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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?

English shrub roses

*Disclosure: I am so excited about these two roses, which were sent to me free of charge, to test in my garden.

Roses have enchanted gardeners over the centuries with their colorful petals arranged in intricate rosette shapes, which release intoxicating fragrance into the air.  

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you’ll know about my love affair with roses and that it was this lovely flower that created my passion for gardening.

AZ Plant Lady taking time to smell the roses at the Santa Barbara Mission in California.

If there is a rose garden nearby, I’ll find it, excited to explore both old and newer varieties of my favorite flower.

When I first began growing roses in my Arizona garden, I used hybrid tea roses as I was obsessed with the regal beauty and upright form of their blossoms.  As the years passed and I found myself in a new home, the question was, what type of roses would I plant?  Should I go with old favorites or branch out and try new ones?

In the end, I did both.

‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose

My outdoor space is broken up into separate areas and my roses grow in a raised bed in the side garden where I can view the flowering plants from my kitchen window.  Within the garden, is a single ‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose.  Of the over forty different hybrid tea roses that I’ve grown through the years, this lovely, red rose is unsurpassed in both beauty and fragrance.

The rest of the garden is home to new roses as well as several perennials that growers throughout the country send me to test out to see how the perform in the desert climate.  

‘Graham Thomas’ English shrub rose

So what are the other roses in my garden?  I’ll let you in on a secret – hybrid tea roses are no longer my rose of choice.  Why, you may ask?  Well, I’ve discovered a new category of roses that highly fragrant, have beautiful old-fashioned blooms, and are very low-maintenance. 

Rose breeders have taken the best traits from old-fashioned roses and modern roses and combined them to create the perfect type of rose, in my opinion – shrub roses.  An English breeder, David Austin, has pioneered this new type of rose and is famous for the majority of truly stunning shrub roses on the market and in gardens throughout the world.  I have several shrub roses in my garden and two new roses have recently found a home in a desert garden – mine!

I’ve grown David Austin roses in the past and currently have several in my garden.  

Receiving a package in the mail is always a welcome event, particularly when it contains plants.  The arrival of this box was initiated months ago by a conversation that I had with the folks at David Austin Roses last fall.  I was describing the success that I had with one of their newest varieties that was sent to me the previous year.  They asked me if I had had success with growing any of their red varieties and offered to send me two different red roses to see how they would perform in a desert garden.  

Fast forward four months later and a box showed up on my doorstep filled with two bare root roses.

Let’s be honest, bare root roses aren’t going to win any beauty contests.  In fact, they are quite ugly, but they won’t stay that way for long.

Bare root roses must remain moist and need a good soaking before being planted.  This allows the roots to help replenish any water lost as well as prepare it for planting.

Allow the roses to soak for 8 – 24 hours before planting.  During this stage, some people like to add vitamin B-1 transplant solution, however, this is optional.  I remember my horticulture professor state over and over again, that there is no published studies that showed that using vitamin B-1 had any effect on successful transplanting.  If you want to add it, go ahead – I’ve never used it.

The next day, it was time to plant.  Before putting the rose in the hole, you need to amend the soil – click here to see how.  When planting bare root roses, you need to create a ‘cone’ of raised soil in the middle of the hole so that the base of the rose rests on the top with its roots fanned outward.  If the roots are too long, you can cut them a little shorter.  

Fill the hole in with soil and tamp it down to get rid of any air pockets.  Create a shallow basin around the rose and water deeply.  Don’t fertilize the new rose until it has produced its first set of blooms – it needs to concentrate on growing roots first.

It’s hard to believe that this cluster of naked stems will soon give life to glorious, fragrant red roses in a few months.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated as to how they do.  I can’t wait to see if these red roses do well in my desert garden.

These shrub roses can be hard to find in your local nursery, but can easily be found online

Now, something fun for you! I hope that I’ve inspired you to try growing David Austin shrub roses.  You may have noticed that I didn’t tell you what type of David Austin rose varieties that I received.  I invite you to come back for a visit when I’ll be hosting a book giveaway where you can win your own copy of “The English Roses”, which is a lovely book filled with spectacular photos and detailed information on different varieties of shrub roses.  I’ve enjoyed my copy very much and it looks great sitting on my coffee table.  

Abraham Darby Rose

**What are your favorite type of roses to grow?

 

 

Do you garden in winter?


For most of us, the answer is decidely “no”.  That is also true for many of us who live in warmer climates as the shorter days often slow down plant growth.


However, for those of us who are rose lovers, winter is a time of rejoicing as nursery shelves begin to be filled with bare root roses.

Even when I’m not shopping for new roses for the garden, I still find myself being pulled toward the new roses, seeking out my old favorites and checking for the newest varieties.

Showing my sister the rose bush at our first home in Phoenix.  (I am wearing the sweater.)
For those of you who have followed me for some time, you may recall that my love for roses got me into gardening a long time ago when high-waisted pants and permed hair were ‘cool’.  It was my love affair with roses that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  
My backyard garden space is always changing.  I used to have three vegetable gardens, but am now downsizing to two.  The main reason for the change is that the third vegetable garden was somewhat further out and with my busy schedule, it wasn’t always easy to harvest and keep a close eye on it.  


So, the former vegetable garden will now serve as my new mini-rose garden.  It has enriched soil and its own irrigation line.  What is even better, is that it is located outside the kitchen window where I can view my roses daily.


Now for the wonderful dilemma of deciding what types of roses to plant.  Back in our first home in Phoenix, I planted 40 different roses, which I lovingly cared for.

But, my life now is busier and somewhat more complicated:
– I have 5 children now vs. 2 back then.
– I work full time helping others with their landscapes, which leaves precious time for my own.
– My landscape now is much larger than in my first home.
– My second oldest daughter is living with us along with her 11 month old son temporarily.

So, I tend to gravitate toward roses that are lower maintenance needing pruning and fertilizing only twice a year.


The first rose for the garden will be Graham Thomas, which is an English or David Austin rose, courtesy of the rose growers at Heirloom Roses, which is where I have gotten my roses from for years.  They have a delicious fragrance and bright yellow blossoms.  They are disease resistant and relatively fuss-free.


There will be at least 2 more roses going into the garden.  One is the newest English rose introduction from David Austin roses, which is being given to me courtesy of them.  

The next rose will probably be a hybrid tea or floribunda.  I’d love to hear what are your favorite roses!

I will share both choices with you once I get them.

**********************
In the meantime, even though it is winter, spring will be here before you know it.  How better to prepare than with a lovely gardening tote filled with goodies?  


The folks at Mantis Garden Tools have put together a fabulous array of items in this garden tote with a whimisical bird theme, which includes:
·         3 mini garden tools.

·         “Gardening Answers” book

·         Canvas Gardening gloves

·         Wood and Sisal Nailbrush

·         hand and body scrub

·         garden vegetable cheese cup

·         Venus seed celebration organic crackers

·         European chocolate truffles, cookies, snacks

1. To enter, simply leave me a comment about what you plan to do in the garden this spring.  
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)

2. For a bonus entry, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter – (be sure to let me know in your comment).

Let your friends know about this great giveaway and I will pick a random winner on December 28th. 

Alas, Mr. Shakespeare’s life has ended tragically.  Sadly, it was a rather short life out in the garden.  He was lovingly planted by my son, Kai, back in January.  Next to him were planted his ‘brothers’ Graham Thomas and Abraham Darby.


Back in January, my three youngest children were so excited to plant rose bushes in our back garden.  We selected three David Austin English Roses, based on our local rose society’s recommendations.




All the kids pitched in in helping to dig the holes, amend the soil and plant the roses.


Under the watchful eye of Tobey, who will play a part in Mr. Shakespeare’s story later, we planted all three roses.





They were tiny, but we eagerly awaited the appearance of our first roses.

Mr. Thomas was first….

 
Although, Mr. Thomas was in a hurry to bloom before his brothers, he bloomed before his stems were large enough to hold up his roses.


Now Mr. Darby was not in a hurry and made sure he could hold up his flowers before they bloomed.



While both Mr. Thomas and Darby were producing numerous blooms, Mr. Shakespeare did not grow as much as his brothers and made no efforts at producing any rosebuds.

Then one day, my son came running in the house to tell me that he saw a single rosebud on his rose.  He was so excited because it had been a little tough on him with both of his sisters having rose bushes with lots of blooms.
 
We waited and waited for the rosebud to open and one morning when I went outside, there it was….


I rushed to take a picture of it and couldn’t wait for my son to come home so I could show him his rose.

When he arrived home, we went out to the garden, but the rose was missing.  Where could it be?  There was just a stem sticking up where the rose used to be.  Then, I noticed what looked like red confetti scattered on the back lawn.  Well, it turned out to be rose petals. 

Guess what happened to the single rose?

 
Here is the culprit – Tobey.  Evidently, the rose looked like it was something fun to play with, because Tobey just bit it off and tore it up.

My son, Kai, was disappointed but then decided he wanted to play football with his dad and promptly forgot about his destroyed rose.

As for me, I lavished extra attention on Mr. Shakespeare, determined to make him produce more blooms.  But my efforts were futile.  Summer came and he went into summer dormancy, which is what most roses do during the summer heat – they just exist and stop producing blooms until fall.

Last week I went out to water the roses and was happy to see Mr. Darby and Thomas doing very well.  Then I turned my attention to Mr. Shakespeare and to be honest, I had to look closely to find him.

Can you see him?



If you can see a few brown sticks amidst the bark mulch and fallen leaves from last week’s storm – that is what remains of Mr. Shakespeare.

I am not sure what happened to him…..he received the same treatment as his brothers but it did not seem to do any good.  Sometimes there are no easy answers as to why some plants die and some survive.  I am always telling this to my clients and now I am saying it to my son.

I was ready to dig Mr. Shakespeare up when I noticed a touch of green at the base.  I do realize that it is probably hopeless, but I will keep him in the ground to see if he can resurrect himself and maybe turn this story into a happy one 🙂
**I hope you all have a great week.  
My kids are back in school and my life is getting back to normal.  Today I am taking my first knitting class and my mom (Pastor Farmer of Double S Farms) is joining me.  I can hardly wait!

Some of you may remember reading about one of my rose bushes, Mr. Graham Thomas, who last week made a fool of himself.  You can read more about Mr. Thomas his foolish exploit here if you like.  Even though he had only been in the ground in my back garden for only 10 weeks, he decided he couldn’t wait and produced 10 beautiful rose blooms.


What is wrong with that you may ask?  Well, Mr. Thomas was so impatient to outdo his neighbors, Mr. William Shakespeare and Mr. Abraham Darby that he neglected to wait for his stems to grow strong enough to hold up the blooms.  As a result, the stems flopped to the ground under the weight of the roses.



 Doesn’t he look foolish?  


Well, I am proud to say that Mr. Thomas seems to have learned his lesson this week.  I went outside this morning and there he was, proudly holding up a single rose.

 Now I realize he is still a bit small and the stem is a bit wobbly, but he holding up his rose just the same.

I have to say, that I often feel similar feelings when my kids learn from their mistakes.  It makes you feel like you really accomplished something.  Now, last week, I wasn’t sure that my scolding Mr. Thomas or trying to embarrass him by posting his photos would cause him to see how foolish he had been.  I really wasn’t sure if he was listening.  But, I guess he was 🙂

On another note, thank you very much for your well wishes.  I am  recovering.  The fever is gone and I actually went to the grocery store yesterday.  I must say that shopping for 4 kids and a husband fills up the shopping cart quite a lot and I was pooped out when I go home.  Thankfully, my husband took one look at my face and told me to go inside and rest.  He took the groceries in and put everything away :o)

My one expedition today is to go to a local garden restaurant.  Actually it is a farm grill that is set among a very pretty garden setting.  My mother (Pastor Farmer) called me yesterday to let me know that the flowers are in full bloom.  So, I am off to take pictures and then come home and take a nap.  **Isn’t it frustrating how long it takes to get your strength back once you are over the flu?

Well, I hope you are all staying well.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Do you remember when you were a child and couldn’t wait to grow up?  First it was learning how to walk before you could run.  Then learning how to ride a bike without training wheels.  Later you become impatient, waiting until you are old enough to get your driver’s license, although that is often scary for the parents.


Well, this is not a story about a child impatient to grow up.  Rather, it is a story of a rose bush that is in too much of a hurry to flower.


Back in January, we reintroduced roses into our garden.  We purchased 3 David Austin roses – Abraham Darby, Graham Thomas and William Shakespeare.  My children were so excited the day we received the roses in the mail.


We prepared the holes using bone meal, bagged compost, blood meal and aged steer manure according to the directions from the rose grower.  


Once we planted them, they were so small, it was hard to even see them.

Only two months later, we saw the beginning of a single rose bud growing on our Abraham Darby rose, which belongs to my third oldest daughter, Ruthie.  We were all so excited and it seemed like it took forever for it to bloom.


It was well worth the wait.  I love the light pink of the petals and the fragrance was just intoxicating.

Well, not wanting to be outdone by it’s neighbor, Abraham Darby….Graham Thomas decided that he would outdo Abraham.
Almost all at once, he started to grow not just one rose bud, but 10!


Now normally, I would be absolutely thrilled.


I mean, who wouldn’t love all of these beautiful roses perfuming the air.  But, there was just one problem.  You can see part of the problem in the photo above.


Graham had not grown big enough stems to support all the new roses, not to mention even one rose.

And so, we had beautiful roses laying on the ground….


Hopefully, Graham will think twice about growing roses before he has big enough stems.  

Interestingly, our William Shakespeare rose is quite patient.  He is rather puny and only formed his first rose bud a week ago.  But, the stem should be able to support the rose (hopefully).

And so the moral of the story is, do not flower until you have grown big enough to support them.   I hope Mr. Graham Thomas has learned his lesson….
Okay, I realize that most of you have not been waiting with baited breath to see what three English Roses I have chosen.  But for those of you who have, here is what I have decided on….

Abraham Darby (Pink/Peach)
Graham Thomas (Yellow)
&
William Shakespeare (Red)

Graham Thomas

I owe a debt of gratitude to those of you who gave me excellent advice on the English roses that you have had success with.  I also did some research by checking with my local rose society to see the rose varieties that do well in our area.  Which leads me to an excellent tip – the ARS (American Rose Society) ratings are based on how each variety of rose grows all over the country.  So, a rose that rated poorly in the northern areas may excel in the south.  I highly recommend checking your local rose society’s information page online which should lead you to excellent rose choices for your area.  

You can find links to your local rose society by clicking here.  Here is a link to the list of the best roses for the desert areas of Arizona.


The location for my new roses are kindly indicated by my three youngest helpers.  My new roses will receive bright morning sun, but will be protected from the intense afternoon sun in the summertime.  

*Notice my son’s right torn knee in his jeans.  Why is it that all of his pants are that way?  Only the right knee is torn on all of them… I have four daughters and my son is my youngest child, so boys are somewhat of a mystery to me.

Mexican Bird of Paradise Flower
(Caesalpinia mexicana)

The small tree in the photo with my children, is of one of my favorite plants.  It is blooming right now and even though I was taking pictures of where I was putting my new roses, I couldn’t resist taking this picture.  I love that there are still plants flowering this time of year. 

In the meantime, I cannot wait to receive my new roses.  I was not able to find English roses in any of our local nurseries, but I was able to find many suppliers online.  I ordered mine through Heirloom Roses.  They should arrive between January 6 – 10th.  For those of you who would like to see how to plant roses, it is rather simple, but you need to follow certain rules.  I will show you how once my roses arrive in a few weeks.