Caring for Your English Roses

Tips from David Austin Roses on pampering your petals.
David Austin pink rose 'James Galway' (Auscrytal)

David Austin pink rose 'James Galway' (Auscrytal)

A gorgeous David Austin bloom: 'James Galway' (Auscrytal).

Photo by: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

A gorgeous David Austin bloom: 'James Galway' (Auscrytal).

David Austin English roses are popular around the world for their beauty, reliability and ease of care. If you’re a gardener whose yard is heavily shaded, like mine, don’t despair. Susan Rushton, the English-based company’s head of marketing, says there are plenty of these roses we can grow, even without full sun.

“It may seem surprising,” Rushton says of the popular roses in the gallery below, “but all the English roses listed will be absolutely fine in partial shade, with around five hours of sun per day.”

“In the hottest areas of the U.S., the roses might even appreciate a little shade from the midday sun."

But remember that roses can’t flourish in deep shade, or if they’re planted too close to trees. Tree roots will compete for the water and nutrients the plants need to produce big blooms and healthy foliage. 

Partial shade can cause your roses to stretch toward the light, “making them a little taller than they would otherwise be,” Rushton says, but that’s not a concern for those of us who just don’t have much sun, anyway. 

If you’re a “newbie” when it comes to roses, Rushton suggests starting with a crimson-red ‘Benjamin Britten’, pink ‘James Galway’ or apricot-colored ‘Lady of Shalott.’

“These are all vigorous shrubs, so perfect for cooler areas,” Rushton says. “They would also be wonderful if trained to grow as climbers in warmer areas of the U.S. In fact, in warmer areas, it can be quite a challenge to keep ‘James Galway’ growing as a shrub, as it is such a vigorous plant."

Once you start growing roses, you’ll find that many types—from shrubs to climbers to ramblers—can be quite long-lived. “You may not know it,” Rushton adds, “but you have what is marketed as one of the world’s oldest roses in the U.S .in Tombstone, Arizona. I saw it last year, though it was sadly not in flower at the time. They have pictures of it going back to the last century. However, a rose in Germany supposedly beats it hands down—it is said to date back to 815 A.D.!” 

'Golden Celebration'

'Golden Celebration' (Ausgold) features giant, full-petaled flowers.

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'Graham Thomas'

'Graham Thomas' (Ausmas) is a very hardy rose with a deep, rich color named for influential gardener Graham Thomas.

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'Claire Austin'

'Claire Austin' (Ausprior) has a strong myrrh fragrance with touches of meadowsweet, vanilla and heliotrope. David Austin Roses calls it their "finest white rose to date." It is named for David Austin’s daughter Claire.

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'Lichfield Angel'

'Lichfield Angel' (Ausrelate) is an almost pure white rose that does well in borders and has a light clove fragrance.

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'Lady Emma Hamilton'

'Lady Emma Hamilton' (Ausbrother), pictured here with lavender, has a distinctive and unusual tangerine color when fully open.

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'Munstead Wood'

'Munstead Wood' (Ausbernard) features deep crimson roses and an Old Rose fragrance. The hardy, medium-sized shrubs are named after famed gardener and author Gertrude Jekyll’s garden in Survey.

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'Lady of Shalott'

'Lady of Shalott' (Ausnyson) is called one of the most robust and hardy roses in the David Austin collection.

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'James Galway'

'James Galway' (Auscrystal) is an almost thornless rose with a warm pink color shading to a pale pink.

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'Queen of Sweden'

'Queen of Sweden' (Austiger) is a soft pink rose with hints of apricot with a formal form to its blossom.

'Darcey Bussell'

'Darcey Bussell' (Ausdecorum) is named for a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet and is one of Austin's favorite red roses.

Rosa 'Brother Cadfael'

The large, clear pink flowers of ‘Brother Cadfael’ may remind you of peonies and have a rich Old Rose perfume. This rose is named for the hero of the Ellis Peters detective stories, set in Shropshire, home of the David Austin Roses nursery.

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'Crown Princess Margareta'

'Crown Princess Margareta' features a strong, fruity fragrance and is named for Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and an accomplished gardener.

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'Charlotte'

'Charlotte' (Auspoly) has a Tea Rose fragrance and is dedicated to one of David Austin's granddaughters.

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Rosa 'Lady of Megginch'

Pretty, rounded buds open to large, full, deep rose pink flowers on these medium-sized plants. It’s a vigorous bloomer that can be pruned or allowed to grow into a tall, bushy shrub. The fragrance is fruity and Old Rose, with a hint of raspberry. It’s named for the late Baroness Strange, a rose gardener who made her home in Scotland’s Megginch Castle.

'Tranquillity'

'Tranquillity' (Ausnoble) is a creamy white rose and boasts a light apple fragrance.

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'Christopher Marlowe'

This short to medium-sized shrub rose opens intense, orange-red blooms that pale to salmon pink on the edges as the flowers mature. Named for an Elizabethan playwright and poet, the roses have a tea fragrance with a hint of lemon.

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'Princess Alexandra of Kent'

'Princess Alexandra of Kent' (Ausmerchant) is named for Princess Alexandra, cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, and an avid gardener.

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'Lady Emma Hamilton'

‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ produces dark red buds backed with splashes of orange. When the flowers fully open, they become tangerine orange inside. Their perfume is a strong, fruity mix of pear, grape, and citrus. The rose, named for Horatio Nelson’s lover, celebrates the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

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'Wollerton Old Hall'

'Wollerton Old Hall' (Ausblanket) features a distinctive myrrh scent and a rounded chalice shape.

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'Teasing Georgia'

Available as a climber or a medium-sized shrub, ‘Teasing Georgia’ produces deep yellow flowers that fade to pale yellow with a beautiful two-tone effect. The disease resistant bushes are named for two well-known media personalities in Germany, Ulrich and Georgia Meyer. The pleasant Tea Rose scent is medium-strong.

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'Benjamin Britten'

'Benjamin Britten' (Ausencart) has a strong salmon-pink color and is named for the famous English composer, conductor and performer.

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'Boscobel'

'Boscobel' (Auscousin) is very hardy and has a myrrh fragrance with notes of elderflower, pear and almond.

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'Gertrude Jekyll'

Winner of the 2002 James Mason Award from the Royal National Rose Society, this rose is described as having the quintessential Old Rose fragrance and is named for a famous garden designer.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

'Royal Jubilee'

Like other roses in the English Alba group, ‘Royal Jubilee’ has a light, airy, vigorous growth habit that works well in borders. The big, semi-doubled flowers are a deep, velvety pink held against glossy, grey-green foliage. These repeat-flowering shrubs grow to 5’ tall by 3’ wide and have very few thorns. There’s a note of blackcurrants in the flowers’ fruity fragrance.

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'The Lark Ascending'

This rose’s light perfume changes as the flowers age, opening with Tea Rose and ending as myrrh. The shrubs grow up to 5’ tall and 3’ wide, making them a good addition to mixed perennial borders. The loosely cupped petals are a soft apricot color and have darker, golden-apricot stamens.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Heathcliff'

'Heathcliff' produces scarlet, fully doubled flowers that open to a rosette shape.The plants grow approximately 3 ½’ tall by 3’ wide, with shiny, deep green foliage. This variety has an unusual perfume that combines a Tea Rose scent with the fragrance of Old Roses; there’s an undertone of earthy, dry cedar.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

Renowned Rose Grower David Austin

Renowned Shropshire, England rose breeder David Austin pictured at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. David Austin Roses, which was founded in the 1960s emphasizes fragrant, lush Old English roses.

Rushton’s Tips for Healthy, Happy Roses

  • Water a container rose well shortly before planting. If using bare root roses, soak the roots in water for a couple of hours or even overnight. 
  • Always prepare the soil well. Dig in plenty of well-rotted compost, manure, humus or organic matter, especially if your soil is light.
  • Mulch using compost, bark chips or manure.
  • Water until your rose is well established. A regular, deep watering is much better than a daily trickle.
  • Feed your plants once or twice during the summer using a good, slow release fertilizer.  
  • Deadheading your roses can be very relaxing and is a nice habit to get into. This keeps them tidy and can also encourage better repeat flowering.
  • If your plant is very vigorous and is getting taller than you prefer, it is fine to summer-prune after the first flush of flowers, instead of deadheading. Cut back up to 18 inches, leaving a few inches to produce fresh new shoots.
  • When pruning shrub roses, don’t worry about the complicated rules you might have heard. In the first year, cut the stems back by about a third. In subsequent years, prune the stems to about half their length. Step back now and again to check that you are creating a well-rounded shape.
  • When pruning climbing roses, simply reduce the previous year’s flowering shoots by about 6 inches. Tie onto a support as needed, allowing plenty of room for the stems to expand as the rose matures.

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