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rec.gardens.roses FAQ (6/6) English Roses

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English Roses
rec.gardens.roses FAQ, part 6/6

Written by Bill Chandler, .

See part 1 of the FAQ for more information about this document. The latest
version of this document and the entire Rose FAQ are located on the Internet
at "" .

About this document - Quite often in rec.gardens.roses, someone will make a
reference to David Austin Roses, Austin Roses, English Roses, or just DA or
ER. These terms all refer to a group of roses first introduced in 1969 by
the English rose hybridizer David Austin. These roses have created quite a
bit of interest recently from some rose gardeners. This document tries to be
an introduction for those unfamiliar with English Roses.


  1. What are English Roses?
  2. What is causing the interest in English Roses?
  3. What are some popular varieties of English Roses to try growing?
  4. What are some newer varieties of English Roses to look forward to?
  5. What is a good red English Rose?
  6. What kind of care do English Roses need?
  7. What are some of the problems with English Roses?
  8. What is the genealogy of English Roses?
  9. How do I find out more about English Roses?


1. What are English Roses?

English Roses, often called David Austin Roses, are a group of roses first
introduced in 1969 by the English rose hybridizer David Austin.

David Austin has tried to create roses that combine the best elements of
both Old Roses (roses introduced before 1867) and Modern Roses (Hybrid Teas,
Floribundas and Grandifloras). He wanted to create roses that produced
flowers with many of the forms of the Old Roses, such as cupped and
rosette-shaped flowers, usually with many petals. He wanted English Roses to
repeat flower well, like the Hybrid Teas and other Modern Roses. He wished
to bring forth English Roses in a wide variety of colors, such as yellows
which are not common among the Old Roses. He also sought to include the
strong fragrances of some of the Old Roses.

This was accomplished by crossing Old Roses, particularly those from the
18th and 19th centuries, with Modern Roses from the 20th century. David
Austin crossed the Gallicas, Damasks, Portlands, and Bourbons with the
Floribundas, Hybrid Teas, and Modern Climbers.

2. What is causing the interest in English Roses?

Interest in English Roses might be attributed to several of their

   * Flower form
   * Repeat bloom
   * Color
   * Fragrance
   * Plant shape
   * Uniqueness

'Flower form'. Most varieties of English Roses have the old-fashioned flower
forms of the Old Roses. This includes rosette-shaped flowers,
lightly-cupped, deeply-cupped, etc. Some gardeners prefer the forms of the
Old Roses to the high-centered form of the Hybrid Teas. English Roses
usually produce fully double flowers with many petals.

'Repeat bloom'. Many gardeners would not grow a rose that blooms once a year
as many Old Roses do. Many English Roses produce Old Rose type blooms
several times a year. How often they repeat bloom depends on the variety and
local climate.

'Color'. English Roses come in a variety of colors. The majority of English
Roses come in soft pastel shades: pinks, peaches, apricots, etc. There are
also some excellent yellow English Roses and some popular white and dark red

'Fragrance'. As a group, English Roses are very fragrant. English Roses have
a variety of rose fragrances, such as damask, tea scent, citrus, etc. Many
English Roses, notably 'Constance Spry' the first English Rose, have an
unusual scent described as "myrrh". Some of the more fragrant varieties of
English Roses are Getrude Jekyll, Othello, Evelyn and Abraham Darby.

'Plant Shape'. English Roses are often classified as Shrub Roses and some
make good overall landscape plants. Although sometimes pruned hard and
treated as bedding plants, many English Roses can be allowed to grow out and
become excellent shrub roses.

'Uniqueness'. Another reason for planting English Roses is that they are new
and different, and some gardeners like to plant something that is not found
in anyone else's garden in the neighborhood.

3. What are some popular varieties of English Roses to try growing?

Those who haven't planted English Roses before may want to try one of the
popular varieties below. Beside the name of each variety is listed the year
of introduction and the plant's mature size in England. Many varieties will
grow twice as large in warm climates.

   * Graham Thomas
   * Heritage
   * Abraham Darby
   * Mary Rose
   * Gertrude Jekyll

'Graham Thomas' (1983, 5'x4') is the most popular English Rose. It produces
clusters of medium-size cup-shaped flowers that are a beautiful rich butter
yellow when first opening, later fading to a lighter yellow. The foliage is
light-green. The plant has a bushy, upright growth habit with rather slender
canes that may require staking. It has a nice strong tea scent. Graham
Thomas may try to be a climber in warm climates. It is reportedly
disease-resistant. It was named after one of the great experts of Old Roses.
Warning: In hot climates Graham Thomas can grow to be a huge bush (8'x6')
and may be a stingy bloomer during the heat of summer. Graham Thomas seems
to gets rave reviews from gardeners in cool climates but complaints from
those in very hot climates (Southern California and Texas) where it can be a
stingier bloomer and the color fades more quickly.

'Heritage' (1984, 4'x4') is "perhaps the most beautiful English Rose"
according to David Austin himself. Its delicate medium-size clear shell pink
blooms are of perfect form and grow on stems with few thorns. It has a
strong Old Rose scent with a hint of lemon. The individual flowers have a
very short vase life, but this is compensated for by a large number of
blooms. Heritage should perform much better in its second or third year,
after it is established.

'Abraham Darby' (1985, 5'x4') is an interesting English rose in that it is
the offspring of two Modern Roses, the Floribunda 'Yellow Cushion' and the
Modern Climber 'Aloha'. Its large heavy flowers have the Old Rose shape,
deeply-cupped, fully double, with many petals. The flowers are a lovely warm
pink-peach-apricot color, fading to light pink on the edges, with some
yellow on the back of the flower. It has glossy medium-green foliage. It is
a vigorous wide plant with an arching growth habit. Abraham Darby has a
strong "fruity" fragrance.

'Mary Rose' (1983, 4'x4') is an excellent bush that produces rose-pink
flowers. It is an excellent repeat bloomer, flowering from early to late in
the season. The flowers are only slightly fragrant. The bush is vigorous and
has many thorns. It has excellent disease resistance and is one of the
hardiest English Roses. Mary Rose has produced many sports, including the
white 'Winchester Cathedral' and the light pink 'Redoute'. Mary Rose is a
parent to many other English Roses.

'Gertrude Jekyll' (1986, 4'x4') has beautiful large spiral blooms of a rich,
glowing pink. Its Damask scent is one of the strongest scents of the English
Roses or any rose. Although the flowers are beautiful, the bush itself is
often unattractive with very thorny long stiff canes that should be cut back
after blooming to encourage repeat bloom. Many say it is stingy to repeat
bloom and not very disease resistant. It is a rose in the style of the
Portland roses, one of its parents.

4. What are some newer varieties of English Roses to look forward to?

Here are some of the recently introduced varieties of English Roses that
"may" turn out to be popular. David Austin has given them very good ratings,
and each of the varieties listed below seems to have at least one trait that
distinguishes it from other English roses. These varieties have been
introduced in England, but some are not easily available in the United
States, yet. There is usually a delay of a few years from the time an
English Rose is first introduced until it is available in the US.

   * Evelyn
   * Glamis Castle
   * Golden Celebration
   * St. Cecilia

'Evelyn' (1991, 3.5'x3', 'Graham Thomas' x 'Tamora') is known for its
beautiful flowers and strong fragrance. Evelyn has a strong sweet scent that
is a combination of tea and fruit scents. It produces small clusters of
large beautiful rosette-shaped or cupped flowers which are full of petals.
Its coloring is apricot or peach mixed with yellow, sometimes looking rather
pink. It is lighter than Abraham Darby and can fade in sunlight and heat. It
has medium green foliage and rather stiff straight canes. It may grow quite
large in hot climates.

'Glamis Castle' (1992, 3'x2.5', 'Graham Thomas' x 'Mary Rose') is a
beautiful white rose and a cross between two of the most popular English
Roses. It has a strong myrrh fragrance. It is a short bushy plant with
twiggy growth. The flowers are said to be similar in form to those of its
parent, 'Graham Thomas'.

'Golden Celebration' (1992, 4'x4', 'Charles Austin' x 'Abraham Darby')
expands the color spectrum of English Roses as the first coppery yellow
English Rose. Its flowers are large and cupped shaped, their form somewhat
resembling the heavy flowers of its parents. It is quite fragrant. Like
Abraham Darby, the plant has a nice arching growth habit.

'St. Cecilia' (1987, 'Wife of Bath' x seedling') has beautiful cream
colored, almost white, heavy flowers that give off a heavy myrrh fragrance.

5. What is a good red English Rose?

David Austin has had mixed success until recently breeding red roses. Most
older red English Roses (such as 'Fisherman's Friend', 'Prospero, 'The
Squire' and 'William Shakespeare') have produced beautiful fragrant dark red
flowers on weak plants that are disease-prone (especially to blackspot).
Recent crosses, especially with the vigorous and disease-resistant Mary
Rose, have attempted to improve on those weaknesses and seem to have
produced some very good new red English Roses, 'The Dark Lady', 'The Prince'
and 'L.D. Braithwaite'.

   * The Dark Lady
   * The Prince
   * L.D. Braithwaite

'The Dark Lady' (1991, 4'x5', 'Mary Rose' x 'Prospero') has flowers that
have been described as dusky crimson or deep pink. It has a strong Old Rose
fragrance. It is a very good repeat bloomer.

'The Prince' (1990, 2.5'x3', 'Lilian Austin' x 'The Squire') has some of the
darkest flowers of any rose, described as either dark red or purple-red. It
is very fragrant. It is a good repeat bloomer, but the flowers have a short
vase life. Its glossy modern-like foliage may have problems with blackspot.
It is a very small bush, even in the warm climates, so it is probably best
planted in groups of three (or more). It may be a good candidate for
planting in a half-whiskey barrel.

'L.D. Braithwaite' (1988, 3.5'x3.5', 'Mary Rose' x 'The Squire') seems to
have many of the qualities of its parent Mary Rose. It is a healthy bush
with good disease resistance. The informal flowers are more of a lighter red
or bright red, versus many other red English Roses which are dark reds. It
has an excellent repeat bloomer. It is very thorny and has little fragrance.

6. What kind of care do English Roses need?

The care of English Roses is similar to that of Modern Roses with some

Hardiness: Most English Roses can be grown in Zone 5 or warmer. 'Constance
Spry', 'Mary Rose', 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' are some of the hardiest
English Roses. 'Graham Thomas' and other yellow varieties may need some
winter protection in cold climates.

Disease: Some varieties of English Roses seem to be rather resistant to
blackspot and other diseases. However, this depends greatly on the
particular variety and climate. In particular, many of the red English Roses
have been rather susceptible to blackspot and other diseases and have been
weak growers.

Planting: While English Roses can be grown as individual plants, group
plantings of two or three plants of one variety planted closely together are
often recommended if there is room in the garden. A group planting will
produce a fuller looking growth and more flowers in an area than a single
planting. An odd number of rose bushes planted in a particular location
usually looks more natural than an even number of bushes.

Pruning: Much of the beauty of English Roses is not in just the flower, but
also in the plant. Each variety is different, so before pruning, understand
the natural shape of the bush: upright, bushy, arching, etc. There are two
main philosophies to pruning English Roses: prune like a Hybrid Tea, or
prune like an Old Rose. Of course, many people's methods fall somewhere in
between these two methods.

   * Some people prune English Roses like they prune Hybrid Teas, cutting
     them back sharply each year. This will keep the plants smaller, and
     they will produce fewer but larger flowers. This is common in small
     suburban gardens that don't have room for large rose bushes.
   * Others prune English Roses like Old Roses, allowing them to assume
     their shrub rose forms. They prune less, only pruning lightly or not at
     all (except for deadheading) during the first couple of years, to allow
     the bush to fill out. A large bush will produce slightly smaller
     flowers but more of them. This method of pruning allows the natural
     shape of each variety to be emphasized: upright, bushy, arching, etc.

7. What are some of the problems with English Roses?

I do not wish to give the impression that all English roses are beautiful
disease-resistant shrubs with large long-lasting old-fashioned flowers. Here
are some of the problems that some or many varieties of English Roses have.

Cut flowers: English Roses can make beautiful cut flowers, but most have two
disadvantages when used as cut flowers. First, most of them have rather
narrow short stems when cut, not nearly as long or stiff as the long-stemmed
Hybrid Teas. Second, the petals are usually more delicate than those of
Hybrid Teas, and some varieties don't last long when cut. 'Heritage' blooms
are famous for lasting only about a day on the bush and only hours when cut.
'Graham Thomas' doesn't last very well either and fades, but 'Abraham Darby'
and Evelyn both have many petals and peform well as cut flowers.

Size: Some English Roses that are medium-size plants in England, where they
were bred, grow very large (often twice as large) in warm climates, such as
the Southern part of the United States. Examples of large plants in warm
climates are 'Graham Thomas', 'Abraham Darby', 'Othello' and 'Evelyn'. This
should be taken in mind when purchasing English Roses.

8. What is the genealogy of English Roses?

When he was an amateur hybridizer, David Austin crossed the Gallica 'Belle
Isis' with the Floribunda 'Dainty Maid'. 'Belle Isis' has small, light pink,
very double flowers and is a once bloomer. 'Dainty Maid' produces single
flowers and is a repeat bloomer. Among the seedlings of 'Belle Isis' x
'Dainty Maid', one, in particular, was outstanding. 'Constance Spry', as it
was named, produced surprisingly large, beautiful, pink flowers. The flowers
were deeply cupped in the Old Rose tradition. In addition, 'Constance Spry'
has a strong fragrance described as 'myrrh'. It was introduced in 1961.

'Constance Spry' had nearly all of the qualities David Austin was trying to
achieve, excellent Old Rose flowers with good color and fragrance, all on a
vigorous bush, but it was once blooming. Since the repeat blooming gene in
roses is recessive, a cross between a once blooming old rose and a repeat
blooming rose almost always produces once blooming seedlings, so 'Constance
Spry' was once blooming. However, 'Constance Spry' was crossed with a repeat
blooming rose, and some of the seedlings were repeat blooming. With these
seedlings, David Austin had what he desired, repeat blooming roses with Old
Rose style flowers and good fragrance. So far, David Austin only had pink

After creating 'Constance Spry', David Austin wished to breed some red
roses, so he crossed another Gallica, 'Tuscany' with the Floribunda 'Dusky
Maiden'. 'Tuscany' has deep crimson flowers. 'Dusky Maiden' x 'Tuscany'
produced 'Chianti'. 'Chianti' is in many ways the red counterpart to
'Constance Spry'. 'Chianti' is a once blooming rose with red flowers. It has
a strong Old Rose fragrance. It was introduced in 1967. Like 'Constance
Spry', 'Chianti' was crossed with a repeat blooming rose, producing some
repeat blooming red English Roses.

With his pool of pink English Roses, David Austin went to work to add
variety to the English Roses. He crossed his roses with other varieties of
roses, both old and modern. Here are a few examples. Crosses with the white
Floribunda 'Iceberg' led to a strain of roses including 'Heritage'. Crosses
with the Modern Climber 'Aloha' led to the yellow English Roses. Crosses
with the Hybrid Rugosa 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' led to 'Evelyn' and some
other popular recent introductions.

Most English Roses descend from 'Constance Spry', the white, pink, yellow,
peach and apricot varieties. Most of the red English Roses descend from

9. How do I find out more about English Roses?

S. Andrew Schulman has an excellent WWW home page with some beautiful rose
pictures and descriptions located at the URL . He has a section with
English Roses at .

Cheryl Netter has a few pictures of English Roses at .

Here are a couple of books written about English Roses.

   * David Austin's English Roses
   * Old and English Roses

'David Austin's English Roses' is a beautiful hardback book written by David
Austin. It has beautiful large pictures of his roses. It is worth getting
the book just for the pictures! David Austin discusses 84 varieties,
describing the size and shape of the bush and rating his roses for overall
assessment and fragrance. There are several other interesting chapters about
English Roses, such as the following:

   * The Ideal of the English Rose
   * The Fragrance of an English Rose
   * English Roses in the Garden
   * English Roses in the Home
   * The Cultivation of English Roses
   * Creating a New Rose

The book is listed at about $39.95 US. isbn#0-316-05975-7.

'Old and English Roses' is a paperback with information about the major
classes of Old Roses as well as English Roses. It contains information on
Old Roses and English Roses from the more comprehensive 'History of the
Rose'($80 US). This book contains a chapter each on Gallicas, Damasks, up
through Tea Roses and Hybrid Perpetuals. Each chapter describes the class
and then gives descriptions of many varieties in the class. There are many
photographs, though they are not of the size or quality as those in 'David
Austin's English Roses'. 'Old and English Roses' is listed at about $25 US.

end of Introduction to English Roses
rec.gardens.roses FAQ, part 6/6


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