Monday, June 23, 2014 5 comments

Another golden Chelsea for David Austin English Roses

I attended the Chelsea Flower Show in May 1991. That year, a Silver Medal was awarded to a garden called Gothic Retreat. If I saw it, the plants and design have completely slipped my mind. You see, I was so gobsmacked by the enormity of the show and the variety of blooms, I didn’t know which way to turn. 

I trained Cottage Rose as a climber
That year a hybridizer named David Austin introduced three roses I later grew in my Maryland garden. Cottage Rose, The Dark Lady and Evelyn remain among my favorites. 

But Mr. Austin was not new to Chelsea – in 1983 he unveiled two of his new, old-fashioned “English Roses” to the world, Graham Thomas and Mary Rose.

The rest, as they say, is history.

This year David Austin English Roses secured an 18th Gold Medal in the Great Pavilion awards. Their team of eight worked for five days to prepare the display in the main marquee. Those readers who recall my posting about the 2013 Austin stand may not believe it, but this year’s presentation was even more stunning.

As a bonus, this year’s show was a family affair.

David Austin Senior, David Austin Junior and his son Richard were on hand to celebrate the award.  In addition, one of the 2014 Chelsea introductions is named Olivia Rose Austin after David Junior’s 19-year-old daughter.
Olivia Rose Austin
Because the variety is named for a family member, it had to be something special. Olivia is the first offering in their disease-free line and has been in development for almost ten years.  The rose features soft pink rosette blooms and a fruity fragrance.  The Austin folks believe it might be their best rose to date. 

 A second introduction, The Poet’s Wife has really caught my eye. Technical Manager Michael Marriott says it is a rare color in the David Austin pastel palette – an unfading rich yellow. It is a low grower, ideal for the front of the border. The fragrance is described as lemony, becoming sweeter and stronger with age.

The Poet's Wife
The final new rose to make its debut is The Lady of the Lake, only the fourth rambler to be added to the English Rose collection. It promises to grow 10 to 12 feet or more with long, slender, flexible canes. Unlike many ramblers, it repeat flowers throughout the summer and boasts a fresh citrus scent.
The Lady of the Lake
So there you have it. All the beauty of Chelsea, and all the beauty to come with three new David Austin roses.

I am checking now to see if they will be available here in 2015.  Hope so.

I already have The Poet’s Wife at the top on my must have list.

Sunday, June 1, 2014 10 comments

More miracles at the Biltmore International Rose Trials

Ta da, this year's big winner at Biltmore

Last year, a part-time hybridizer made history when one of his creations won Best in Show at the first Biltmore International Rose Trials competition in Asheville, North Carolina.

Mike Athy of Gisborne, New Zealand entered his climbing/groundcover rose (temporarily known as Athyfalaa) in 2011 and after eight rounds of judging over two years it was declared the winner in five of eleven categories.

This year another amateur, Robert Neal Rippetoe, took top honors with “Miracle on the Hudson”, a vibrant shrub named to salute the Captain, crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549. Rippetoe’s rose also won for Best Shrub Rose, Best Growth Habit and Most Disease Resistant. Some of his other introductions include “Buttercream”, “June Anne” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

The Biltmore Rose Garden was nothing less than spectacular
This is the second year Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials where more than 90 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore Rosarian Lucas Jacks (he is a certified genius) and his team of horticulturalists.

No fungicides or insecticides are used on these roses and any entry that displays disease over 25% of the bush is removed from the competition.

Each trial lasts two years and a permanent jury judges the roses four times annually. I am fortunate to be on that permanent panel (despite the fact it can be mighty cold out in the gardens in mid-January.) 

The Biltmore Estate and its glorious gardens are a must-see

 The roses judged this year were from Canada, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, the UK and the United States. 29 roses planted in 2012 made it to the finals (the roses are displayed by a numerical code and names are not known to the judges.) An international panel from across the rose world joined our permanent group to select the pick of the posies.

Lest you think only newbies are snapping up awards, many luminaries of rosedom also made the head table. 

Sweet Drift

Tequila Supreme
Meilland of France won Best Groundcover with “Sweet Drift”, Best Floribunda with “Tequila Supreme” and Best Hybrid Tea with “Francis Meilland.”

“Munstead Wood” hybridized by David Austin English Roses was named Most Fragrant.
My Munstead Woods are almost always in bloom

And the stunner “Bajazzo” from Kordes of Germany won Best Climber.

Bajazzo bewitched judges

New rose varieties are planted for the trials each May. These bushes are evaluated for garden performance, fragrance, disease resistance and usability in a variety of landscape situations. The next awards will be in 2015 for the trials planted in 2013.

I judged the 2013 hopefuls as part of my duties Saturday.

I saw some amazing entries, so I fully expect more wonderous events to materialize next May.