Friday, June 1, 2012

Rose Fever is back (and hotter than ever)

 
Young Lycidas snagged the top prize for fragrance in Barcelona

When I’m giving a lecture on roses I often begin by telling the audience my presentation could be hazardous to their health. You see I know better than most that once rose fever sets in, there is no cure. No matter how many roses one has, there will always be a more appealing one coming up in the next gardening catalog.
   
 Which means rose fever can also be hazardous to the pocketbook.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles
I myself contracted a rare strain called English rose fever while living in London in the early 90’s. It was there I discovered many of their rose gardens looked nothing like the one I once created in Virginia. 

There were no boring rectangular beds stocked only with prissy hybrid teas. There was no calculated spacing where bushes were lined up in rows like dutiful soldiers. No naked canes to stare at all winter.

An old favorite, Jude the Obscure
Instead, roses were a part of the overall landscape. There was an understated accent here, a flashy punctuation point there. And oh, what wonderful blooms! Some the size of a dinner plate, with a fragrance that took me back to summer days on my grandmother’s farm.

I assumed many of these roses I’d come to admire in British cottage gardens were antiques, Comtesse de something or other. However it turned out they were actually a new class of “old fashioned” roses hybridized by the creator of the English rose, David Austin.

Amazingly prolific Sir John Betjeman
As a result of a hybridizing program initiated in the 1950’s, he captured the appealing features of Old Garden Roses (roses introduced prior to 1867) such as cupped or rosette-shaped flowers and strong fragrance in bushes that have the repeat bloom and vigor of modern roses.

That appeal was not lost on admiring Americans who stood in line to add roses with names like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Wise Portia to their gardens. More than 20 years later, many of the initial Austin introductions have fallen out of favor. But passion for the newer, more disease-resistant varieties remains strong all across the country.

Especially in my North Carolina garden.

Gardening with a British accent

Out of the 40+ bushes I’ve planted in my new garden, more than half are David Austin roses. There are many reasons why I am partial to the English beauties, but since a picture is worth a whole bunch of words, you’ll be able to see for yourself.

Crocus Rose
Two-year-old Sir John Betjeman is currently sporting 20 blossoms and 65 buds.

Crocus Rose (just planted in April) is covered with gorgeous soft apricot rosettes.
Lady Emma is always turning heads

Lady Emma Hamilton is literally stopping traffic as walkers stroll by and are gobsmacked by her charms.

Deep crimson Darcey Bussell not only has glossy, healthy foliage but also displays resistance to damaging insects like rose midge.
Exquisite Darcey is one of my new faves

And need I mention fragrance?

Of course everyone who grows English roses has a favorite, some of which are no longer in the good graces of the great hybridizer himself. Each year the Austin staff looks at their roses with a critical eye and decides which plants are no longer considered up to snuff. In the catalog, those that make the grade have a small flower next to the name.

St. Swithun can also be trained as a climber
I was relieved to find one of my favorites, soft pink St. Swithun, still gets the official seal of approval. I planted it in the early 90's during the first flush of English rose fever.

And I jolly well hope to grow it again on high.


29 comments:

The Redneck Rosarian said...

Wow! What a beautiful post of blooms. If only this was scratch and sniff! Awesome Share

The Dirt Diaries said...

Thanks awesome Redneck Rosarian. I will work on developing a scratch and sniff blog (:

thegardendiary.com said...

Love the scratch and sniff idea but those pictures are so beautiful, I can almost smell them. My Crocus Rose has been stingy with her blooms so far this year but the blooms she has are ohh la la! It is beautiful!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

My 'Janet' rose is a David Austin and I love it!! You are right about needing disease resistance here in the Carolinas.

Brenda Addington The GracefulGardener said...

Breathtaking! I just added about a half dozen David Austin roses to my garden this year and am enjoying some blooms from them now...Lady Emma is a stunner!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Thank you thegardendiary.com. Your Crocus Rose may be stingy but your Reine des Violettes is gorgeous. I love old roses too and will visit your site often.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Janet, I just had a look at your 'Janet' in the DA catalogue and it is simply beautiful. Maybe they'll create a Lynn rose one day (fingers crossed!)

The Dirt Diaries said...

Brenda, I'll look forward to hearing how your new English roses perform. Keep me posted. So glad you enjoyed the photos. I love taking them!

Les said...

I love the form, colors and fragrances of these roses, but I have found they do not all do well in our heat and humidity, nor do they re-bloom regularly. Still they are worth the effort,

The Dirt Diaries said...

Les, I can certainly understand some of these roses don't perform well in the Tidewater heat and humidity. Some of my bushes sulked on the Eastern Shore, too. I had a lot more space there, though, and didn't mind if older introductions like The Dark Lady only produced 15 blooms a year.

Now with a much smaller garden I can't afford to be so patient. However the Austin folks are doing a good job setting up test facilities in nine areas of the country from Long Island, to Tulsa to San Diego. These days it's easier to know which rose grows well where.

As for me, I had blooms on Darcey and Sir John here from early May till December. Many of the newer varieties are very prolific. And some like James Galway need a few years to repeat well. But as you say, they are worth the effort!

Rose said...

I confess to not being a rose grower, Lynn, just because I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with attending to all their needs. But this post has me drooling; I might succumb to rose fever after all. 'Lady Emma' is such a beauty, and I'm a sucker for plants with literary names:)

So nice to get to visit with you at Fling; I hope that life has settled down for you by now and that you are getting some time to enjoy these beautiful roses.

Phillip Oliver said...

They are hard to resist! I just imagine how beautiful they must be in England. So far, my new "William Shakespeare" is just sitting there. I keep waiting for it to take off.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Rose it was lovely to be with you. I'm delighted I've enticed you with my photos! Should you decide to try a rose, let me do some investigating to make sure Prairie Rose's Rose will thrive (:

The Dirt Diaries said...

Phillip, I tried two bushes of William Shakespeare and neither one did a thing. It is a beautiful red though -- loved seeing at David Austin's garden in the UK.

Try Darcey Bussell or Sir John next year. I think you'll be happy with either (or both!)

jeansgarden said...

Lynn, I've just discovered your blog on Blotanical and am enjoying it very much. More than anything else I've ever read, it is making me think seriously about adding roses to my garden.

I do a monthly "Garden Blogs of the Month" feature on my blog, Jean's Garden, designed to bring new blogs that I think my readers would enjoy to their attention. Your blog is one of two that I am highlighting this month. My post reviewing the blogs just went up, and your blog will be featured on my sidebar throughout the month. -Jean

Jayne said...

Roses have been a favorite plant for over 30 years. I can fill a book with names of those I have loved and lost, but do not regret a single one!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Jayne, I know exactly how you feel. I started growing roses in '79 and have had wonderful successes and smashing failures. I guess my biggest disappointment was a rose called Paul's Lemon Pillar I tried to grow while living in the UK. It was spectacular in every garden but mine. Oh well, it was worth a try!

spurge said...

Your roses are stunning! I love Austin roses too. Could you post some shots of the entire shrubs for us, so we can get an idea of the overall habit and presentation of the flowers? I'd like to add some Austins to my garden, but at least some of the ones I've seen have terrible habit - the flowers droop and look ill, the bush is gangly. I've only been able to see a few in person, so maybe they're not all like that...

The Dirt Diaries said...

Hi spurge! Yes, I'll be glad to post some photos of the entire shrub but keep in mind my bushes are only two years old at the moment. Some of the older varieties like Gertrude Jekyll (dubbed Galloping Gertie)did sprawl. There are new recommendations from the Austin folks for summer pruning here in the US which I will post as well. A couple of Young Lycidas sprays did droop after a heavy rain, but they are very large flowers with over 90 petals each.

By the way, I very much enjoyed your site -- William Baffin is such a wonderful rose. Rated 8.9 by the ARS!

Stopwatch Gardener said...

Gorgeous! DA supplied most of the roses in my Edinburgh, Scotland garden, including non DA breeds like Rose De Rescht and Gloire De Dijon. I adore your pictures!

Sheila Averbuch - Stopwatch Gardener

The Dirt Diaries said...

Hi Sheila! I love Edinburgh -- I'll bet your garden is gorgeous there.

Glad you enjoyed the pictures. There will be more to come as we've just had our first glimpse of a new DA addition, Tam O'Shanter. Would love to see some pictures of your favorites.

Casa Mariposa said...

I just gave a rose the big chop the other day. It was boring, beige, covered in never-ending black spot, and virtually scentless. I had purchased it from an online nursery and it turned out NOT to be what I had ordered. I also have Jude and LOVE the Lycidas. Where to put it? Hmmm... :o)

The Dirt Diaries said...

Hi again Casa Mariposa!
Yikes, a beige rose! Be gone ugly bush! Young Lycidas is beautiful but the flowers are huge with about 90 petals and sprays can droop after a heavy rain. You will love the fragrance!

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The Dirt Diaries said...

Thanks so much, toko. Please visit again!

tina said...

I think you are right to grow those David Austin roses. They seem to be as good as Knockouts and have a great fragrance to boot! I just love all those petals and soft colors. I bet they smell great!

The Dirt Diaries said...

They do smell heavenly Tina, but Knockouts play an important role in many gardens. Just about anyone can grow them and once gardeners succeed with Knockouts, I'm hoping they will feel confident enough to try some other roses.

Commonweeder said...

My climate disallows some of your roses, but mine are beginning to bloom and The Annual Rose Viewing is almost upon us. Have to get out and weed and clip some more.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Commonweeder, I don't know where you are writing from but I will raise a glass to your Annual Rose Viewing! I know some of the Austin's are hardy to zone 4 and can get specifics if you'd like. In the meantime, thanks for your comment and enjoy!

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