The first David Austin roses are budding and flowering. The first variety of the year to flower, three days ago, was Princess Anne (why I bought this rose I don’t know, as I don’t love pink and I certainly have no affinity with Princess Anne!). Here she is:
As it has consistently shown for the last two years, David Austin’s The Lady of Shallot is enthusiastically lush and full of buds in early May. It is the tallest plant in the rose bed, by about a foot, and full of stems, leaf and buds. She has flowered very closely on the heels of Princess Anne.
Despite feeding the roses, and giving them all a light prune in March, they haven’t looked especially healthy so far this year (excluding ‘Lady of Shallot’, which always looks healthy, regardless). I will need to keep up the feeding, and mulch the whole raised bed soon with rotted manure. Rose ‘Blue Moon’ is looking especially ill, and I don’t know why. The roses are all now affected by greenfly, some worse than others, and a third have black spot. They were sprayed once with Rose Clear in April, but now need a repeat spraying. I’ll keep up the spraying of Rose Clear every two weeks from now on. I’m picking off the leaves affected by black spot and putting them in the brown bin (I should burn them – I have no incinerator).
I’ve decided that – in the spirit of the Chelsea Flower Show – the ‘Lady of Shallot’ rose will be my rose of the decade! I am so impressed with its vigour and repeat flowering, it’s almost evergreen nature and strong, climber-like habit. Everyone should grow one of these roses. I recommend it all the time to our customers at work, as you can be a complete beginner or a rose aficionado, and you’ll still find this rose has endless merits and is unbelievably trouble-free to grow. It’s a rose to restore your faith in roses (we all know how frustrating and disheartening they can be to grow).
Time to have a quick breather, and enjoy the fruits of our labour. After mowing the lawns, the garden is looking good and starting to come together. Here is a view from not-quite-the-top of the garden, looking down towards the house. Ornamental and fruit trees can be seen, with a cut away section after this where the raised beds are being constructed. Beyond that is Flame’s lawn, and beyond the lawn is the rose arch and planted herbaceous beds. It’s looking good.
Here’s a closer view of the raised beds area. (Yes, that is an unusually large Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ tree in the foreground.)
With the first section almost complete – aside from the planned reclaimed brick path – it’s necessary to focus on the raised vegetable beds. It’s now May, and I need to start growing vegetables and salads, before it’s too late! As can be seen, there are three raised beds already constructed. A fourth is planned for the central area, but hasn’t been built yet. To the left of the picture, a raised bed can be seen planted with roses. This is the rose bed, and it was filled and planted towards the end of 2013, soon after I moved into the house. The roses suffered a little over winter, and seemed to be plagued with black spot and die-back earlier in the year. I pruned them mid-March, and they have definitely benefited from this, and a liberal spray of Rose Clear. They’re now showing plenty of healthy new leaf, and most have flower buds forming. I’m really, really, REALLY (can’t stress enough) looking forward to seeing these roses flower.
A note about roses
I find roses a little fussy for my liking, as they’re often randomly developing fungal infections and diseases that seem beyond my control. They need regular spraying with anti-fungal and insecticide treatments, and they like a lot of water. They’re high maintenance, which is not my preference in a plant at all. Contrary to popular opinion (maybe), I have found that roses do best in a hot spot, South facing, with oodles of water to keep the soil moisture levels high. In this environment, they seem to really flourish. I have grown them like this in terracotta pots, and they thrived.
David Austin roses can be very temperamental; the first year or two of growth can be incredibly soft and leggy. Persevere, and the more resilient cultivars can be the most amazingly rewarding roses. I highly recommend The Lady of Shallot, for incredible resistance to disease and black spot, very vigorous growth, and extended growing throughout the year (they are pretty much evergreen in the UK). The Lady of Shallot can be grown as a climber or shrub rose. Another vigorous David Austin rose is Wollerton Old Hall, and I recommend it.
I have visited David Austin roses on a number of occasions, initially as part of my job as a horticulturist at a large and well known garden centre in Derby. We were able to visit and observe the inner workings of the rose factory that is David Austin roses. There are now countless varieties of David Austin roses, two or three new cultivars appearing every year. Many of these won’t stand the test of time, for varying reasons. Despite coming through annual rose trials to be selected for colour, vigour, resistance, scent, and popularity, a cultivar may prove to be less vigorous or less scented, and won’t sell well. There are many David Austin groupies, and we see them a lot in garden centres. Many people will want to try to grow every new variety.
The grounds of David Austin Roses is well worth a visit, and anyone can do so. Best time to visit being June to August, for maximum appreciation of the summer flowering roses, and the formal herbaceous gardens. David Austin roses spray all of the roses grown on their grounds fortnightly, which is worth noting (if they do it, it might be a consideration to spray our roses more often at home?). Many of the David Austin roses are grown on site in large pots, including climbers and standards. Again, worth noting.
Roses can be grown in containers very successfully. However, a deep, well-drained raised bed is a better option, and I’m lucky enough to have the option to build a raised bed purely for roses. Heaven! Here are some of my current rose cultivars growing in the raised bed: