Old English Roses to Grow

Old English Rose Varieties to Grow
David Austin yellow rose 'Graham Thomas'

David Austin yellow rose 'Graham Thomas'

'Graham Thomas' is the most popular rose in rose grower David Austin's repertoire.

Photo by: Courtesy of David Austin Roses

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!

'Golden Celebration'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Graham Thomas'

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

Photo By: Courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Lichfield Angel'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Lady Emma Hamilton'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Lady of Shalott'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'James Galway'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses


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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Princess Alexandra of Kent'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Wollerton Old Hall'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'Benjamin Britten'

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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses


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

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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.

'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.

Photo By: Image courtesy of David Austin Roses

'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' 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.

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)

Light Pink

  • '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)
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