the world of david austin ~ new to the garden this spring

As a petit flower grower, I have focused most of my efforts on dahlias.  I love the old world feel they have and truly, I love the challenge they present. Dahlias can be extremely diva-like and test your patience.  Enough to make you feel like you want to take a blow torch to the garden beds.  Still, every spring I find myself ordering dahlia tubers.  But it is during these times, that I have perused roses—more specifically David Austin roses. To me they are the holy grail of roses; the quintessential English garden must-have.  And while I do not have an English garden (at least not yet), I do love his roses.  They are sublime.  I have friends in the Carolinas who have grown DA roses and the scent of the flowers is sublime.  And this year, I said “Enough of daydreaming!” and ordered my first DA roses, not only because I think they are stunning but more importantly for this rookie rose gardener—they have a 5 year warranty.

If you are not familiar with David Austin, he is a rose breeder (also a writer) from England. As a breeder, his emphasis has been on breeding roses that evoke the aesthetics and fragrance of old garden roses, however, through his breeding he has created roses that are repeat-flowering and more color range.  His contributions as a rose breeder since the introduction of his first rose ‘Constance Spry’ in 1961, has made his roses “the most successful group of new roses in the twentieth century”. 

 David Austin. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

David Austin. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

 David Austin of England, pictured above meeting HRH Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Chelsea flower show . Photo credit: Daily Mail.

David Austin of England, pictured above meeting HRH Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Chelsea flower show . Photo credit: Daily Mail.

Interesting bit of information I found during my research: Though Austin's roses are not officially recognized as a separate class of roses by, for instance, the Royal National Rose Society or the American Rose Society, they are nonetheless commonly referred to by rosarians, at nurseries, and in horticultural literature as 'English Roses' (the term he uses) or 'Austin Roses'. "American Rose Society". Archived from the original on 18 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.

So, on to the roses I ordered.  Due to the growing zone (4B) I live in, I thought it would be hard to find DA roses that would thrive in my region, but surprisingly, there were many options.  After that, my focus was on character and fragrance. To be honest, I wanted roses that have that old English garden feel because to me they are so romantic (yes, I am a deeply romantic person deep down).  And after much indecision, I picked the three that just made me swoon. 

Rosa ‘Claire Austin’

Bred by David Austin and introduced in 2007, this climbing rose seems to be very reliable, according to the website and various people I have spoken with on the DA Facebook group. It is also very floriferous with very fragrant, creamy white blooms.  DA Description: large, cupped, creamy white blooms with a strong fragrance of myrrh, meadowsweet and vanilla. Vigorous and particularly healthy with elegant arching growth. Good for disease resistance. 

This rose was named after Claire Austin-- David Austin’s daughter. She has a nursery which specializes in hardy plants, including the UK's finest collection of irises, peonies and day lilies.

 'Claire Austin' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'Claire Austin' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

 'Claire Austin' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'Claire Austin' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

Rose characteristics

  • Rose Type   English Rose - bred by David Austin 

  • Growth Type   Climbing Rose 

  • Sub Type   English Musk Hybrid 

  • Colour   Creamy white 

  • Fragrance Strength   Strong 

  • Flowering   Repeat Flowering 

  • Disease Resistance   Excellent 

  • Height   3,5m 

  • Breeder   David Austin 

  • Year of Introduction   2007 

  • Appellation   Ausprior

  • Suitable for zones   Zones 5-8


The Alnwick® Rose

Bred by David Austin and introduced in 2001, this shrub rose is one of those that makes you say wow! due to pretty, many petalled, cupped blooms in soft pink. According to their site, it is a Rich Old Rose fragrance with raspberry notes with a long flowering season. Also exceptionally reliable with good, bushy growth.

The rose was named after the Duchess of Northumberland, who has created one of the most impressive large gardens of our time at Alnwick Castle, which includes a magnificent display of English Roses.

Rose characteristics

  • Rose Type   English Rose - bred by David Austin 

  • Growth Type   Shrub Rose 

  • Sub Type   English Leander Hybrid 

  • Colour   Soft pink 

  • Fragrance Strength   Medium-strong 

  • Flowering   Repeat Flowering 

  • Disease Resistance   Excellent 

  • Height   1,25m 

  • Width   0,75m 

  • Breeder   David Austin 

  • Year of Introduction   2001 

  • Appellation   Ausgrab

  • Suitable for zones   Zones 5-10

 'The Alnwick' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'The Alnwick' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

 'The Alnwick' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'The Alnwick' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

Rose characteristics

  • Rose Type   English Rose - bred by David Austin 

  • Growth Type   Shrub Rose 

  • Sub Type   English Leander Hybrid 

  • Colour   Soft pink 

  • Fragrance Strength   Medium-strong 

  • Flowering   Repeat Flowering 

  • Disease Resistance   Excellent 

  • Height   1,25m 

  • Width   0,75m 

  • Breeder   David Austin 

  • Year of Introduction   2001 

  • Appellation   Ausgrab

  • Suitable for zones   Zones 5-10


Scepter’d Isle

This is the one I am most looking forward to—and I am not sure what I love most, the name or the aesthetics of the rose.  This rose was also bred by David Austin and introduced in 1996.  This pretty and feminine rose has numerous, soft pink, cup-shaped flowers with clusters of yellow stamens. Strong myrrh fragrance. Very healthy and good for disease resistance.  They are a lovely light pink, becoming paler on the outer petals. It forms an elegant, upright shrub, its blooms held gracefully above the foliage. 

The fancy name comes from The name comes from John of Gaunt’s speech expressing his love for England in Shakespeare’s Richard II.

 'Scepter'd Isle' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'Scepter'd Isle' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

 'Scepter'd Isle' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

'Scepter'd Isle' rose. Photo credit: davidaustinroses.com

Rose characteristics

  • Rose Type   English Rose - bred by David Austin 

  • Growth Type   Shrub Rose 

  • Sub Type   English Musk Hybrid 

  • Color   Soft pink 

  • Fragrance Strength   Strong Fragrance 

  • Flowering   Repeat Flowering 

  • Disease Resistance   Excellent 

  • Height   4ft 

  • Width   3ft 

  • Breeder   David Austin 

  • Year of Introduction   1996 

  • Appellation   Ausland 

  • Suitable for zones   Zones 4-10


The roses will come as bare roots. I am still torn on whether I want to plant them on the ground or plant them in pots (where they do very well, I am told) due to the bitter winters here.  Still on the fence about this one.  The one thing I am not on the fence? How exited I am to start growing them.  I have always loved English gardens and roses, and finally I get to make this dream come true... barring a black thumb. :-)

Are you planting any new plants this year that you are excited about? Do share!