As a passionate gardener, roses have always found a place in my garden and my heart. But English roses stand out. They make a glorious and old-fashioned addition to your home and garden!
Roses have a reputation of being divas, demanding many hours dead heading and protecting against invading pests and leaf mold. Although I love show stopping long stem roses, my favorite rose variety for my garden are old-fashioned English roses purchased from David Austin Roses. Old English roses are not princesses like their high maintenance sisters. Instead, they are quiet beauties that remind me of paintings of flowers by the old masters, or a charming cottage in the English countryside surrounded and covered with rioting blooms of roses. Maybe that is why I love these little jewels. Not only are they low maintenance, but once established in the garden, their proliferation of flowers is magnificent. Old fashioned English roses have a delicate scent that permeates my garden, especially early in the morning when the dew is lightly glistening on their delicate petals. A morning stroll with a cup a tea provides instant aroma therapy, a favorite heavenly moment of mine before starting a busy day.
Old fashioned English roses, like all good things, don’t last long. Blooming magnificently for a short time, energy spent quickly, then fading soon after their peak bloom. Don’t fret if you plant the continuously blooming variety. They will produce an abundance of flowers all season long that you can cut and bring indoors for massing into beautiful vases to enjoy inside.
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Old garden roses, of which the English rose belongs, are simply roses belonging to a class which existed before the introduction of the first Modern rose, La France, in 1867. Other names for this group include Heritage and Historic roses. In general, Old garden roses of European or Mediterranean origin are once-blooming woody shrubs, with notably fragrant, double-flowered, blooms primarily in shades of white, pink, and crimson red. The shrubs’ foliage tends to be highly disease-resistant and they generally bloom only from canes (stems) which formed in previous years. The introduction of China and Tea roses from East Asia around 1800 led to new classes of Old garden roses which bloom on new growth, often repeatedly from spring to fall.
Although not officially recognized as a separate class of rose by any established rose authority, English roses (aka David Austin) are often set aside as such by consumers and retailers alike. Development started in the 1960s by David Austin of Shropshire, England. He wanted to rekindle interest in Old garden roses by hybridizing them with modern hybrid teas and floribundas. The idea was to create a new group of roses that featured blooms with old-fashioned shapes and fragrances, evocative of classic Galicia, Alba, and “Damask” roses. Yet he also desired modern repeat-blooming characteristics and the larger modern color range as well. Now actively developed, David Austin regularly releases new varieties of English roses.
The history of roses is part of the history of human civilization. It is believed that roses were grown in all early civilizations of temperate climates, from at least 5000 years ago. They were grown in ancient Babylon. Paintings of roses have been discovered in Egyptian pyramid tombs from the 14th century BC as well. Records exist of roses being grown in Chinese gardens and Greek gardens from at least 500 BC. All these years later and roses’ popularity has not waned. The flower still takes center stage in most modern-day gardens.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare
If you are a rose lover as I am, then not only should you add English roses to your garden, but I highly recommend a trip to the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. The library’s rose garden has over 3,000 rose plants with 1,300 different varieties. Be sure to make a reservation at the Rose Garden Tea Room. Their treats are memorable and reservations are required.