For the Love Of. Austins

By Shields, Barbara | Winnipeg Free Press, August 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

For the Love Of. Austins


Shields, Barbara, Winnipeg Free Press


Amazing colours, shapes and wonderful fragrance

Sweet Juliet, Lady of Shalott, Wife of Bath, Tess of the D'Urbervilles -- the names of David Austin roses conjure up England's great literary giants: Shakespeare, Tennyson, Chaucer and Hardy. Gardeners the world over have come to appreciate the romantic names, the exquisite colours and most of all the breathtaking fragrance of David Austin roses. So significant is their impact on gardening worldwide that "Austins" are now considered to be a unique category of roses known as English roses, equivalent to grandifloras, hybrid tea roses, Bourbons and Damasks.

The range of colours available is marvellous-- from the purity of creams and whites such as Litchfield Angel and Winchester Cathedral to the glorious golden yellows of Graham Thomas, Golden Celebration and Teasing Georgia. Or look for the delicate apricot tones of Abraham Darby, Tamora and Sweet Juliet, the vibrant pinks of Gertrude Jekyll and Jubilee Celebration, the deep crimson of Munstead Wood.

The temptation to collect these roses is tough to resist.

Apart from the amazing range of colours and shapes of blossoms, the common denominator for all the roses is their fragrance, which ranges from Old Rose to Myrrh to Musk.

Gardeners who have mourned the loss of fragrance in the development of many modern roses can enjoy the return of scent to the garden. A word of advice -- scent is most prevalent in warm moist weather and can be enjoyed at its best by drawing near to the flowers themselves. When planting companion plants, strongly scented flowers such as dianthus and nasturtiums should be avoided.

Dwarf, rounded plants that can be clipped to shape such as any of the Berberis varieties (ex. Royal Burgundy, Concorde or Ruby Carousel) pair well for a formal planting. For a more informal look, clumps of foliage plants with textured leaves such as lady's mantle or lamb's ears or the floral spikes of Veronica (speedwell) make for a striking combination.

While Austin roses are now grown the world over, they present a special challenge to Manitoba gardeners. Typically zone 4 or 5, they require extra care in planting and some winter protection given our harsher winter conditions. With good protection, they can be successfully over wintered, and promise the delight of beautiful blooms for years to come.

It starts at the planting. In many instances, roses are grafted onto more hardy stock and represent canes that belong to one rose variety and the roots to another. Alternatively, many of these roses are available on their own rootstock. Own root plants are grown from cuttings and both the roots and the canes belong to the same variety. The most delicate part of a grafted rose is the bud union, the place on the plant where the roots meet the stems or branches. It is recommended they be planted with the bud union about 3 to 4 inches below the surface of the soil. Dig a hole deep enough and wide enough to place the roots at this depth. Own-root roses do not have a bud or graft union so planting depth is less of an issue. The area at which the roots and canes meet should be planted about an inch to two inches below the soil.

Unless you are adding bone meal, do not add fertilizer at planting although Mycorrhizal fungi is a beneficial addition to promote healthy root development. Planting a new rose in the spot where a previous rose has died is generally not recommended so as to avoid a condition known as 'specific replant disease' which can inhibit growth of new roses. Replacing the old soil with fresh soil from elsewhere in the garden and adding Myccorhizal fungi is advised.

David Austin roses can be grouped to create a more spectacular shrub by planting 18 inches apart within the group. Depending on their size, they can be used to create a rose border, or act as the centrepiece in a larger bed. Groupings of various varieties of a similar colour can create quite a spectacular effect.

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