Is there any single group of modern day roses that are more loved that David Austin's English roses? Probably not.
The first of these was released back in the early 60s (Constance Spry) and since that time, there has been around 200 varieties produced. Each one a delightful mix of old and new rose qualities. Scent, old style flowers, repeat blooming... there is a lot to like about the English rose.
David Austin is an British breeder who first started work breeding roses in his own nursery in the 1960s. Old garden roses, which were losing popularity, were his main source in inspiration. His goal was to get the best traits of the antiques, the fragrance and grace, but in a more updated flower with repeating blooms. He definitely succeeded... so much so, that he was formally acknowledged by the Queen for his efforts. His roses have pretty much defined the industry for England, and have become popular the world over.
His first English rose, or Austin rose, was Constance Spry, in 1963, which got its name after the renowned flower arranger and cook.
'Chianti' and 'A Shropshire Lass' followed soon after and today he is still breeding new varieties every year. There are approximately 200 David Austin' roses, that have the scent and character of the old ones, but also the repeat flowering of the modern ones. His roses become very popular and are today favorites around the world. He also wrote several books about roses. In 2003, David Austin was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honor by the Royal Horticultural Society. He was also awarded the Dean Hole Medal by the Royal National Rose Society (Great Britain).
I have always loved the older roses... Gallicas, Portlands, Centifolias and so on. The colors and forms of these old roses are beautiful, and they generally have a lovely fragrance. Something sadly lacking in a lot of modern varieties.
And so too the English roses. While some are a little low on scent, the vast majority are absolutely loaded with fragrance. And they also have a long flowering season with multiple flushes throughout the summer. Disease resistance is also much improved over the older roses.
This list is the English roses that David Austin himself considers to be his most fragrant varieties. So if it's scent that is important to you, then you could do worse than making your selection from the following...
Boscobel, Gentle Hermion, The Poets Wife, Charles Darwin, Gertrude Jekyll, Golden Celebration, Harlow Carr, Jubilee Celebration, Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood, Strawberry Hill, Jude The Obscure, Sweet Juliet, Woolerton Old Hall, Abraham Darby, Alan Titchmarsh, Constance Spry.
Many of the English roses can be grown as a climber, especially if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with warmer conditions. Varieties such as Constance Spry, A Shopshire Lad, Graham Thomas and The Pilgrim look fantastic growing as a small climber along a trellis or fence. As many of these are large blooms that might "nod" a little, getting them up to or above eye height really helps to show off the blooms.
While David Austins website maintains that later varieties tend to be improvements over the originals, my personal experience doesn't necessarily bear this out. Constance Spry for example. True, it's not such a good repeat bloomer as some of the more modern examples, but I have never met anyone that regretted planting it in their own garden. If I was limited to one pink English rose only, then I think this one just might be it.
More English Roses
With around 200 different varieties, and more being released every year, we are never going to get a definitive collection of them. However, we will continue to add new pictures and descriptions as we come across more varieties in both public and private gardens.