English Roses

English roses is a term used for roses bred by David Austin, in Shropshire, England. He called them English Roses, as the name seemed to symbolize roses. Roses are one of the most loved flowers in England, voted several times as a favorite flower at the Chelsea Flower show. English roses are loved for their beautiful rosettes or cupped flower forms and fragrance. The Tudor rose was a symbol of English dominance for over a hundred years.

David Austin is a breeder that decades ago, inspired by a copy of a book by George Bunyard on antique roses, decided to start breeding his own rose varieties, to combine the best of the old roses with the best of the modern ones. His first English rose, or Austin rose, was Constance Spry, in 1963, which got its name after the renowned flower arranger and cook.

constance spry, a pink english rose
Constance Spry, a pink climbing English rose
'Chianti' and 'Shropshire Lass' followed soon and today he is still breeding new varieties every year. There are more then 190 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).

English roses are at home on cottage gardens, in mixed borders, such as the Falstaff rose, or as a stand-alone shrub. They are easy to use in traditional style gardens, but aren't confined to them. Use these roses in modern gardens to soften the hard lines of landscaping or modern materials.

They are very good for formal rose gardens, filling it with their fragrance and big blooms, while being resistant plants. If you don't have the space for a rose garden, you can create a border just for them and make a small rose garden within your garden. These roses can also be used for hedges and some can be grown as a short climber.

graham thomas rose bud
Graham Thomas, a yellow english rose

English roses perform very well and are easy to care for. They need just a bit of pruning to get rid of dead or sick wood or give a better shape to the plant. During flowering season, if you deadhead blooms you will get more flowers, otherwise the plant starts using her energy to develop seeds. Roses are hungry plants, so feed them, especially in spring before they flower and during summer. Give them rose fertilizer and water well. They usually take two or three years to establish, but will flower from the first season on.

With so many to choose from, it's somewhat difficult to choose one English rose. There is a wide choice of colors and some varieties even have stripes. My personal opinion, is that the earlier varieties aere better than the later ones. They seem to be more hardy and vigorous. The later ones just don't seem to be such "good doers" somehow. But perhaps that's just bad luck on my part. Another version to look into as well are the French versions of these, the Romantica.

Some to try on your garden:

  • 'Constance Spry' the first of David Austin's roses, a climber
  • 'Grace' with fragrant rosette apricot blooms
  • 'Eglantyne' soft pink flowers, with a sweet scent and disease resistant
  • 'Winchester cathedral' white flowers and fragrance with hints of honey and almond blossom
  • 'Teasing Georgia' deep yellow blooms in the form of a cup and medium to strong tea rose fragrance
  • 'Golden Celebration' giant, deeply cupped, golden-yellow flowers; strong fragrance with fruity notes
  • 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' introduced in 2007, pink pretty blooms
  • 'Crown Princess Margareta' perfect blooms with incurved petals forming a frame for the numerous petals within; strong fragrance; can used as a climber.
  • Abraham Darby rose perfect blooms with incurved petals forming a frame for the numerous petals within; strong fragrance; can used as a climber.
  • Othello - a great looking magenta big bloomer!
  • Jude the Obscure - a nice white/apricot color

David Austin's Book On English Roses

When I moved house, several years ago, one of the casualties was my box of rose books. What happened to them, I have no idea. All I know, is that when I unpacked at my new place, the box was gone. Probably 50 books in total, some of them older collectors items: you can guess how I was feeling.

One of those books was David Austin's book, "The English Roses". This was probably one of the most read books in my collection, full of the most beautiful photographs, and rose stories. If English roses are one of your favorite varieties, then you really should have this book.




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