I probably wouldn’t grow any David Austin roses. My fingers hate typing these words, but it’s true. My six or seven David Austins are more trouble than they’re worth. If they get disease protection and lots of food, they bloom heavily in the spring and then, nothing . . . until fall. It’s a little like exercise after forty. You have to do it, but there’s not much to show for your effort.
If I built a new bed, I would fill it with nutrient rich soil and hardy (USDA Zone 6 or colder) disease resistant roses; the kind I don’t have to hover over like an anxious mother nursing her child through a bout of Scarlet Fever. Think of The Velveteen Rabbit.
Instead, I would choose plants that thrive on baby bird care. You feed them in the spring and then shove them out of the nest after a few flying lessons. Can you tell I’m the parent of teenagers right now?
These are the roses which have a special place in my heart for their ease of care.
‘Carefree Beauty‘ (USDA Zone 5-9) I’ve already written about this wonderful rose, underutilized in the gardening world. Pointed buds open to free-formed flowers which flutter in the breeze like butterfly wings. Every garden with the space should have at least one. The cuttings also root easily, and since this isn’t a patented plant, you can reproduce it. I had a friend who grew a row of ‘Carefree Beauty’ under high shade. You could see them from the street, and they led you visually into her garden. This is the same rose sometimes listed as ‘Katy Road Pink’ because it was “found” along a road in Katy, Texas.
Double Knockout® (USDA Zone 4-10) Instead of the original single, overused by landscapers throughout central Oklahoma (I can’t speak of anywhere else,) I would plant its cousin, the double. It also blooms cherry red, but with 18-24 petals, it has more of a classic rose shape. Easily established, it needs no spraying and blooms all summer. New foliage is an attractive deep purple.
Pink Knockout® (USDA Zone 7-11) (USDA Zone 4-9) or Double Pink Knockout® (USDA Zone 4-10) With blooms a brighter shade of lipstick pink than ‘Carefree Beauty,’ these roses are beacons of pink light. I have six of the single form. I don’t have the double, but it appears from the company website to be hardier than the single. It appears I made a mistake on the hardiness of the single form. The company website doesn’t list hardiness zones for Pink Knockout®, but I found zones 4-9 on the Sooner Plant Farm website.
Carefree Sunshine® (USDA Zone 4-9) This yellow was also hybridized by William Radler of Knockout Fame. You’ve got to love a hybridizer who gathers diseased rose leaves, lets them dry, crushes them and then spreads the powder around his baby roses while their leaves are wet to discover which ones are most disease resistant. Why didn’t someone think of that before? Carefree Sunshine® is very disease resistant. In my garden, she is so hugged up to AARS winner ‘About Face’ that if there was going to be blackspot, it would be rampant between these two.
‘Old Blush’ or Cl. ‘Old Blush’ Although these are chinas and are listed to be hardy to only USDA Zone 7, they are grown to Zone 6. My shrubs are in my most difficult garden space in the middle of a pasture with no protection from cold, sun, heat, or wind. I don’t water this garden very much either.
You’ve seen the photos of ‘Cl. Old Blush.’ She is wonderful, and the shrub form is just as nice. The blooms themselves aren’t anything to write home about, but they appear once a month. The climbing form blooms heavily in the spring, intermittently throughout the summer, and then has a good bloom once the weather cools a little in the fall.
‘Country Dancer’ (USDA Zone 5-9,) hybridized by Dr. Griffith Buck, is very pretty. It has a rambling habit, and is small in stature (three feet by four feet.) The blooms last for a long time, are slightly fragrant, and the bush shrugs off blackspot.
‘Basye’s Blueberry’ (USDA Zone 5-9) isn’t planted in Oklahoma very often, and I don’t understand why. First, it’s thornless, making it ideal in a landscape where children play. Next, it is disease resistant; it has good heat and cold tolerance; and it blooms in some shade. The bush is urn shaped with a pleasing look, and it holds its blossoms up high on its stems. It was hybridized by Dr. Robert Basye, a mathematics professor at Texas A&M and rose hybrizer.
‘Belinda’s Dream’ Antique Rose Emporium lists this rose as hardy between USDA Zones 5-9. ‘Belinda’s Dream’ was also hybridized by Dr. Basye, who named it after a friend’s daughter. It’s a Shrub Rose with blooms shaped like a Hybrid Tea’s. It must be the’Tiffany’ in its parentage. BTW, ‘Tiffany’ was always a terrible rose for me, but it appears she passed on her beauty and not her diva tendencies.
‘The Fairy’ (USDA Zone 4-9.) The blooms are a very light pink which fade to white in the sun. They are formed in clusters at the ends of strong stems. Although this Polyantha is listed as a small shrub, mine is five feet tall and four feet wide. It easily holds its ground with ‘Carefree Delight’ a thorny monster. I would plant ‘The Fairy’ again because of its tolerance to heat, cold and blackspot. I don’t ever fertilize it, and it never misses a beat once it starts blooming. In fact, it is such a structure of the garden that I forget it’s there.
After I wrote the piece about the Austins, I worried because so many people wrote in about trying them after seeing my pictures. I wouldn’t. This is going to make the Austin rep upset with me at the Garden Writers Symposium, but they are not roses for first time growers. They take experience, money and time to grow in Oklahoma and probably elsewhere. All of the roses listed here are easy to grow and look fabulous everyday. You can buy many of them locally now, or you can order them online from Chamblee’s Rose Nursery or The Antique Rose Emporium.