About Us

From the oldest recorded Town of Colchester we bring you the oldest recorded Rose Growers in the UK.

Established in 1765 we have over 250 years of experience.

We are still a family firm run by direct descendants of the founder.

We offer expert advice from our vast knowledge. We can help with planning a rose garden to simply helping you select the correct rose for a particular spot. Guidance on preparation and aftercare. In fact all you need to know.

Breeding of roses no longer forms part of our business, but we pride ourselves in seeking out the best of the new varieties coming onto the market. We also drop varieties from our list which we find to be problematic. For many years we were responsible for the introduction to the U.K. of new varieties from Poulsen of Denmark who have achieved some wonderful roses. These include a selection of modern shrub roses under the heading of Renaissance. These are similar to the David Austin English Roses, but which in our opinion have stronger growth and as such are less likely to droop their beautiful cupped blooms. Most have exceptional fragrance. We also introduced for them Courtyard Climbers which are ideal where space is limited and for obelisks, small arches etc., as are the Patio Climbers bred by English Breeder Chris Warner. We no longer have any direct responsibility for introducing new roses from any particular Breeder, so we can take the pick of the best from all Breeders.

We are members of the British Association of Rose Breeders, National Farmers Union and our local Branch of Chamber of Commerce.

Our website allows us to illustrate all the roses we stock so we trust you will enjoy your way through the site. We will continue to review the development of the site and are happy to receive feedback from you our “reader”. If you prefer we can send you a copy of our catalogue to study at your leisure or you can download this . See request a catalogue.

Whilst we offer a full Mail Order service throughout the U.K. you can also purchase, depending on time of year roses from the “nursery”. See how to find us and opening times. We also send roses to Europe and many other Countries in the World. Orders for the U.K. can be placed online, by phone, post or in person. Orders for export cannot be placed online, but requirements can be emailed.

You can buy direct from our office/sales area or by Mail Order.

If you have any questions these can be made by phone on (01206) 844 008

Our History

With a vast history for any family firm of over 250 years of experience and expertise we could write a book, but we give here just a sketch of our History and what we offer today…

Whilst the Cant family has been connected with horticultural/gardening since 1728, the official date given (proclaimed on old catalogues) for the Establishment of Benjamin R Cant & Sons is 1765.

The Company remains in the family, but the name of the Partners are Martin, Roger and Angela Pawsey. Being the children of Clifford and Diana (nee Cant) Pawsey. We all play our part in the everyday running of the business ably assisted by a small dedicated staff. All of us are happy to give expert advice and guidance in the selection of roses, preparation and aftercare.

Our father Clifford Pawsey left his job with British Oil & Cake Mills (Ipswich Branch) in 1929, spent a year farming with his family, and then joined Benjamin R Cant & Son in 1931. By then he was engaged to Diana the younger of two daughters of Cecil & Mildred Cant. Mildred Cant was at that time running the business. Clifford worked tirelessly for the firm into his eighties and would have loved to have as he used to say “died with his boots on” Unfortunately ill health caught up with him and he died in 1997, having dedicated his life to the industry he loved and receiving its highest accolade the Dean Hole Medal from the Royal National Rose Society.

Turning back the clock. In the early years the firm grew all sorts of plants, (bulbs and seeds) including Azaleas, Fuchsias, Rhododendrons, Peaches and Apricots, and the sweetest tomatoes in Colchester. In 1853 Ben Cant was introduced by his great friend Mr. Penrose to some new “standard’ roses developed in France. The popularity of the rose was in its ascendance so Ben decided to concentrate on Roses.

By 1880 Ben had emerged as the Country’s leading rose exhibitor, and in one month is reported to have won 54 first prizes at major rose events all over the Country.

Ben bestowed his knowledge to his nephew, Frank, on the understanding he would not set up in competition in the neighbourhood. This “promise” was broken with Frank setting up originally within a couple of hundred yards.

A fierce rivalry ensued between the two firms of Benjamin R Cant & Sons of Mile End Colchester and Frank Cant & Co. of Stanway Colchester which lasted till 1967 when the two firms merged. This was to signify the retirement of Mona Cant (the only Cant remaining in the Frank Cant side of the business) and the firm became Cants of Colchester Ltd. The mantle from the Frank Cant side was retained by Mr. Clive Roberts (with no “family connection”) who had joined Frank Cant after the war. Mr. Roberts took an active part in the running of the merged Company, but retired from the business since 1985 and has since died.

Both Frank and Ben Cant bred many well known roses. Several named after the famous in their day including Mrs. Oakley Fisher, still well known throughout the world, Mrs. Frank Cant, Mrs. B.R. Cant (still widely grown in USA to this day). Cants of Colchester continued to raise some world beaters, including “Alpine Sunset”, “English Miss” and “Goldstar”, Other roses that we bred and still stock today are “Jenny’s Rose”, “Sally’s Rose” “St. Helena” (for our local Hospice) and the repeat flowering climber “Crimson Descant” The highest accolade is paid to the “The World’s Favourite Rose” which was achieved by “Just Joey” in 1994 and still remains the most popular rose we sell today. . “Just Joey” is named after Roger’s wife Joey.