Their popularity can be credited to the English breeder David Austin, who reintroduced what he called the timeless “English rose” at a time when the hybrid tea rose, with its urn shaped buds and classically beautiful blooms, was the rose of choice.
One of his best creations – “Sharifa Asma” – captivated gardeners with its strong perfume, delicate colours and compact, bushy growth. Others followed like “Graham Thomas” and “Golden Celebration” (climbers), “The Prince” (bush rose) and we even named one after our own “Margaret Roberts”.
The perfume of English roses is quite different to other rose perfumes and this is what also sets these roses apart. English roses are most suited to informal rose gardens, where the whole idea is to create a romantic, rosy bower, with climbing roses cascading over a garden wall or archway, encircling a secluded bench or leading the eye down an inviting pathway.
Some of the more compact English roses, however, like “Sharifa”, “Glamis Castle”, “The Squire” and “The Prince” can be used as bedding roses, along with compact hybrid teas or Antico Moderno varieties.
Many gardeners have asked why the English roses that David Austin introduces each year at shows like Chelsea and Hampton Court can’t be introduced into South Africa as well. The fact is English roses grow three times more vigorously here than they do in the United Kingdom. It has much to do with our longer summers and longer days, which results in the rose growing and growing but forgetting to flower.
That is why not every variety of English rose that is introduced by David Austin will do well here. Of those that have proved themselves, there are at present some 19 varieties readily available. They are a mix of climbing, vigorous shrub and compact garden rose. This range has not expanded over the past 10 years – but that is about to change. More new roses are in the pipeline. Budwood, from David Austin’s growers in Arizona in the US has been sent to us to trial.
Over the next few years we will test them for growth habit, disease resistance and flowering ability, and those that prove to be good performers will be introduced to South African gardens.