September CR Report

by Jack Coulter

David Austin’s Magnificent English Roses

What kind of roses do you have in your garden? Most likely you have Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandiflora, shrubs, and maybe a tree rose or two that can be whatever was grafted on the tree stem. What about old garden roses or even better yet English roses.

What’s so special about English roses?
David Austin began breeding roses in 1950’s England with a unique goal: to create more beautiful roses that combined the best characteristics of old and new roses. Until the advent of David Austin’s English roses, gardeners who wanted to grow roses were faced with a choice between two very different styles. The alternatives were old-fashioned shrubs with softly cupped flowers and heady fragrance, but only one period of bloom in early summer, or hybrid tea and floribunda roses, which had attractive flowers that flowered through the season, but had little or no scent.

He succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, producing what are now called David Austin or English roses. They are fragrant repeat bloomers with rich, often pastel colors, diverse flower types, attractive, disease-resistant foliage and a pleasing growth habit. Best of all, they need far less maintenance and spraying of fungicides than tea roses.

I have six David Austin’s English roses in my garden. My favorite is Teasing Georgia who constantly produces a yellow blend rose; she is in the center of the picture (see below). On the left, as you look at the picture, is orange-red Benjamin Britten, and to the right is a pink Mary Rose, mixed with her son, a white Winchester Cathedral. Sometimes I get roses that are half pink half white or white with some pink petals and pink spots.

All the above David Austin roses are classified as a shrub rose. They have a tremendous growth habit and may be grown as magnificent, shapely shrubs or trained as short climbers. As you can see from the picture they can get quite large, witthout being gaudy. They range from crimson and other shades of red to pinks, lavender, purple, yellow, peach, apricot, copper and white. Flower shape varies with different plants: may they be single, semi-double, deep or shallow cupped, rosette

Scent: Depending on the plant or grouping of plants, perfume can be fruity, old rose, tea rose, musk or myrrh.
Bloom time: Heaviest in early summer; repeats in late summer.
Growth habit, foliage: The shrub growth habit gives grace to the plant, which means that David Austin roses work well in mixed borders, and as perennial companions. Foliage is medium to dark green and among the most disease-free of all garden roses.
Maintenance: David Austin roses prefer at least 6 hours of sun (8 hours is better). Plant them in fertile soil, and provide regular watering and applications of rose fertilizer. Mulch should be renewed yearly.
Pruning: Heavy pruning is not usually necessary for the first year or two except to cut out dead wood. After that, a yearly once-over to correct shape and remove dead canes in early spring before growth starts is sufficient.
Hardiness: There are David Austin rose plants to suit gardens in every USDA hardiness zone from 4-10. With over 200 plants to choose from, there are many David Austin roses appropriate in many locations.

If you don’t have any David Austin roses, I highly recommend adding some to your garden.

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