How did the test David Austin roses perform in my Oklahoma climate?

Rosa Darcey Bussell, who is beautiful in closeup

In early spring David Austin roses sent me three different roses to try for my hot Oklahoma climate. David Austin are considered English roses, hybridized to have old world fragrance, repeat bloom and even more unique colors and forms than old roses. They are to be used in mixed borders in the English style, or the smaller shrubs can be grown in containers. A few can even be grown in some climates as hedges. Because I’ve had limited success with some of my Austin roses (like ‘Teasing Georgia’) in the past, I asked them to choose varieties resistant to blackspot and other diseases.

Nine small shrubs in three cultivars arrived bareroot. To gauge an accurate test, I planted them on the East side of the garage where they get some protection from the elements. The soil is red sand with some sandstone. In the planting holes, I added shredded leaves and Mills Magic Rose Mix fertilizer. I mulched them with shredded pine bark and more shredded leaves. They were fed twice during the season with the same fertilizer and bunny poo from our pet bunny, Socks. The only spray they received was a small hand spray of Pyrethrin twice during the summer when the nasty spider mites got out of control. I did not spray any of them for disease control. They were and will be on their own.

This was a difficult summer for all of my roses. In the spring, we had a lot of rain. Then, . . . nothing. In late July, the heavens closed, and hardly any rain has fallen since. So, in spring, with all the moisture, we had powdery mildew, aphids and thrips. Then, when the heat hit, spider mites did also, sucking the life out of the leaves. For the spider mites, I finally resorted to Pyrethrin, a natural insecticide. I first checked for ladybugs and made sure I only sprayed on the underside of leaves not getting any on the blooms. Two applications of this remedy, and the spider mites were beaten back into submission.  Blackspot appeared more at the end of the season, and Rose Rosette has destroyed several of my favorite cultivars. More about that virus in a later post.

So, how did these beauties do in my Oklahoma garden?

My favorite of the three was R. Darcey Bussell, named after the famous ballerina. Even though it is her first season, Darcey worked hard producing bluish red blossoms freely in spring, then sporadically during summer with many more in fall. With no help from me, she fought off blackspot until recently. Now, she has some, but for this bed, I did have to hand water. I’m planning to move my rain barrel to a corner and use a soaker hose. I think that will help with the blackspot because no roses like water on their leaves.

Rosa Molineaux

Our second place rose in this competition is R. Molineaux™, which is a yellow peach combination. Her color isn’t quite as bright as what is shown in the catalog, and she didn’t bloom as freely, but she was a fighter. I figure the color difference is mostly due to my hot climate which can fade the best of the lighter roses. She does have a nice light tea fragrance. Further, she fought off thrips, blackspot and spider mites, so I applaud her.

'Sophy's Rose' in May. She is still blooming.

The Alnwick® Rose impressed me the least in her first year. Now, it isn’t fair to judge a rose’s performance by one season, so I’m hanging in with her and will give you further reports. She is a very upright shrub which I like very much, and her blackspot resistance is very good. She just didn’t bloom much. In fact, I don’t even have a decent photo of her. I’m going to guess she was settling in for the duration and will produce more blooms next year. Her color reminds me of R. ‘Heritage,’ one of the first roses released by David Austin in the U.S. I still grow ‘Heritage’ and love her. Another David Austin rose I love very much is ‘Sophy’s Rose’ which is a dark pink with a dahlia form to her blooms and very easy to grow. I wish I had three more ‘Sophy’s Rose’ to grow in my mixed border, but alas, I already have too many roses as it is.

These are my judgments so far. I’ll let you know in the future how they continue to grow and bloom.


  1. Kathleen says:

    Interesting to read Dee. I remember when you got this shipment ~ I was just contemplating which one(s) to add to my own garden. I ended up with two ~ Teasing Georgia and Crown Princess Margareta. They are also both planted on the east side of my house, mixed in a rose border. I have two other David Austins there bought in previous years as well. I would say mine did really well considering we’ve had the exact weather you have ~ no rain since July and hot temps (although maybe not quite as hot as you). I do nothing to mine except fertilize and I only did that once. I do amend the soil pretty well before planting tho. The test for them here will be how they survive the winter. Abraham Darby came thru just fine last year so I’m hoping the new ones do too.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathleen, my ‘Abraham Darby’ has come through many winters, and although it is still spindly, it does keep coming back. I love the color and scent. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Lisa Ueda says:

    I’m in love with the Rosa Molineaux color. Such a pretty peachy yellow, I think I have a new rose to try for next year 😉

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, if you buy it, let me know how it does.

  3. I looked at those roses at Garden Writers and just had to grin. They would be consumed with PM and BS on arrival! Unfortunate but then, all the more reason to visit David Austin Roses in GB.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m trying so hard to figure out what PM is? Hmmm . . . I know the other is blackspot, but BS is a good name for it anyway. Yes, not every climate is good for every type of rose is it?

  4. Victoria says:

    Fascinating post, Dee. My garden is not a great garden for roses, because it’s full of big jungly things, and thus quite airless (in rose terms) but I have David Austin’s ‘Golden Celebrations Climbing’ which does quite well.
    The other rose I have is ‘Champney’s Pink Cluster’, which of course is an American rose, bred in North Carolina, I think.
    It was in a cupboard at work for six months, and then planted at the end of my garden under a banana tree because I felt sorry for it. It is unstoppable and unkillable – and pretty, too! I thought you might like to try it.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Victoria, Every gardener has their specialty, don’t they? Believe it or not, I’ve never grown either of the ones so successful in your garden. Maybe another year? Sounds like ‘Champney’s’ is a champion for sure.

  5. Phillip says:

    Very interesting Dee. I have “Molineaux” and it was been very puny and just refuses to grow. It has bloomed but they are tiny.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Phillip, my blooms on Molineaux were a nice size in spite of the horrid weather, but I also want to see what it does next year.

  6. Thanks for this! Did you see Michael Marriot at GWA? Now I want some of these. I love the D. Austin roses, but I planted mine in too much shade. Will try again.

    I forgot about Socks; wish I’d asked you about him when I saw you. Harvey and Gaby would love to meet him! Bunny poo is a great byproduct, so to speak, of having these dear little friends.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Linda, I did see Michael at GWA. He is very helpful in choosing the right Austin for the right place. Socks is a darling. She just does her thing, and we use the by product.

  7. Ilona says:

    In Ohio I have one test for roses- is it hardy? David Austin roses that I tried were not- with the Mary rose as the one exception. Now that Japanese beetles have invaded this area it goes badly for roses and many of the other plants they love to feast upon.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ilona, yes, the Japanese beetles are sorry customers aren’t they. Sorry to hear you’ve had such bad luck.

  8. Darcey Bussell may have been the one I just ordered (weird that I can’t remember but it looked very similar). I do hope that’s it since it worked so well for you!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jean, I think she is beautiful and a great performer. Will know more next year.

  9. Layanee says:

    I bought two cultivars of David Austin Roses. One died with little vigor and the other produces nice blooms but is wimpy in the foliage department. It is good to hear a reveiw. Perhaps, R. Darcey B. would work well for me also.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, Before you buy, I would really look over their catalog and what it says about Darcey Bussell. I don’t know how far north she can go. Some of my David Austins over the years have performed splendidly. Others, not so much.

  10. Cyndy says:

    My Dee, They all look quite nice in your photos, especially given the hard summer they’ve had. That bluish red is just the quintessential rose color – beautiful!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It is really pretty isn’t it? Will be nice to see how they fill out in the future. Thanks for coming by.

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