach the first-ever online RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Rolls-Royce looks a little closer to home and reflects on a Bespoke and storied rose, preparing for abundant bloom.
In the courtyard of the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex, a rare flower — the Phantom Rose — is cultivated. Bred solely for the marque as a source of inspiration, Rolls-Royce’s Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence is the only place in the world where this rose can be found.
British Rose breeder Philip Harkness, of the award-winning Harkness Roses, bred the Phantom Rose, especially for the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective. His family has been breeding roses since 1879, establishing a tradition of beautiful blooms associated with the Harkness name. Today, plants and flowers bred by Harkness Roses remain a constant favourite on the international horticultural scene, winning gold at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show more than 25 times in the last 50 years.
On commissioning the rose, Rolls-Royce Bespoke Designer Sina-Maria Eggl, commented, “The rose had to embody Rolls-Royce’s poise, elegance and allure. The result was a very pure, delicate but voluminous white flower: sensual, but strong in presence, with an alluring aroma and extra winter durability.”
The Phantom Rose grows in a specially designed bed, fringed with lavender, running alongside the reflection ponds adjacent to the marque’s award-winning Sir Nicholas Grimshaw plant. Indeed, it is no coincidence that both Rolls-Royce associates and the marque’s Bespoke Designers can view the rose bed through the plant’s floor-to-ceiling glass as they work.
The Phantom Rose is a blousy, creamy-white flower, offering a full bloom of 50 petals and a rich perfume. Harkness describes it as a quintessentially English rose, which took eight years to develop. It was, he says, a labour of love. “A rose has the ability to captivate you on many levels. It is a thing of beauty, it can stimulate the senses with wonderful perfume, the soft touch of the petals or the rasping pain from a thorn. It touches our emotions, signifies love and appears in some of our finest poetry. How can a simple flower live up to this expectation? The rose that Rolls-Royce has commissioned makes easy work of the task. Observe the glory of the bloom. There can be few more enjoyable experiences, thanks to the unending generosity and diversity of nature captured in one single rose.”
In 2017, an iteration of the rose debuted in a one-off design for Phantom’s Gallery. The Gallery is protected by an uninterrupted piece of glass that spans the width of the marque’s flagship, behind which a recess presents an up-lit stage, becoming an area for patrons to embrace the unique storytelling characteristic of the marque.
Stems of the rose were flown to awaiting master artisans from world-renowned porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg, Bavaria, Southern Germany.
Here, the rose was examined in its varying stages, from bud to full bloom, before being crafted by hand for the Gallery in the finest black and white porcelain ever created by the company.
The development process alone lasted three months in order to achieve the same level of delicacy as the Phantom Rose itself.
More recently, the Phantom Rose acted as a primary point of inspiration for Rolls-Royce Bespoke Designer Ieuan Hatherall.
It was here that an extraordinary Bespoke commission began, consisting of over one million stitches, for a Swedish entrepreneur with a passion for flowers. The Phantom Rose is illustrated in varying stages of maturity in the finest embroidery throughout the interior of a highly unique, one-of-a-kind Phantom.
Ieuan Hatherall commented, “There is a transcendent beauty when a rose garden is in full bloom. The commissioning patron wanted to create that same feeling of awe; an abundance of flowers to lift the spirit and celebrate nature’s decadent beauty.”