It’s official: David Austin’s rose ‘Graham Thomas’ is the World’s Favorite Rose, according to the rose aficionados in the 41 member countries that make up the World Federation of Rose Societies. Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ (Ausmas) becomes only the 14th rose in 33 years to win the triennial accolade – considered by many to be the rose world’s highest honor.
The award, announced at the 2009 World Rose Convention in Vancouver in June, marks WFRS’s induction of R. ‘Graham Thomas’ into its highly selective Rose Hall of Fame. Each Hall of Fame inductee wears the crown of World’s Favorite Rose for a three-year reign. The first World’s Favorite Rose winner was the famed Peace rose (Rosa ‘Peace’), the 1976 inductee to the Rose Hall of Fame.
The scope of the award is truly international. Founded in 1968, the WFRS represents more than 100,000 rose lovers in 41 member countries. To be named World’s Favorite Rose and win induction into the Hall of Fame, a rose must progress through a nomination and voting process that involves all of the 41 national chapters.
English rose hybridizer David Austin is internationally known for his introduction of new types of fragrant, full-bodied English Roses that have the plump form and heavy perfume of Old Roses combined with the broad color range and repeat-flowering of modern roses. David Austin breeds roses for rose lovers. Year after year, gardeners worldwide enjoy long seasons of pleasure from his fragrant English Roses by enriching the soil at planting and selecting the best varieties for their local growing conditions. (As the top pick of 41 countries, Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ would seem vetted as a top variety for a very wide range of local growing conditions.)
R. ‘Graham Thomas’, introduced in 1983, was the first David Austin hybrid to fully realize its hybridizer’s vision for new Fragrant English Roses. The cup-shaped blooms have a strong, fresh tea rose fragrance with a cool violet character. Their color is an unusually rich, pure yellow, which is not found in the Old Roses and is rare even among modern roses.
Austin named the rose for one of the leading horticulturalists of the 20th century, the late British horticulturalist, artist and garden writer Graham Thomas (1909-2003). Thomas was an enthusiastic collector of Old Roses and a frequent visitor to David Austin’s nursery in Albrighton in the West Midlands region of England.
R. ‘Graham Thomas’ forms a bushy shrub 5 feet high by 4 feet wide. Its upright habit makes it well suited to planting in tight groups of three in the garden, which can then be pruned to form a single shrub shape. R. ‘Graham Thomas’ is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and has proved to be a good performer in areas where summer heat and humidity can be problematic. Summer pruning encourages repeat bloom.
The rose can also be trained as a spectacular climbing rose, particularly in warmer climates where it can reach 10 to 12 feet, and thus is ideal for climbing a wall, rose pillar, obelisk or fence. It enjoys full sun but will also perform surprisingly well in partial shade, provided it is not planted directly underneath the canopy of trees.
Other honors awarded to R. ‘Graham Thomas’ include the Henry Edland Medal for the Best Scented Rose at England’s Royal National Rose Society.
‘Graham Thomas,’ more than any other David Austin variety, has become synonymous with the look and stature of David Austin English Roses. The new award reflects its position as one of the most widely grown and best loved roses in the world.
David Austin Roses of Albrighton, Wolverhampton, England offers more than 800 rose varieties, including its signature Fragrant English Roses plus select shrub roses, climbers and ramblers. Its USA Collection features nearly 200 rose varieties specially selected for American growing conditions and climate zones, with all USA-sold roses grown and shipped within the USA.
David Austin roses are available at fine garden retailers or may be ordered directly for home delivery from the website, by calling 800-328-8893, or by writing to David Austin Roses, 15059 State Highway 64 West, Tyler, Texas 75704. Also available is David Austin's lushly illustrated Handbook of Roses. This is a rose lovers’ delight, and is available at no charge.