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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?

*This blog post contains an affiliate link. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

January can be a difficult time for those of us who love to grow roses. Why may you ask? Because we have to prune them back, often when they are still blooming. Living in a mild winter climate means that roses continue to bloom and it is hard to go out and cut the bushes back to bare branches (canes). But, it must be done. 

My ‘Olivia Rose’ David Austin shrub rose before pruning in January.

I am often asked why should we prune rose bushes back in winter, while they may still be blooming and there are several reasons why.

Winter pruning helps to keep roses healthy by removing old, unproductive canes (rose stems/branches), gets rid of disease and over-wintering insects that can cause damage. It also helps them to produce MORE flowers than if not pruned.

It’s this last fact that I repeat to myself over and over as I prune back my large, beautiful rose bushes in winter. Of course, I put any remaining blooms in a vase so I can enjoy them indoors.

‘Olivia Rose’ after pruning.

Ugly isn’t it? But, the pruning has done a lot of good things –  I’ve gotten rid of small, twiggy growth as well as a few dead canes. I still need to clean up the fallen leaves, which is where fungal diseases like to lurk only to spread again when the weather warms again. Pruning also stimulates new growth that will produce lots of lovely roses in the coming months. I used my Corona hand pruners to prune back my roses.

Before you know it, my ‘Olivia Rose’ bush, as well as my other roses, will be in full bloom again.

Pruning roses isn’t as hard as it looks and I encourage you not to be afraid of it and if you make a mistake, don’t worry, roses are awfully forgiving of bad pruning. I’ve written how to prune roses in an earlier post that you can read here

If you are interested in adding some new roses to your garden, winter is the best time to do that in the desert garden. I recently shared my favorite types of roses on my other blog Southwest Gardening. 

Have you pruned your roses back yet?

 

 

The holidays are here and if you are like me, you a long list of people to find the perfect gift for. Because I love plants and gardening, I like to look for gifts with a garden theme to give, as well as to give my husband some hints as to what to get for me.

I’ve created lists of some of my favorite garden gifts and have split them up into different categories, which I will share with you over the next week, so be sure to check back daily.  For your ease and convenience, all items can be purchased online, so grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

What is gardening without plants? Thankfully, it is easy to order a variety of plants for the gardener in your life. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Waxed Amaryllis

I’m starting out with my favorite this year. Imagine a plant that needs no water, fertilizer or any special care other than to place it by a window? While the dramatic blooms of amaryllis are a popular holiday gift, these waxed amaryllises take it one step further. Covered in wax, they have all the water and fertilizer needed for them to bloom, which makes them an excellent choice for people with a self-professed ‘black thumb’. Click here to order.

Want to learn more about this pretty, low-maintenance flower? I talk about it in my newest Facebook Live video:

Since I’ve posted the video, I’ve heard from several of you that you have seen these for sale at their local grocery and big box stores, so they shouldn’t be hard to find if you don’t want to order them online.

 

2. David Austin English Rose

Christmas is the best time to buy a new rose for the garden, ready for being planted in January. David Austin has created a class of roses the couples the beautiful shape and fragrance of the old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming of more modern roses.  Why else should you want to add one of these beauties to your garden? They are disease resistant and much lower-maintenance than your more traditional roses. My favorite is ‘Olivia Rose’, which grows in my side garden where I view their pretty pink blossoms from my kitchen window. David Austin roses can be ordered here.

 

 

3. Potted Succulents

Dive into the latest gardening craze, which is all about succulents. You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own – just a pot, potting mix, and a pretty little succulent. Imagine how nice this would look on your windowsill. There are a number of potted succulents available such as this one with a gold-toned planter. Click here to order.

4. Air Plants

Create your own little garden world with this kit, that has all you need, including an air plant, moss, rocks and a lovely hanging glass container. Air plants have such unique shapes and are easy to care for. Click here to order.

5. Assorted Agave

Did you know that there are over 200 species of agave? The different shapes, colors, and sizes mean that there is one (or more) that are right for your garden. You can get a good start on an agave collection by ordering this assortment either for yourself or divide it up into four separate gifts. Click here to order. 

Do you have a favorite plant that you received as a gift? I’d love to hear about it.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll share my picks for garden tools and gear.

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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.

Do you think of yourself as a trendsetter?  How about being the first landscape in your neighborhood to have the newest plant varieties on display?


I am always on the lookout for new plants that give a unique and often unexpected look to outdoor spaces awash in a sometimes overwhelming sea of bougainvillea, lantana and oleanders.


Now, I would like to state at this point, that I have no problem with bougainvillea, lantana and oleanders as plants – they are beautiful plants that are easy to care for with little fuss.  However, because they are used so often, they lack the impact that we would like for our landscaped areas to make.  At the 2015 Garden Writers Conference that I attended, one of the speakers said this, “When things are expected, they become less powerful and impactful.”



The tradeshow associated with the conference had many vendors displaying the newest tools to make gardening easier, which I wrote about in a previous post.  There were also many growers present showcasing the newest plants on the market along with new varieties of well-known plants.


Walking through the booths filled with beautiful plants, I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Everywhere you looked, there was a new plant drawing me in closer to read its tag to see if it could be grown in a hot, arid climate.


Many of the growers handed out free plants to conference attendees so that they could try them out in their own gardens.

Like I said before….I was a kid in a candy store where everything was free!

Monrovia, a well known grower, had a large number of plants on display including this one that I found rather interesting…


This is a dwarf jacaranda, called ‘Bonsai Blue’, which grows 6 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide.  This would be a great option for someone who had limited space but who wants this tropical plant along with its purple flowers decorating their outdoor space.

I was excited to receive 3 ‘Brakelights’ red yucca (Hesperaloe parvifolia ‘Perpa’), which have darker red flowers than the traditional red yucca.


I headed out to the Southern Living Plant and Sunset Western Garden Collection booth in search of plants that would thrive in my neck of the woods.


Lovely varieties of autumn sage, nandina and other salvias were a feast for the eyes.  Many of the new nandina varieties are compact, reaching 2 ft. high and tall.


Many of the plants in their display were suitable for testing in my garden, so arrangements were made to send a variety to me to try out such as ‘Flirt’‘Lemon Lime’ and ‘Obsession’ varieties of nandina, which are more compact and offer a variety in foliar color. Another plant to look forward to receiving in the mail is ‘Little Kiss’ Salvia which has red and white bicolor flowers, much like ‘Hot Lips’ salvia, but is more compact in size, reaching 18 inches.   

In the meantime, I was given 2 ‘Meerlo’ lavender plants at the tradeshow, which have lovely variegated leaves giving an entirely new loook to lavender.


High Country Gardens, is a mail-order nursery that specializes in drought tolerant and native perennials.  I spoke to the owner, David Salmon  about their newest plant introductions including ‘Showy’ pink milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).


Salvias species such as autumn sage (Salvia greggii) and closely related, Salvia microphylla were on display.  In low desert gardens, they bloom fall, winter and spring and do best when planted in partial shade.
I picked up 3 varieties of Salvia microphylla from the of the Salvia Heatwave Collection to try in my home garden.  They are purported to be more compact than the closely related Salvia greggii, while also being great in containers.  


Roses were also on prominent display, including many types of low-maintenance, groundcover roses such as these ‘Drift’ roses distributed by Star Roses and Plants.  This new type of rose is a cross between groundcover roses and miniature roses making them perfect for the smaller garden.

I received a single ‘Drift’ rose at the tradeshow, which now is now planted in my side garden.

Other plants offered by this grower include the highly popular ‘Knockout’ roses as well as beautiful shrubs and perennials. 


A representative from my favorite grower of roses, David Austin Roses, was on hand, direct from England.  These are shrub roses with old-fashioned blooms that are highly fragrant.  I’ve grown several in my garden and was excited for the opportunity to try their newest rose introduction – ‘Olivia Rose Austin’, which isn’t available to the public yet.  They will be sending me one this winter to plant in my garden. 


Believe it or not, I did pass up the offer of some free plants.  Azaleas and gardenias would not grow well in the alkaline soils and while I wish that I could grow hydrangea – they do not like the dry, heat in the Southwest.


‘Wave’ petunias have taken the potted, flowering annual realm with their masses of blooms.  The petunia flowers are smaller than regular petunias, which allows for more of them to grow closely together creating a mass of welcome color.

Several varieties were on display including the newest variety ‘Burgundy Velour’ with its deep red flowers.

Petunias are my favorite cool-season flowering annual because they aren’t fussy and the newer ‘Wave’ varieties are simply stunning.  You can find them at most local nurseries.


It took me 2 afternoons to get through all the booths at the tradeshow and my bags were filled with plants as well as samples of the newest gardening tools and other items.

I could hardly wait to get my new plants home and into the garden.

So, how did I get them home on the airplane you may wonder?

I brought two suitcases with me and carefully wrapped each plant in newspaper and then a plastic bag.  I then used my dirty clothes to cushion the area around them in each suitcase. 

 They all made it home relatively unscathed and are now planted in my garden 🙂