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David Austin’s Guide to English Roses

David Austin OBE talks us through 9 of his beautiful English rose breeds

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Looking to brighten up your home and garden with some beautiful english roses? David Austin OBE, the legendary rose breeder, gives a guide to his favourite flower in his new book The English Roses. Austin turned 90 last year and celebrated by creating some beautiful new flowers, which he unveiled at the Chelsea Flower Show. Here, we bring you seven of our favourites from the new book and his three birthday roses. Plus, catch a glimpse of the new Judi Dench rose by David Austin. 

David C.H. Austin

David C.H. Austin

A Guide to English Rose Breeds by David Austin

Gentle Hermione 

Gentle Hermione Rose - David Austin Roses

Gentle Hermione Rose

This is a rose of mixed parentage, having strains of both English Musk and Leander in its make-up, as well as that of the Old Rose hybrids. However, its appearance leans towards the Old Roses. The growth is of about medium size, becoming quite broad with time. The leaves are tinged red at first, becoming green and then dark green with age. The flowers, as the photograph shows, are soft pink, the colour softening towards the edges with age. They gradually open to form shallow cups. They are a perfect shape at all stages, the whole effect being totally charming. They have a strong Old Rose fragrance with hints of myrrh. The disease-resistance is particularly good. 120 x 90cm/4 x 3ft. Hermione was the faithful wife of Leontes, King of Sicilia, and mother of Perdita in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.


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Harlow Carr 

Harlow Carr Rose

Harlow Carr Rose

‘Harlow Carr’ was introduced in the same season as ‘Rosemoor’ and both bring something new to English Roses. Rather like the Old Roses Rosa × centifolia ‘De Meaux’ and R. ‘Petite de Hollande’, ‘Harlow Carr’ has small, almost miniature flowers of perfect Old Rose formation; starting as delightful little cups, they develop into cupped, rosette-shaped flowers, with a button eye at the centre. The colour of ‘Harlow Carr’ is a lovely, medium rose-pink and it has a strong Old Rose fragrance that has been described as reminiscent of rose-based cosmetics. The growth is exceptionally vigorous and healthy, developing into a shapely, wellrounded, spreading shrub, bearing its flowers almost to ground level. The foliage is of the Old Rose type, bronze at first, later becoming green.

All in all, ‘Harlow Carr’ is almost the ideal English Rose of gem-like beauty. I hope that gardeners will not pass it over simply because the flowers are small. It will form a medium-sized shrub. 120 x 90cm/4 x 3ft.

Named after Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, the most northerly of the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens, to mark the 200th anniversary of the formation of the Society.


Lady Salisbury

Lady Salisbury Rose

Lady Salisbury Rose

This is a variety of great Old Rose charm, with some of the character of the Alba Roses. Rich rose-pink buds open to reveal informal, rosette-shaped blooms of pure pink, which gradually become a softer shade as the flowers age. At first there is a button eye in the centre of each bloom, but eventually a cluster of stamens is just visible in the middle. The blooms are fragrant and flower with remarkable continuity from early summer onwards. The matt green foliage and healthy, bushy growth is very much in the style of the Old Roses. 120 x 90cm/4 x 3ft. Named in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Hatfield House, the home of Lady Salisbury.


Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Tess of the d’Urbervilles Rose

Tess of the d’Urbervilles Rose

This rose bears large flowers of a lovely cerise-crimson. They are beautifully formed with loosely packed petals intertwined at the centre; the outer petals later turn back to form a dome-shaped flower. The blooms are produced early with great freedom, often bowing down the branch with their weight. Later flowers are less heavy, but have their own particular beauty. There is a pleasing Old Rose fragrance. The growth is strong and healthy with large, dark green leaves. It forms a medium-sized shrub. 120 x 100cm/4 x 31/2ft. Named after Thomas Hardy’s novel.

As a Climber this variety will grow to 2.4m/8ft.


The Poet’s Wife

The Poet’s Wife Rose

The Poet’s Wife Rose

A superb rose with flowers of a strong, unfading yellow. Their formation is most pleasing, having a neat outer ring of petals enclosing an informal group of petals within. The blooms have a wonderfully rich fragrance with strong lemon tints, becoming sweeter and stronger with age. ‘The Poet’s Wife’ is a healthy shrub with low, bushy and nicely rounded

growth, making it ideal for a position towards the front of the border. 120 x 100cm/4 x 3½ft.



William & Catherine

William & Catherine Rose

William & Catherine Rose

‘William and Catherine’ has particularly beautiful blooms, with the classic, shallow, cupped shape and the very full-petalled form of many of the Old Roses. At the centre of each bloom is a button eye of small, inward-folding petals. At first the colour is a soft creamy apricot, but this quickly fades to cream, then to white—the overall impression being very much of white. The strong fragrance is pure myrrh. This rose will form a healthy, attractive, bushy, relatively upright shrub. 100 x 90cm/3½ x 3ft.

We were honoured to name this rose in celebration of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, held on 29 April 2011 at Westminster Abbey.


David Austin 90th Birthday Roses


Imogen David Austin

Imogen David Austin

The ‘Imogen’ is a distinctive rose with delicately frilled, soft lemon petals. Exuding in natural radiance and charm, this rose suit any English garden, with a pleasant fragrance with hints of fresh apple. The name comes from the daughter of King Cymbeline and wife of Posthumus, in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.


Bathsheba David Austin

Bathsheba David Austin

The ‘Bathsheba’ is the newest member of the English Climbing Rose collection. The name was inspired by Thomas Hardy’s heroine from Far From the Madding Crowd. With a distinctive and rounded fragrance of myrrh, this apricot-pink rose has soft full petals that open into shallow rosettes. This rose looks best with lots of green foliage to make the apricot hue pop.

Roald Dahl Rose

Roald Dahl David Austin

Roald Dahl David Austin

The last in the new collection of English Roses is the ‘Roald Dahl’. This remarkably free-flowering rose has been fittingly created in a shade of peach to commemorate Dahl’s famous novel, James and the Giant Peach. To celebrate 100 years since Roald Dahl’s birth, David Austin Roses are donating a percentage of the sale of each rose to the Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

Coincidentally, David Austin and Roald Dahl both launched their careers during the same year. Dahl’s first novel James and the Giant Peach was published in 1961, and Austen’s first English Rose was also created in the same year.

Roald Dahl Rose

Roald Dahl Rose

David Austin says:

The young buds are a beautiful soft orange-red—the red reminiscent of the blush found on an actual peach. When fully open, ‘Roald Dahl’ has medium-sized, cupped rosette blooms, which are produced almost continuously. They have a lovely, medium-strength Tea fragrance with leafy elements and dark fruit notes. Over time this rose matures into a very attractive, rounded, bushy shrub with mid-green foliage and few thorns. 120 x 90cm/4 x 3ft.

Named to celebrate the centenary of the birth of one of the world’s best-loved authors.

New for 2017: the Dame Judi Dench David Austin Rose

To be unveiled at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017, the David Austin Roses Dame Judi Dench, a beautiful peach rose named for the British actress.
David Austin Roses Dame Judi Dench

David Austin Roses Dame Judi Dench, copyright Howard Rice

The English Roses by David Austin, published by Conran Octopus, £30 is out now. 

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