Meet the Austins

For Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, I would like to introduce you to my rosey friends from across the pond. Not Jane Austen, the writer, and her family members, although I’m a big fan. No, I’m speaking of the David Austin roses I’ve accumulated over the years.

This is the beautiful soft, petal pink, ‘Heritage.’ I think she looks like cotton candy, but I guess the name isn’t as romantic.

Rosa 'Heritage'

Seventeen years ago, the first three David Austin roses came to my garden. When I opened the Jackson & Perkins catalog and saw photos of ‘Heritage,’ ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Graham Thomas,’ I knew I had to have them. Not knowledgeable about antique roses, I had never seen anything like those blooms.

That spring, after paying $24.95 per rose, I received a large box filled with three bare-root twigs. I planted them exactly as directed, and they thrived. The following spring I was pregnant with the Diva and not feeling well. HH went outside and decided to help me by burning off the garden. In previous years, it was a vegetable garden, and he forgot about the British visitors.

By the time I smelled smoke, all of my fancy, expensive imports were burned to a crisp. I can’t write what happened next, as this is a family blog.

Let me make it clear that burning off a garden isn’t that good an idea anyway. It just helps weed seeds to sprout.

Eventually, I replaced all three and added a few more. ‘Graham Thomas,’ named after the famous English rosarian, is a slightly more intense yellow than the antique ‘Buff Beauty.’ It is a good rose, and in our hot American climate, can be grown as a small, mannerly climber. I whack it regularly to keep it a bush. It is also pretty healthy and doesn’t suffer from a lot of blackspot.

Rosa 'Graham Thomas,' very disease resistant yellow

‘Teasing Georgia’ is a pale apricot. I’ve only grown it a couple of years. It is a blackspot magnet though.

Rosa 'Teasing Georgia' a blackspot magnet

‘Abraham Darby’ is one of the most beautiful of the Austins. According to Chamblee’s Rose Nursery, it is named after one of the founders of the British industrial revolution. Listed by nurseries as an apricot blend, I have no other rose with this exact coloring. ‘Abraham Darby’ also smells wonderful and can be grown as a small climber in warm climates. It does get blackspot though.

‘Abraham Darby’
Rosa 'Abraham Darby'

‘Gertrude Jekyll’ in bud. ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is named after the famous British garden designer. One thing I really like about this rose is that since it doesn’t have as many petals, it opens easier in cool weather. My bush is very small as I am trying to grow it on its own roots. I’ve had better luck in the past growing it as a grafted shrub, but it wasn’t as cold hardy.

Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll'

‘Sophy’s Rose’ is a newer acquisition and a different bloom type. Her petals are pointed, giving her the look of a dahlia. I do love her. She also gets lots of blackspot, but I would grow her again anyway.

Rosa Sophy's Rose(TM)

As much as I enjoy my Austins’ spring blooms, I probably won’t add to their number. They are a lot of trouble, although they like Bayer All in One, so it is easier now to care for them. Also, once the heat hits, most of them shut down blooming and put their energy into trying to be climbers. ‘Sophy’s Rose’ is one of the exceptions.

To enjoy more bloom day posts, pull up May Dreams Gardens and peruse the comments once you’ve read Carol’s post.

Happy Gardening Everyone. Happy May.

31 Comments

  1. Love ‘Teasing Georgia’.

    Esther

  2. kerri says:

    Dee, this is a very interesting post, with great information and advise, which is much appreciated. I read what you said about the Austins in your latest post before reading this one, so I’ll probably choose other roses over these if I add any more to my garden. I haven’t had a great deal of luck with roses yet, but I’m learning as I go, and hope to do better each year. Our 5 bushes survived the winter last year and we added 2 more last fall. One has some growth, and the other, a climber, has some green but no growth yet. I keep hoping. It’s been really dry here, but we’ve had some rain this week, so maybe they’ll come along better now. The 5 established roses are growing well. I had thought of trying the Austins, but I’d rather have something easier.
    Oh, I almost forgot to say that your photos are wonderful and so are the roses, in spite of their fussiness!

  3. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    Dee – the Rose that died was in an island bed in the middle of the lawn. Roses are not supposed to bloom in December in Chicago. Many people in the area lost lots of Roses that year.

  4. Sylvia says:

    I have had several David Austin Roses in my garden for a couple of years and after visiting his rose garden and nursery last year I have now got some new ones! Though it was a cold windy day the gardens are spectaular, we didn’t get the best of the scent due to the cold but it was well worth the visit.

    I was interested that your Graham Thomas is resistant to blackspot and Teasing Georgia susceptible – it is the opposite away around for me. I am assuming that the very different climate is the cause. On the whole the English Shrub roses (what we usually call these roses) get very little blackspot and I don’t usually spray but clear up the leaves in autumn. I also feed the rose bushes well.

    I think I have planted, then dug up and thrown away more roses bushes than any other group of plants – so often they are horrible looking plants, twigs with flowers on the end. This time I have planted them among other plants and as climber, so hopefully I will have them for a long time, so far so good.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, it’s so nice to hear about how different gardens are all over the world. One of the great things about blogging is that we can find information about our local climate. Then, when we want virtual vacation, we can cross the pond and speak to one another.

    Thank you for coming by. I would love to visit the Austin gardens someday.~~Dee

  5. eliz says:

    Ah, a fellow Austen/Austin fan. I have Abraham Darby and Charlotte and love both of them. Some of my fellow northern gardeners do not like these plants, but I think they’re great.

    Now. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel?

    Hi Eliz, I don’t have Charlotte, but I looked her up on the internet. She’s nice. As to Miss Austen, when I was in my 20s, I loved Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I still love those, but in my mid-40s, I now see the wisdom of Persuasion. What about you?~~Dee

  6. CurtissAnn says:

    Oh, honey, I’m catching up on your posts. I use Bayer all in one, too, and it sure helps me in the spring, but when things get tough, well, the tough get chemicals here. At least this year. I love my Graham Thomas roses! They are rather tough and do bloom through out the season, at least just a bit. Your posts encourage me to try more Austins. Thank you soooo much for the growing info!

    Love you, girlfriend.
    CurtissAnn

    So true about the chemicals. Our conditions just aren’t conducive for some roses and tomatoes for that matter. Before you try more Austin roses, call me.~~Dee

  7. mss @ Zanthan Gardens says:

    I love the Austin roses. I grow ‘Heritage’ and it has the most beautiful lemony scent. (I think it loses its petals a bit prematurely and suffers from black spot but I still think it’s worth growing.)

    I’m going to be expanding my rose selection this year now that I have some more sunlight in my garden. I’ll be considering the Austins again. It helps to have someone I know write them up–gives me a much better idea how they will do than just reading some catalog.

    PS…When I read aloud the paragraph about the accidental crisping of the roses, my hubby replied, “Which is why I never volunteer to help in the garden.” (sigh)

    MSS, HH doesn’t help in the garden anymore either unless it’s hardscape or the time we rebuilt the garden facing the street because the mole condo underneath collapsed. You know, instead of the Austins, I think I would try some of the Chinas down in Austin. They bloom all summer and love the heat. I can’t remember which antique rose you had on the one side of the house, but it looked great.~~Dee

  8. teresa says:

    Beautiful roses. I just look at the Abraham Darby and can imagine the luscious fragrance.

    Hi Teresa, ‘Abraham Darby’ does smell really good. Thanks for coming by and commenting.~~Dee

  9. VP says:

    Hi Dee – love the roses. I had no idea you could get David Austin roses in the States.

    Graham Thomas (GST) was also gardens advisor to our National Trust here in England (BTW there’s also a honeysuckle named after him). I volunteer at their HQ where I’m currently documenting their archives amongst other things. I often come across letters, write ups of visits, plant lists etc. handwritten by GST. On a day I find something of his, it’s like finding treasure 🙂

    Hi VP. What an interesting volunteer position you have. This is why I love blogging. I get to talk to people all over the world, and I learn so much. I bet seeing what he wrote is like finding treasure.~~Dee

  10. Amy says:

    Oh, these are all so lovely! I thought for years that I couldn’t have roses here, but not we’ve got some great ones for cold climates and I’m very, very excited.

    Amy, I am so glad for you. Everyone should have a rose or two in their lives and gardens.~~Dee

  11. Kathy says:

    Austin roses in general are just borderline cold hardy here. They sent me William Shakespeare 2000 to trial. It is waiting for its bed to be prepared (raining now). When I was in OKC, I picked up a list of the most cold hardy Austin roses, and Wm. Shakespeare 2000 was not on the list. Go figure. Still I’ll give him my best shot.

    Kathy, they sent me a half dead rose this year. I can’t remember which variety, but needless to say, it didn’t make it. I hope you Wm. Shakespeare does make it.~~Dee

  12. I love those roses. You could get me hooked on those, if I wasn’t so doggone tried from gardening all day. Thanks for posting them for bloom day (and for the story of your husband burning off the garden. What’s the deal with that? Do men just like to start fires?)

    Carol, yes, men are firebugs, I think. :-). Thanks for having bloom day.~~Dee

  13. deb says:

    Hi Dee, I love the David Austin roses. I only have one, Abraham Darby. The color is wonderful. Sorry about the burn situations. Sounds like something that would happen around here.

    Debbi.

    Debbie, Graham Thomas is worthy too. Ah, as to the burned roses, what would I write about if I didn’t have these trials?~~Dee

  14. Cinj says:

    Boy, those “helpful” husbands sure cost us a lot of money, don’t they? ARGH!

    I love the roses you’re growing. Does blackspot kill roses?

    Blackspot, if it goes unchecked will weaken your rose. Yes, I suppose if you let it go for years, it might cause it to die of other causes due to its weakened state.~~Dee

  15. Bonnie says:

    Wonderful pictures and descriptions of the roses. My dad loved the Austin roses and I always admire his. But I suck at dealing with blackspot and would only want those that do pretty well in avoiding or limiting it on their leaves. But I love the colors you have.

    Thanks, Bonnie. I think the Austins are overrated. In addition to their other problems, man of them have weak stems. If you’ll notice, most photos were taken from below.~~Dee

  16. Dee,

    I went to the City rose garden once a week for five months (12 years ago) to monitor their Austin rose collection. Only two did well here and have proven completely reliable: in our Contemporary English Garden within the Idaho Botanical Garden. The best then, and to this day, have been Evelyn and Graham Thomas. They bloom all summer in spite of the heat.

    I may have to try Sophy…….is she new-ish?

    Happy garden day, dear friend.

    oxox,MA

    MA, you are so smart. What a great idea to view them in another garden before trying them in your own. I could have saved myself a lot of time and money. Sophy’s Rose has been around for at least four years. I bought her on the suggestion of the then rosarian @ Chamblees. XOXO ~~Dee

  17. EM says:

    wow, what lovely roses. i have ‘heritage’ and love it because it survives anything without spraying, except safer’s soap for aphids. you must make lovely arrangements from them, or do you not like to cut them?

    EM, thank you. I think my original three were the best. They seem more disease resistant and stronger.~~Dee

  18. Brenda Kula says:

    Dee, you have lovely roses. The one good thing at my house is, my husband never goes out into the garden. So I never have to worry about him doing anything!
    Brenda

    Brenda, HH now does all the hardscaping, mowing and some weedeating. I do the gardening stuff. He admires. We’re happy.~~Dee

  19. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I appreciate meeting the Austins. Most are not familiar to me. Most are lucky I am not familiar with them because I
    usually kill roses. The poor dears are happy that I have given up trying to grow them. I admire them from afar.

    Hi Lisa, I’m glad you enjoyed seeing them. You can just come here and live vicariously through my rose adventures. BTW, I sometimes kill them too.~~Dee

  20. Diana says:

    Dee – your roses are just lovely. And so many wonderful varieties. I just put in 3 this year but they aren’t faring so well. Until I have a deer-proof bed, I will have to settle for enjoying yours. Do you have much trouble with black leaf spot?

    Diana, the bane of the Oklahoma rose grower’s existence is blackspot. I fight it all the time, and no solution is perfect. I use the Bayer All in One for the rose which get it the worst.~~Dee

  21. Kathleen says:

    Wow, these are all gorgeous. I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. I was just perusing the David Austin roses at my local greenhouse but didn’t end up buying one. 🙁 I’m still thinking. and the “burn” story, egads, if that happened around here, I know what would happen! wise of you not to post about it! 😉

    Thank you, Kathleen. I don’t have favorites really, and I’ll be honest, the Austins, although pretty, are not favorites of mine. Too much trouble for very little bloom.~~Dee

  22. Aiyana says:

    Abraham Darby is a beautiful rose. I’m not at all familiar with all the various rose types, and although I planted three roses this year, I’m still ambivalent as to how much I want to invest in the whole process. When I see others’ roses, it piques my interest all over again!
    On a recent garden tour, I saw the most spectacular rose called ‘Golden Showers’ growing up over a large arbor and porch. No idea what type, but I was all enthused about roses again for a week. Now I read your post…and here we go again!
    Aiyana

    Aiyana, I had three ‘Golden Showers’ which have all succumbed over the years. I won’t be replacing them with the same rose. However, in your climate, they might do better.~~Dee

  23. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    I love the form of ‘Heritage,’ it is just so beautiful. My mom had ‘Bibi Mazoon,’ but one fall was very warm and it bloomed into December. When the cold hit, it wasn’t dormant, so it died. Fortunately, her ‘Sharifa Asma’ wasn’t killed (it is against the south side of her house). Whenever I go by my mom’s when it’s in bloom, I have to go have a sniff, the fragrance is so wonderful!

    MMD, those are two I’ve never grown. I saw their photos on the internet, and they are truly beautiful. I can’t understand how your mother’s rose died. I grow the Austins right up next to the house on the east side to protect them. I see why a south facing wall would be good in your climate.~~Dee

  24. rees cowden says:

    Thanks for the rose photos Dee,
    I’ve been a fan of the old style roses since I worked for a rose hybridizer oh so many years ago. He used several of the old ones to mix with newer hybrids. My sister just left me a note that she won two first places in the local rose competition where she is out in California…….the rose selection here in Florida is pitiful compaired to the colder climates.
    Rees

    Rees, thanks for coming by. I imagine blackspot would be terrible for roses in Florida. How about the Noisettes and Chinas? They like the deep south.~~Dee

  25. So it only took 16 years to turn the tragedy of the roasted roses into a humorous family anecdote?? I’m sure no one was laughing back then, Dee.
    Your Austins are lovely – my ‘Heritage’, ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘Abraham Darby’ were wonderful but stayed at the Illinois garden and maybe still bloom – who knows? But it seems Austin roses don’t do well in Austin, Texas so I don’t grow them here. It’s nice to see them looking good for another gardener!

    Thanks for a sweet post,

    Annie

    No, Annie, lots of crying going on. They were new and expensive, and I was hormonal. I think it’s too hot for the Austins in southern Texas. It’s too hot for them here. They really like England.~~Dee

  26. Melanie says:

    Your roses are beautiful. I love to look at other peoples roses since I only grow one variety here. They are wonderful in the garden, I just don’t have the time or space to devote to them.

    Thank you, Melanie. They are a pain in the rear, but I can’t get over the beauty or the scent.~~Dee

  27. linda says:

    Gorgeous roses. I don’t grow them, but I sure do enjoy seeing the roses other people grow.

    Linda, thanks for stopping by. Roses aren’t for everyone. That’s for sure.~~Dee

  28. Frances says:

    Hi Dee, wonderful story of the burned roses, those men sometimes, trying to be helpful! Glad to hear you replaced them and added more. We have grown G. Thomas in Texas, he grew to the sky like a climber so was given away. Those petals on all the Austins are amazing, so stuffed to the gills. Your problem with the blackspot is unfortunate. Have you ever tried spraying with skim milk as a preventative? I have read that works and wondered about it. Great presentation of your beautiful roses, Dee, thanks.

    Frances

    Frances, I have tried skim milk, but it didn’t work for me. It just make the roses sticky. Bayer does a good job most of the time.~~Dee

  29. chey says:

    Beautiful roses Dee. I love the old fashioned types with the big full round blooms. Too bad that they are susceptible to blackspot though.

    Chey, many of the antique varieties are immune to blackspot, but I haven’t found an English rose that is.~~Dee

  30. Such beautiful roses–I’m a huge fan. Abraham Darby is one of my all-time favorite roses for that indescribable color. Though I do struggle with blackspot, I still grow that one. Just love it. I’ll have to try the Graham Thomas if it’s as resistant as you’ve seen. I’m always on the lookout for good, resistant English-style roses. Lovely!
    ~Angela 🙂

    Angela, Graham Thomas is a dear. You just have to keep him short, or he wants to climb. Although if you want a yellow climber, he would be great.~~Dee

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