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David Austin roses Olivia Rose
David Austin roses Olivia Rose

Olive Rose, one of David Austin’s recent introductions

Yesterday, the world lost a man who made a huge contribution to rose lovers all over the world. Called the ‘Godfather of English roses’ David Austin’s mission was to create a better rose that was more robust, had fewer disease and pest problems, but most of all, beautiful and incredibly fragrant.

Graham Thomas English rose growing in Phoenix

‘Graham Thomas’ is one of his most popular creations

For a man that I’ve never met, David Austin has a big impact on my love for gardening. Roses were the first plant that I fell in love with and inspired me to become a horticulturist. At one point, I had forty hybrid tea roses growing in my Phoenix garden. While they were beautiful, they took a lot of work to keep them that way. Pests and fungal disease were things that I had to deal with and though my roses were very pretty, not all were fragrant.

I planted my first David Austin roses in 1993 and soon became convinced that this was truly a better breed of roses. I never had to worry about aphids, blackspot or powdery mildew, all of which, are common problems with growing roses. The unique beauty of the roses comes from David Austin using old-fashioned roses for their sturdiness and disease resistance with more fragrant roses that bloom often. The result are roses that are low-maintenance while also exceptionally beautiful and fragrant.

Red rose Darcy Bussell grows in an Arizona garden

‘Darcey Bussell’ is one of the newer David Austin varieties in my garden

Today, my rose garden is made up almost exclusively of David Austin roses. While I never met him in person, I have met several of the individuals who work for his family-run company. I heard a fun story about David from a member of his company who told the story of David Austin and Queen Elizabeth. At the Chelsea Flower Show, David Austin’s roses were on full display and he was present as well. The Queen came to visit and he flirted openly with her and she seemed to enjoy the attention of this charming old gentleman. I must say, it takes courage to flirt with the Queen of England.

Arizona Rose Garden Urban

My rose garden

In my Arizona garden, I test several of their newest roses for the David Austin Rose company in my rose garden. Each year, they send me new ones to try out and then I give them my feedback. The company wants to know how they will perform in the low-desert heat and I must say that almost all of the ones that I’ve grown do very well.

Here is a list of those that I have grown and recommend for the desert garden:

Abraham Darby

Darcey Bussell

Graham Thomas

Olivia Rose

Juliet

*I also have ‘Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Lady of Sharlot’ growing. I’m still waiting to see how they do as they have only been in the garden for a year and I find that it takes a little longer than that to see how well they will do. 

If I had to pick two favorites, they would be ‘Darcey Bussell’ and ‘Olivia Rose’. Both bloom well into summer, which is rare for roses grown in the desert. 

For people who want to add one of David Austin’s wonderful rose varieties to their garden, not all nurseries carry David Austin roses, although I know that Berridge Nursery in the Phoenix area does. However, they are easy to order online and they will be mailed to you at the proper planting time for your area, which for the low-desert garden is mid-December through February for bare root roses.

The family-run company will continue with his mission of creating beautiful, fragrant roses for the garden and I look forward to seeing what is coming next.

Have you ever grown a David Austin rose? Which one?

I adore roses. For those who have followed me for a while, this comes as no surprise. I’ve grown roses for almost thirty years, and they are the one plant responsible for inspiring me to get my degree in Horticulture. 

So, why am I taking out a rose? Have I gone crazy? 

‘Olivia Rose’

Let me give you a little background. For the past few years, I have grown new rose varieties in my Arizona garden, given to me by David Austin Roses to see how they perform in the low desert regions of Arizona and each year, and I report which varieties do well. These types of roses are easy to grow, have a beautiful old-fashioned flower shape, and are highly fragrant. Once people grow a David Austin rose, they seldom go back to other kinds.

This year, I am working on a project, with the assistance of the folks at David Austin Roses, which spans two rose gardens, located in very different climates. The first garden is mine, located in Arizona, and the second belongs to my daughter, who lives in northern Michigan. The project consists of each of us growing two identical varieties of roses and a different one that is reported to do better in our respective climates.

Before planting new roses, I had to get my rose garden ready for new roses, which meant that one had to go. And so, I asked my husband to dig out one of the roses from the garden.

The rose bush I chose to remove didn’t do very well and only looks nice three months of the year, while those remaining do much better. So, the decision was easy.

 

Soon that garden was ready, and the roses arrived from David Austin. I always experience a feeling akin to Christmas morning whenever new roses come in the mail.


It never ceases to amaze me how something so beautiful has such a humble beginning.

I soaked the roses for 24 hours and then planted them. Two months later, they are covered in buds, and I can’t wait for them to open.

As for my daughter’s garden, she isn’t quite ready to be planting any roses as it is sitting under a layer of snow so she will be planting hers in a month or so.

I’ll keep you updated throughout the rose project and highlighting the differences and similarities of growing roses in a hot and cold climate. 

Next, I will share with you the varieties growing in my garden along with pictures of their first blooms. Have you ever grown David Austin roses?

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‘Glamis Castle’ English shrub rose

Walk through any garden where roses are present, and you’ll undoubtedly be attracted by the luscious blooms with their fragrant petals.  I’ve seen this happen time and again, watching how the beauty of roses attracts passersby, even those who don’t have a particular love for gardening or flowers.  There is just something magical about roses and how alluring they are.

For those of you who have grown roses before, you will probably agree that they aren’t the easiest plant to grow.  This is true of the hybrid tea, which are considered to be the classic modern rose with tall, upright stems and large flowers.  The downside of this type of rose is that they tend to be susceptible to a variety of diseases that affect the foliage and also are less fragrant than the old-fashioned roses of the past.

 

English shrub rose

Today, there is a new class of roses that are rapidly gaining presence in gardens everywhere.  Shrub roses are the newest and coolest type of rose in the gardening community.  The existence of these roses is due in large part to one man – an Englishman to be exact, David Austin.

A rose breeder by trade, he undertook the task of combining the best traits of old-fashioned roses with those of modern roses.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with old-fashioned roses, they are prized for their intoxicating fragrance, disease resistance, and petals that are arranged in a delightful mixture of swirling rosettes.  The main drawback of many of these old-fashioned roses is that they only bloom once a year.  

Modern roses such as hybrid tea are valued for their ability to bloom repeatedly throughout the year.  So, David Austin took on the formidable job of breeding old-fashioned and modern roses together to form a new type of rose that had the best traits from each parent, resulting in over 190 varieties of what are called ‘English Roses’ or ‘David Austin Roses.’

Red English shrub rose

After growing hybrid tea roses for years, my rose garden has gradually seen an increasing number of English shrub roses take their place.

There are many things that I enjoy about these roses, and despite their name, most do beautifully in my desert garden and are easier to maintain than the few hybrid tea roses that remain.  The perfume that arises from each bloom never ceases to immerse me with its intoxicating fragrance, which makes the cares of the world temporarily melt away.  

On a more practical note, I am so busy assisting other people with their gardens, that I don’t have a lot of time to fuss over mine, so any plants, including roses, must thrive with little attention like my English roses.  However busy I am, I do take a minute or two to go out in the garden and cut a bloom, or two, and bring inside where I can view its beauty and enjoy its fragrance close up.

If you want to grow roses without a lot of fuss, this English class is for you.  So when Firefly Books sent me the book, “The English Roses” to review and one to giveaway, I was very excited. 

 

At first glance, all you want to do it thumb through the pages and drool over the colorful photographs of truly stunning roses.

The first part of the book talks about the history of how these old-fashioned/modern hybrid roses were developed.  I found it quite interesting as I’ve always had a secret desire to be a rose breeder.

If however, you aren’t a fan of history, feel free to skip to the gallery section of the book, which profiles over 100 varieties with large photographs, which showcase the beauty of English shrub roses.  I wasn’t kidding when I said that you’d be drooling over the photos.

This is a large book and is suitable to be displayed on your coffee table where visitors can enjoy the beautiful photographs.

While reviewing this book, my grandson, Eric, climbed on my lap and was immediately entranced by the flowers displayed on the pages.  He had to smell each page, hoping to get a whiff of fragrant roses.

No matter how many pages, he sniffed, none of them smelled like roses.  But, I love how his excitement over this book shows the influence that roses have on us, and it begins at a young age.  Eric has been in my garden, and I’ve taken the time to show him how lovely the scent of roses are, and he recognized them in this book.

In my last post, I wrote about planting two new David Austin roses in the garden and promised to let you know what types they were.  I quickly found them in my book:

‘Darcey Bussell’

L.D. Braithwaite

As you can see, I was sent two red roses to test how well they will perform in a desert climate.  I can hardly wait to see their first blooms!

One rose that I have already growing in my garden is ‘Olivia Rose Austin,’ which is a newer introduction.  I was impressed at the number of flowers produced the first year after planting.  It also bloomed throughout much of the summer, which is often when roses cease flowering.

I’ve grown David Austin roses for over 20 years, including the varieties ‘Abraham Darby’, ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘Juliet’.  I encourage you to try out one, or more, of these English beauties in your garden.  They aren’t typically available at your local nursery but can be purchased online.

To get you started on growing your own, I’m hosting a giveaway where you can win a copy of David Austin’s book, “The English Roses”.  To enter, leave a comment and tell me what you love about roses.  I’ll draw a random winner on Wednesday, February 8th.