Friday, January 23, 2015

David Austin's 2015 pick of the posies for American gardeners

Thomas a Becket is a stunner in the landscape (Courtesy David Austin Roses)

I’ve mentioned in the past that 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 at garden centers or in the 2015 catalogs.

Which means rose fever can also be hazardous to the pocketbook.

I myself contracted a rare strain called English Rose fever while living in London in the early 90’s when I fell in love with a new line of “old fashioned” roses created by David Austin.

Courtesy Chris VanCleave

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.

Now many years later, I still have English Rose Fever.

And it doesn’t help my bank balance that the new David Austin catalogue has just arrived with four new US introductions that look irresistible. These roses have been specially selected to perform well in a variety of growing conditions throughout America.

Maid Marion

We all dream of finding a rose that has the charming form of yesteryear, produces armloads of blooms and is delightfully scented as well.

Maid Marion delivers near perfect blooms all season
‘Maid Marion’ delivers all these attributes and more. 

According to Technical Manager and Senior Rosarian Michael Marriott, ‘Maid Marion’ produces some of the most superbly formed flowers in English Rose history. It is also quick to repeat.

The catalogue tells us the buds start as rounded cups with larger outer petals, enclosing numerous smaller petals within. These open to perfect rosette-shaped flowers in the form of a saucer; the outer petals forming an appealing rounded rim. It produces clear, rose pink flowers from early summer till frost, with a soft myrrh scent that becomes fruitier with a distinct clove character.

Maid Marion grows 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
 The Albrighton Rambler

Rambler roses that repeat bloom from summer into fall are rarities. Those that don’t ramble here, there and everywhere are even more rare.

Now David Austin introduces ‘The Albrighton Rambler’, a well behaved rose that grows from 10 to 12 feet, and offers large sprays of soft pink blooms (with a little button eye) that hang gracefully on the branch. It mixes beautifully with large-flowered climbers on an upright structure and is a perfect choice for arches, pillars, walls – even small trees.

A well behaved rambler that can spread 12 feet or more

It repeats well and is exceptionally healthy. In addition, the flowers are not affected by rain. According to Michael, the ‘Albrighton Rambler’ has a light musky fragrance typical of the Sempervirens hybrids.  Hardy in USDA Zones 7-10.

Thomas a Becket

I love the reds so this is a "must have" for me
This red beauty is a bit different than many English roses in that it is “closer to the Species Roses than to the Old Roses and more natural and shrubby in growth.”

The color is difficult to pinpoint or even photograph but is described as a light red that pales to a carmine red. (I am wondering if it will be similar in shade to Darcey Bussell or Sir John Betjeman. We shall see.)

The Austin team says the individual flowers open as informal rosettes; the petals quickly reflexing as the flowers age. They are held in medium-sized heads; the individual blooms nodding attractively on the stem. They have an Old Rose fragrance with a strong lemon zest character.

Michael says ‘Thomas’ blooms a week or 10 days later than most English Roses, then produces masses of flowers for the remainder of the season. He does caution it may take three years to look its best.  

If I get a bush that eventually looks like one in the photo above, I will be willing to wait! Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

The Lady Gardener

This Lady is said to be a blooming machine
Michael Marriott says this a particularly interesting rose in that it is the first in the English “Old Rose” group to sport apricot flowers. (The Old Rose hybrids were the original English Roses such as ‘Wife of Bath’. They have much of the character of the true old roses – the gallicas, damasks, etc. Prior to The Lady Gardener, the colors by and large were soft shades of pink, crimson and purple.)
The 65-petaled blooms are large, about 4" across, and start out as a rich apricot that pales towards the outside of the bloom.  It is said to produce a “staggering” number of roses, is very healthy and laughs at rain. As a bonus ‘The Lady” has a delicious Tea rose fragrance with hints of cedar wood and vanilla.  Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

So there you go, the English Class of 2015. All these roses are now available for spring delivery to your garden. Have you selected one you can’t live without?

With apologies to my pocketbook, I think I must have them all.


Teresa Byington said...

Well, I am very susceptible to rose fever and this year is no exception. To add to my collection, I just couldn't live without 3 of the Albrighton Ramblers... a well behaved rambler is just what I needed to continue my living fence on the south side of my garden. I can't wait to see what they do! So nice to have others to share this malady with! :)

Janneke said...

Haha, I´m already for years suffering of rose fever. This winter we are reconstructing the centre of our garden. Roses have gone out and replanted on other spots, cuttings are taken because I don´t want to loose roses and.....I´m sure some new roses will be ordered. Help...I´m getting outof space.

Lynn Hunt said...

Teresa, we will be in intensive "rose fever" care together. Those Albrighton Ramblers will be gorgeous in your living fence. I can't wait to hear how you like that rose and see the photos. I didn't order one because I didn't think I had a space for it, but after doing this article, I may need to get creative and make a space!

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Janneke! I would love to see a photo after your garden redo. I'm sure it will be lovely. I am like you, infected with "rose fever" but running out of space. So I am building a small new bed down by the trail in an area that gets sun. I'll plant minis and minifloras there and perhaps a weeping tree rose in the middle. After that, guess I'll have to get an allotment plot :) (Sadly there is no such thing here.)

Les said...

I had to say goodbye to my one and only David Austin this past summer. I do not have the best situation for any roses, and my 'Pat Austin' was overtaken by its more vigorous neighbors. She was a favorite, so of the new offerings I am particularly drawn to 'The Lady Gardener'.

Lynn Hunt said...

Les, because I am not fond of the orange/yellow color palette, I never grew 'Pat Austin'. But I have many friends who adore her. At first I wasn't going to get 'The Lady Gardener' but after seeing the photos I have decided she is a must-have. I'll let you know what I think. I hope it is a prolific bloomer as promised!

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, I spent ages clearing out a front border and rejuvenating the soil, shovelling loads of compost and manure and my reward was to get online and browse the David Austin web site, armed with a blank cheque and discount code, the result this summer should be spectacular!

Lynn Hunt said...

Sunil, I can't wait to hear which beauties you select! One I am adding this year is Lichfield Angel after some local friends raved about it. I have been a bit disappointed in Boscobel, but it was only the first year. Darcey and Munstead Wood continue to wow me!

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