Some roses are worth the trouble they bring because of blooms

Published 1:08 am Sunday, October 28, 2007

I’ve been a fan of the David Austin English roses since I first met Graham Thomas.

Luscious yellow fragrant blooms with that wonderful old-fashioned form captivated me instantly. I grew dozens of varieties when I lived in Los Angeles, and grow several varieties here in Natchez.

The reason I’ve limited my planting of English roses is that they have been vulnerable to diseases, including black spot. But I can forgive the slight flaw because these roses are so charming. They also suit gardens surrounding antebellum and Victorian houses.

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In my garden, yellow Teasing Georgia, and red Tradescant grow splendidly in my test bed. Their leaves do show signs of black spot, but the plants are able to withstand the fungus.

Last year, I added Golden Celebration, Molineaux, Benjamin Britton, Jude the Obscure, Harlow Carr and Lady Emma Hamilton. I’m captivated by their charm and fragrance and impressed with their improved disease resistance.

I spoke with Michael Marriott recently while interviewing him for a rose article I’m planning. He’s a long-time associate of David Austin and when I visited the Austin headquarters three years ago, Michael was my guide. He’s often in the United States to view the various test gardens where Austin roses are growing. When I asked about the future trend of these enormously popular roses, he assured me that improved disease resistance is top of the list of required traits. Since Austin began his breeding program in the early 1980s, he’s created roses with the charm, fragrance and appearance of Antique Roses and the multi-blooming habit of modern roses. It’s taken decades to add strong disease resistance into the genetics and in the last 10 years, he’s created rose varieties that can withstand black spot better than some of the earlier varieties. For gardeners who don’t mind spraying, it hasn’t made that much difference. But those of us who prefer roses with inherent disease resistance, this is good news. Michael’s advice is to choose roses that Austin created in the mid-1990s to the present. And this year, he introduced in America The Generous Gardener which has the best disease resistance to date, according to Michael. He terms it a breakthrough rose. Delicate soft pink blooms shade to palest pink on the outer petals. When the petals open, they expose numerous stamens and emit a fragrance with aspects of Old Rose, musk and myrrh. I plan to add this enticing rose to my collection soon.

We can look forward to more new and improved varieties in the next few years. Michael recommends the following: Strawberry Hill, Tea Clipper and Darcey Bussell.

David Austin Roses are available in the United States. For a catalogue and ordering information, call 800-328-8893 or The growing grounds are in Tyler, Texas.

Karen Dardick writes a monthly rose column for The Democrat. She can be reached at