IN the gardening world his name is synonymous with quality roses and the Chelsea Flower Show.

And although at the grand age of 89 John Mattock, retired from floribundas and ramblers some time ago, his keen eye is still being called upon.

For the man who headed up Mattocks Roses – the family firm started by his great grandfather in Headington 175 year ago – has been helping to judge a garden competition held in Oxfordshire care homes.

Now a resident at Spencer Court in Woodstock, Mr Mattock was a chairman of the Chelsea Flower Show for around five years in the 1980s and still serves on many of its judging panels.

His judging skills are being put to use again at the recent summer garden competition, organised by the Orders of St John Care Trust and it has brought back fond memories.

He said: “I was very impressed with the gardens I visited and deciding on a winner will certainly be difficult. I have been a rose grower all my life.

“I was taught by my father when I was five years old.”

Mattocks Roses originated in Headington in 1840 when George Robert Mattock moved from Bath. The Mattock family were eager to find out more about the university colleges.

The Oxford Dons were starting to show a keen interest in ornamental gardens and the Mattock family moved to the city to meet the demand. The business was passed down to George’s nephew, John Robert Mattock – Mr Mattock’s great-great-grandfather – who in turn passed it on to his son.

The family grew and bred roses in Windmill Road, Headington up to the late 1950s when their land was compulsorily purchased by the council for a housing estate. Mattock Close is the modern-day clue to where it used to be situated.

Homeowners in that street have to abide by one restrictive covenant that they are not allowed to sell roses on their land.

The firm then moved their collection and bought a nursery at Lodge Hill between Oxford and Abingdon and a garden centre. Head office was at Nuneham Courtenay.

During his time at Mattocks Roses, the firm was growing half a million roses a year and introduced many new varieties, specialising in disease-resistant strains.

His sons John S. Mattock and Mark W. Mattock, sold the site together with the retail side of the company to Notcutts Garden Centre, which no longer grow roses in Oxfordshire but sell roses grown elsewhere under the trade name “Mattock’s Roses”.

Mr Mattock’s nephew Robert, 62, carried on the family tradition of roses until last year, specialising in research and development programme.

He moved the extensive collection to former Henley MP Lord Heseltine’s estate at Thenford House, near Banbury and hopes the roses will be available to view and study in a few years’ time.

Robert Mattock said: “The family have always been in one of those trade specialists areas, it’s rather bred into you in more ways than one.”