JOHN Mattock, who has died aged 91, was one of Britain's leading rose experts and grew half a million roses annually with his family firm Mattock's Roses.

Mr Mattock was a council member of the Royal Horticultural Society and chairman of the shows committee at the Chelsea Flower Show for 12 years in the 1970s and 80s.

He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1983 – the highest award given by the RHS – and was also president of the Royal Oxfordshire Horticultural Society.

As a 17-year-old he took part in the D-Day landings as an electrician on one of the landing crafts, which his family said he was 'immensely proud of'.

John Stewart Mattock was born on April 23, 1926, in Oxford to parents John, the master rose grower on the family's rose nursery at Charity Farm in Littlemore, and Marita Mattock.

The eldest of four, he grew up on the farm and went to Our Lady's Convent – along with his younger brother Robert – before moving on to Southfield Grammar School in Glanville Road.

During the lean years of the Great Depression their father welcomed the brothers' help on the farm

He left school at 17, joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and took part in the D-Day landings that year as an electrician on a landing craft, seeing duty on Sword and Omaha beaches.

Returning to the family business, the post-war years were tough times for ornamental horticulturalists.

Sales of roses were sparse and the family grew crops of dahlias, vegetables and fruit to sell in their Covered Market shop to boost the nursery's finances.

In 1951 he married his first wife, Sheila Weatherly, and they settled in Headington on the Mattock's Windmill Road rose nurseries, where their two children Elizabeth and Helen were born.

Over the next two decades the firm's production changed to focus on smaller rose bushes and Floribundas for suburban gardens.

The family rose nurseries flourished as a result with production rising from 100,000 a year to 850,000 in 10 years.

His father bought more land at Nuneham Courtenay, which became the firm's head office and garden centre.

His brother Robert – Bob – grew the roses and John set about selling them to the highest bidder.

After their father's death in 1973 the workload was split between them and their brother Mark.

The firm was regularly in the press and on TV thanks to Mr Mattock's charisma and he mastered the art of staging ever grander exhibits at Chelsea and other shows.

The family has been renowned for exhibiting their roses since the 1890s and the sixth generation Mr Mattock continued this trend and brought the family even higher acclaim.

He won several medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and found TV fame for his 1974 exhibit which he watered in front of the media with his best suit trousers rolled up above his knees.

It was about this time he became chairman of Chelsea Flower Show.

Production declined rapidly in the late 1980s when the embargo on Eastern European imports was lifted and, while Bob continued growing, Mr Mattock retired to write and give lectures.

The Nuneham Courtenay site and the retail side of the company was sold to Notcutts Garden Centre in the mid 1980s.

In 1986 Mr Mattock split from his wife and married his second wife, Sheila Port, who he lived with until her death in 2015.

He wrote numerous authoritative articles and books including 'The Reader's Digest Gardener's Guide to Growing Roses' and 'Growing and Displaying Roses'.

A popular speaker he lectured through the UK, United States, Africa and Japan.

He also enjoyed sailing and shooting and a beer, whether in Abingdon's sailing club bar, his local pub, or in Oxford's Frewen Club, where he became president, of latterly the bar at his care home in Cumnor Hill.

He is survived by his two daughters, Elizabeth, who lives in Adelaide, Australia, and Helen, who lives in Oxford.

His funeral will take place at St Andrew's Church in Sandford-on-Thames on Tuesday, November 21, at 2.30pm.