Wednesday, November 20, 2013 10 comments

American rose lovers, here are the David Austin English beauties for 2014

More glorious English roses are bound for American gardens

In a time when pumpkins and mums have been dominating the garden landscape, it’s a treat to see some of my beloved roses making their final appearances of the season. 

These last roses of summer can often be the sweetest – the nip in the air deepens the colors and the blooms themselves are sometimes a bit larger than usual.

However, after a couple of early and ugly freezes, most of the roses are now gone and all that is left is a sad looking garden filled with dead leaves from surrounding trees, untidy bushes and mushy annuals.

But there is no need to despair! One look at the calendar tells us that in just a few short months, we will be back in business, sprucing up bedraggled bushes and adding brand new roses to the mix!

Loved Cottage Rose, but so did blackspot
Of course as Dirt Diaries readers know, I am a huge fan of David Austin English Roses, and quite often shout their praises from the housetops. But to be honest, not all of the varieties I’ve planted over the years made the grade in my garden. A few of my favorites from years gone by did fall prey to disease and malaise. (To find out if one of your prized older English roses is still highly recommended, check for a small flower next to its name in the Austin catalog.)

As my rosarian friend Paul Zimmerman points out, it has been 13 years since Knock Out was introduced and focused attention on the health of the overall bush, not just the beauty of the bloom.

However, even before Knock Out exploded on the scene, top hybridizers including David Austin were working diligently on addressing disease resistance issues. Over the past decade that hard work has paid off with the creation of plants that are both alluring and healthy. 

This year’s introductions may be the most disease resistant ever.

And they may also be the most beautiful and prolific.

Here are the new David Austin 2014 introductions to tempt you:


Michael Marriott, Technical Manager of David Austin English Roses, believes Boscobel may well be the most popular American introduction for 2014.

According to Martin Ogden, the garden designer also known as The Teddington Gardener, it is an absolute beauty with rich colors that vary from peach to pink as temperatures warm up or cool down. As the red buds open, they gradually develop into sumptuous blooms in the form of a classic rosette. Catalog copy tells us “the numerous small petals are of varying shades, mingling to provide the most pleasing effect.”

Martin also reports that Boscobel has the strongest fragrance of almost any recent English rose.

By the way, Boscobel House was built in 1632. It is famous for the fact that Charles II hid there in an oak tree, while being pursued by Cromwell’s soldiers during the English Civil War.



Of course I am a sucker for the red Austins (Darcey Bussell, Sir John Betjeman, Munstead Wood, Tess) so Heathcliff was a must have for my garden.  He is described as having very large, fully double, rosette shaped flowers of deep crimson. Teddington Gardener says this rose is reminiscent of Falstaff or L.D. Braithwaite. The color stays red and does not meander over to purple. The growth is strong and upright.

There is some disagreement on fragrance – some say it has none, others report the scent is a blend of Old Rose with a hint of cedar wood.   

So the jury is still out on some of the attributes of the rose, but I am more than willing to give this bad boy a try.

 Royal Jubilee

A unique rose for a unique occasion – it was introduced in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Royal Jubilee features large rounded flowers of deep pink with the petals curving in. It is vigorous and bushy and will form a large shrub 5 feet or more in height. It has a strong rich fruity fragrance with hints of blackcurrant.

The Lark Ascending 

There is often a big difference between the way David Austin English roses perform in the UK and how they do here. Lark Ascending may be one that is so robust, it will need to be trained as a climber in parts of the US.

Martin Ogden tells me it is a very different creature, a very healthy, bigger plant for the back of the border or for growing with wilder roses. It sports semi double blooms of light apricot (that are said to be luminous) with a light fragrance that varies from flower to flower.  


I’ve read that some gardeners consider Tranquility to be the best of the white Austin roses. Martin says it is a formal rose, more hybrid tea in style with a touch of lemon in the center.

The creamy blooms are very weatherproof and have a light apple fragrance. Its large sprays of flowers are held upright and are framed by light green Musk Rose foliage. I can’t wait to see this one in bloom! 

The Lady's Blush has a creamy white eye
I have two other Austin roses coming next spring: The Lady’s Blush and Fighting Temeraire. I wrote about them in the 2013 intro posting. The Lady’s Blush is a pure soft pink with a white eye in the center of the semi-double blooms. I’ve heard from my UK friend Richard Stubbs (who also works at the David Austin nursery) that it is always in bloom in his garden.
Fighting Temeraire

Although Fighting Temeraire isn’t my color fave, it is getting rave reviews so I will add it to my new “yellow” bed that includes Midas Touch, Julia Child, Sungold and an unknown grocery store mini that is a bloom machine.

Once I’ve had a chance to see how they all perform in the mountains, I’ll let you know which of these English beauties catches my eye and captures my heart.

Thursday, November 7, 2013 11 comments

The window boxes of Nantucket: gorgeous, then gone

Recently we were invited to join some dear friends for a few days on the island of Nantucket. I had never been to that part of the country before and had no clue what to expect.

Sankaty Head lighthouse
I knew the roses were pretty much gone for the year, but I was hoping to discover what else might be blooming in mid-October. So after a flight from Boston on a plane not much larger than my living room sofa, I set off to explore the island that was once the foremost whaling port in the world.  
Cranberries are still harvested from this bog

Nantucket is 3.5 miles wide and 14 miles long. The entire island was designated a historic landmark in 1966. There are quiet harbors, lighthouses, sandy white beaches, cobblestone streets, imposing mansions, widows’ walks, museums, shops – even cranberry bogs. There are no traffic lights, neon signs or fast food joints.


A triple-decker

There is much to see wandering around town and the waterfront. As a result of strict building codes introduced in the 1950s, the gray-shingled homes, cottages and businesses look much like they did two hundred years ago. But despite the charm of the architecture and lure of the harbor, it was the sight of so many gorgeous window boxes that captured my attention.

The first thing that struck me was that no two houses had similar window box designs. Some featured a mixture of annuals or perennials, but others were a creative combination of fruits or succulents. Then during my second day of window box mania, I noticed some of the displays had disappeared.
Later that afternoon, I wandered down to one of the beaches where I spied a pick-up truck overflowing with all manner of lush plants. As I moved closer (to take a picture of course) I could see the beauties had been pulled out of the window boxes, thrown in the back of the truck and were now headed for the town dump.

So many gorgeous plants on their way to be trashed
It seemed such a shame, but the workers informed me “the season was over” and the owners wanted the boxes dismantled and stored for the winter. They were not able to give any of the plants away, although they said there was a very happy man at the dump waiting with a large garbage bag to take away as many plants as he could carry.

Good for him.
Our visit was magical, but too quickly came to an end. I spent most of the last day on the island checking out the Nantucket lightship baskets (I couldn’t afford one) and investigating quiet lanes where a few window boxes remained.

Thanks to my Nikon, they will live forever.