When you close your eyes and picture the quintessential English garden, David Austin roses immediately come to mind. English rose gardens are romantic.
David Austin is one of the most influential figures in British horticulture. He created an entirely new class of roses he simply calls English roses. The David Austin Rose Garden, the home of English roses, is located at Albrighton in the English Midlands. It’s been on my bucket list of places to visit for at least a dozen years. Last week, while visiting her family in England, Rachel took a side trip to visit the magnificent garden with her father, Derek, and brother, Mark. The garden is in full bloom from late June through July and admission is free.
“Most of the roses have large, ruffled petals that smell heavy of classic rose perfume,” Rachel said. “The colors are so vivid, they’re almost overwhelming. As you turn each corner, you never know what you’ll find. There’s even a section where roses are combined with other perennial plants to give you ideas for companion planting. Throughout the garden are sculptures by Mr. Austin’s late wife Pat. Additionally, there’s a plant center, gift shop and tea room.”
David Austin began breeding roses as a hobby shortly after WW II on his family’s farm. He created the first English rose, Constance Spry, in 1961. Since then, he’s produced more than 200 varieties. This has been the most successful group of new roses since the introduction of hybrid teas in 1867. At age 92, he continues to develop some of the most instantly recognizable roses in the world.
The two-acre garden displays the National Collection of English Roses. The garden itself is divided into smaller theme rooms separated by immaculately trimmed hedges.
English roses combine the classic look of old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming habits of modern hybrids. Their pleated petals are highly scented and come in a wide range of colors. Their compact size makes them ideal for smaller gardens or containers.
Rose breeding takes a long time. Each year, some 100,00 seedlings are produced. After seven to eight years of field testing, only three or four new varieties are introduced each year at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. It takes another two years under strict quarantine before the budwood can be introduced to nurseries in the U.S.
In 2009, David Austin’s rose Graham Thomas received the highest honor possible. It was voted the world’s favorite rose by the World Federation of Rose Societies and inducted into the Rose Hall of Fame. In 2010, Mr. Austin was named Great Rosarian of the World.
If you’re looking for a rose that’s fragrant, charming and easy to care for, you can’t go wrong with a David Austin English rose.
Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org