David Austin roses for the humid south?

R. 'Graham Thomas' planted above and behind Sambucus nigra 'Eva' pp15,575 (Black Lace Elderberry)

As a garden writer, it’s that time of year when I’m sent plants to test in my garden.  Yesterday, I came home to a large box with David Austin Roses written on the side.  I nearly whooped with excitement because these roses were ones I’m excited to evaluate.

A few months ago, David Austin Roses contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some newer varieties, and I could choose those I wanted.  Normally, plant testers are just given certain plants with no input.

I explained how I no longer spray my roses and asked if there were any varieties which performed better in the blackspot ridden south? I fully expected company representative, Michael Marriott to come back and say, “Thank you very much, but we’ll take our business elsewhere,” but he didn’t.  Instead, he responded with a long list of roses from which to choose.

Michael suggested the following cultivars for Oklahoma. Those marked with a “B” are best.  Of those on the list, I already grow ‘Sophy’s Rose’ (love her, a bit of blackspot, but she snaps back); ‘Graham Thomas’ (what a fine yellow rose, a bit of blackspot, but I just remove the leaves); ‘Abraham Darby’ (such an amazing color, has some trouble opening with humidity); ‘Teasing Georgia’ (did not do well in my garden.  She was always covered in blackspot and leafless, so she went to the great garden in the sky).

Crocus Rose, Molineux (B), Harlow Carr, Sophy’s Rose (B), Carding Mill (B), Lichfield Angel (B), Mary Rose, Gertrude Jekyll , Darcey Bussell (B), Graham Thomas (B), Lady Emma Hamilton, The Alnwick Rose (B), A Shropshire Lad, Fair Bianca, Scepter’d Isle (B)

R. 'Abraham Darby'

Pat Austin (B), Golden Celebration (B), Gentle Hermione, Abraham Darby (B), Benjamin Britten (B), Crocus Rose, Evelyn, Falstaff, Jude the Obscure (B), L. D. Braithwaite (B), Sharifa Asma, Teasing Georgia as climber, The Dark Lady (B),
The Shepherdess, William Shakespeare 2000

In a little over twenty years, we’ve come a long way from when I ordered the first three David Austin roses offered in America out of a magazine ad.  They were ‘Heritage’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Graham Thomas.’  I loved those roses.

R. 'Sophy's Rose'

From this list, I chose:  ‘Queen of Sweden’, ‘Darcey Bussell’, and ‘Molineux’.  They were out of ‘Queen of Sweden’ so they sent me The Alnwick Rose instead.  After re-reading the description of its disease resistance, I think I will like it better.  The plants were very fresh from their travels and another thunderstorm was headed our way, so I grabbed a shovel and planted them immediately (and in my good shoes too; don’t tell Bill).  They are residing against the east side of the garage.  Because roses love morning sun in the south, the east side of the house is my favorite place to grow them. They will be the backbone of a new border.

As the season goes by, I’ll let you know how they perform.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in growing David Austin roses in the southern U.S., check out the descriptions for the most disease resistant ones here.