Few gardeners can resist the charms of Old English cottage garden style roses. Among the most satisfying are David Austin’s English Rose hybrids, which combine the beauty and fragrance of the old roses with the repeat-flowering, full bush and wide color ranges of modern roses.
This spring, David Austin debuts five new English Rose varieties for American gardens. Each features the richly hued old-fashioned flowers Austin is known for. Their bushy shrubs are bred for the garden and are suited to growing in garden beds and borders, in large pots, and grouped in the landscape.
The five new English roses include: a velvety crimson English rose, Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’; Rosa ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ with unusually large pink deeply cupped roses; Rosa ‘Sir John Betjeman’ with colorful neat, bright pink rosettes; Rosa ‘Wisley 2008,’ with semi-cupped, soft pink roses of exceptional grace and a complex fragrance; and Rosa ‘Young Lycidas,’ with a rich color blend of purplish magenta-pink-red, a first for Austin’s English Roses.
Among the new introductions, two were recently heralded with international awards.
As a ‘Concors Internacional de Roses’ in Barcelona, ‘Wisley 2008’ won Best Rose for Landscaping, while ‘Young Lycidas’ was awarded the top prize for fragrance. ‘Munstead Wood’ was named “Flower of the Year” by the style-setting French magazine, Rustica.
“This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first repeat-flowering David Austin varieties,” says David JC Austin, son of breeder David Austin and managing director of David Austin Roses, in Albrighton, Wolverhampton in the Shropshire area of England. “We’re a family-owned company with a long heritage of breeding and growing roses. Our objective has always remained the same: to combine the best of the old with the best of the new, to create roses that will provide the greatest possible pleasure for the gardener.”
For such romantic looking roses, David Austin hybrids need only a gardener’s routine care. With proper planting and soil enrichment, they are robust rose bushes. They represent the newest David Austin breeding, with improved bush health, disease-resistance and compact conformation. Highly appealing compact introductions include ‘Darcey Bussell,’ ‘Wildeve,’ ‘Molineux,’ ‘Grace,’ ‘Harlow Carr,’ ‘Lady Emma Hamilton,’ ‘Sophy’s Rose’ and, now, new ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and ‘Munstead Wood.’
Still, ask any American gardener to name a David Austin rose, you’ll hear the names of the same few famed English Roses that first arrived with the launch of Austin’s first USA Collection in 1998. Understandably, these iconic Austin roses, including ‘Graham Thomas,’ Gertrude Jekyll,’ ‘The Pilgrim’ and ‘Heritage’ have been the ones most widely known here, being the ones most widely available.
Today more than 200 Austin rose varieties are available to American gardeners, each specially selected for American growing conditions and climate zones. All USA-sold roses are grown and shipped within the United States. Increasing quantities of David Austin roses and varieties are becoming available coast-to-coast where fine plants are sold. All roses in the David Austin USA Collection are also available bareroot via mail-order during the spring shipping season from the website, by calling 800-328-8893, or by writing to David Austin Roses Limited, 15059 State Highway 64 West, Tyler, TX 75704. Austin’s book-quality catalog, “A Handbook of Roses,” is a rose lover’s delight and available free of charge.
The 2010 USA Introductions from David Austin Roses:
Rosa ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’
A repeat-flowering English Old Rose hybrid with approximately 130 petals. David Austin named this rose for Princess Alexandra, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II who is a keen gardener and great lover of roses. The rose that bears her name has unusually large flowers of a warm, glowing pink. They are full petalled and deeply cupped, the ring of soft pink outer petals enclosing the warm pink inner petals to create a most pleasing effect. In spite of their size, they are never clumsy, being held nicely poised on a well-rounded shrub. Because of their size, there is a lot to be said for planting in groups of three, keeping both flowers and growth nicely balanced. They have a delicious fresh tea fragrance, which, interestingly, changes completely to lemon as the flower ages – eventually taking on additional hints of blackcurrants. It is very healthy. Size: 3½ feet tall by 2½ feet wide. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9.
Rosa ‘Young Lycidas’
A repeat-flowering English Old Rose hybrid with approximately 90 petals. This is a variety of classic Old Rose beauty. The flowers are quite large and deeply cupped even when fully open, the many petals arranged in a charming way. Their color is new to English Roses: a blend of deep magenta, pink and red – the outer petals tending towards light purple, although this is in contrast to the outside of the petals, which are quite silvery in appearance. It makes an attractive, bushy shrub. There is a delicious fragrance that starts as a pure tea scent but then changes to a blend of tea and Old Rose, with intriguing hints of cedar wood. ‘Young Lycidas’ was awarded the top prize for fragrance at the 2009 Concurs Internacional de Roses, Barcelona. It was named to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of the poet John Milton. Size: 4 foot tall by 3 foot wide. Hardiness: USDA Zone 5-9.
Rosa ‘Wisley 2008’
A repeat-flowering English Old Rose Hybrid with approximately 95 petals. This is a rose of exceptional delicacy and charm bearing some resemblance to the old Alba Roses. The flowers are shallowly cupped and about 3 inches across, the petals arranged in a most perfect rosette formation – their color being a pure soft pink and the outer petals paling a little towards the edge. The growth is tall and slightly arching, producing its flowers along the stems and building up into a fine and very healthy shrub. There is a delightful, fresh, fruity fragrance with hints of raspberries and tea. It is a good choice for both formal and informal areas of the garden and also for a hedge. ‘Wisley 2008’ was awarded Best Rose for Landscaping at the 2009 Concurs Internacional de Roses, Barcelona. Size: 5 feet tall by 3½ feet wide. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9.
Rosa ‘Sir John Betjeman’
A repeat-flowering Leander hybrid with approximately 130 petals, and a rose of more modern character than most English roses. The flowers start as small buds, opening to full-petalled, wide-open rosettes of bright, deep pink, the color intensifying further with age. The flowers are 2½ to 3 inches across and are produced freely. They have a light, rather ‘green’ fragrance. A healthy and bushy shrub of medium size with a slightly arching habit. With its bright coloration, this is a good choice to create some contrast in a border of other roses of softer coloring. Sir John Betjeman was a writer, journalist and broadcaster, who was born more than 100 years ago. Size: 3½ feet tall by 2½ feet wide. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9.
Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’
A repeat-flowering English Old Rose Hybrid with approximately 74 petals. The flowers of this variety are, in fact, light crimson in the bud but, as the center gradually reveals itself, it becomes a deep velvety crimson while the outer petals remain lighter in color. They are of large size and cupped at first, becoming shallowly cupped with time. The growth is quite bushy, forming a broad shrub with good disease resistance. The leaves are mid-green, the younger leaves being red-bronze to form a nice contrast. There is a strong Old Rose fragrance with a fruity note. Our fragrance expert, Robert Calkin, assesses this as “warm and fruity with blackberry, blueberry and damson.” Munstead Wood was Gertrude Jekyll’s own garden in Surrey. Size: 3 feet tall by 2½ feet wide. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9.