Old English Roses to Grow
Courtesy of David Austin Roses
'Graham Thomas' is the most popular rose in rose grower David Austin's repertoire.
Once you’ve grown a single lush, fragrant English rose, it’s hard to resist filling your entire garden with these beauties. For some fifty years, the plant breeders at England’s David Austin Roses have been combining the forms and perfumes of old roses with the repeat-blooms of modern types, and the results are irresistible. Whether you use them as shrubs or climbers, English roses are gorgeous and surprisingly easy to grow.
Recently the company, which has a U.S. presence in Tyler, Texas, was awarded 16 Gold Medals for their roses at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. Their roses are sold and grown around the world.
David Austin’s most popular rose, says Susan Rushton, head of marketing, is ‘Graham Thomas.’ It’s a classic rose that dates to the 1980s.
“This was the first yellow David Austin rose,” Rushton says. “It was an entirely new color break at the time of its release in 1983 (there were no yellow or apricot shades amongst the true old roses)."
‘Graham Thomas’ has cupped blooms and is beloved for its “strong, fresh tea rose fragrance with a cool violet character,” Rushton says. In 2009, members of 41 national rose societies voted it the world’s favorite rose. This beauty also belongs to the Rose Hall of Fame and holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Rushton recommends growing ‘Graham Thomas’ as a shrub or a climber for a wall, fence, trellis or other structure.
The company’s top best-selling roses, Rushton says, “pretty much have it all: they are versatile and simple to grow, with beautiful many-petaled flower forms, natural glowing colors, attractive fragrances and importantly, they repeat flower well. Our most popular varieties are always fully double.”
David Austin sells roses in 45 countries around the world, Rushton says. She likes to say, “our roses have passports!”
If you’re just beginning to grow roses, Rushton suggests starting out with ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’, ‘Darcey Bussell’ or ‘Golden Celebration.’ All are reliable and easy to grow in almost any climate.
Just resist the urge to choose a rose because it has an intriguing or romantic name. It’s better to look for one that suits your garden’s needs. Use these tips for selecting just-right roses for your yard, whether you plan to pot them in containers or add them to your landscape; grow them on a pergola or an arch; enjoy them for their fragrance, or simply cut them for vases and bouquets. There’s a rose out there for everyone!
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.
'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.
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.
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.
'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.
'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.
These David Austin varieties were chosen for their outstanding performance and adaptability in most regions of the U.S. They include:
- 'Munstead Wood' (Ausbernard)
- 'Darcey Bussell' (Ausdecorum)
- 'Benjamin Britten' (Ausencart)
- 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' (Ausmerchant)
- 'Princess Anne' (Auskitchen)
- 'James Galway' (Auscrystal)
- 'Queen of Sweden' (Austiger)
- 'Lady of Shalott' (Ausnyson)
- 'Lady Emma Hamilton' (Ausbrother)
- 'Crown Princess Margareta' (Auswinter)
- 'Charlotte' (Auspoly)
- 'Graham Thomas' (Ausmas)
- 'Golden Celebration' (Ausgold)
- 'Claire Austin' (Ausprior)
- 'Lichfield Angel' (Ausrelate)
Recent New Varieties
These three recent new roses are great for U.S. gardens, but haven’t been around quite long enough yet to join the best-seller list:
- 'Boscobel' (Auscousin)
- 'Tranquillity' (Ausnoble)
- 'Wollerton Old Hall' (Ausblanket)