The English Garden Rose - A Cottage Garden Favorite

By Keith Berwick 
Traditionally, roses have been an important component of the English garden. They have always been found alongside the other long-established cottage garden favorites such as the lupins, potentillas, hollyhocks and geraniums.

The new breed of 'English Garden Roses' produced by David Austin roses, in the UK, although not recognized as a new class of rose, has taken the established rose-growing world by storm. These most recent of introductions are, in fact, a hybrid, developed by crossing the 'Old Garden Roses' with the more modern Hybrid Tea and floribunda roses.

The developer, David Austin, set out to produce roses that were reminiscent of those grown during Victorian times. Roses that had the appeal and majesty of a bygone age. A time when roses were bred to embrace that now, all-too-often, forgotten charm of fragrance. So many roses, in recent years, have been bred for their visual appeal alone, with fragrance a forgotten quality.

Modern gardeners have long been asking growers to return to developing roses which are once again perfumed. How much romance has been lost from a rose with no perfume? You place it to your nose and instead of a heady fragrance - nothing! No bouquet, no heady scent, nothing. A rose without a perfume is a mockery, a parody of itself.

These new English roses have blooms that are, in shape, reminiscent of the classic gallica and damask roses but are able to flower repeatedly for a longer period, during the summer, with the added benefit of a much wider, more contemporary range of colors. They are a summer bloomer, usually between June and September. The variations in coloring are greatly reminiscent of the old garden roses of the past.

These roses may be grown as a large, well-rounded bush or as a superb hunker down climber and they work very well alongside peonies and may indeed work where peonies will not. They have a larger head, more petals and a lot more fragrance than your typical rose.

When these roses were initially trialed, in some of the warmer states of the USA, they were found to grow considerably taller than when planted in the cooler climes of the UK. That has proven to be a bonus for Americans because they now have an even more versatile rose.

Austin's roses have for the most part achieved what they set out to do. They've succeeded in creating roses with the old fashioned qualities of a heady perfume, and Rosa gallica style flowers with the modern traits of repeat flowering and more up-to-date colors. But it has come at a price.

These roses have not been blessed with the disease resistance and inherent hardiness of their Old Garden Rose parents. Many of them are prone to the same ailments that badly affect the modern hybrid tea and floribunda roses. Another potential drawback for this type of rose is their lack of hardiness in zones north of Zone 5, in the USA.
Regardless of these shortcomings, these roses have been taken to the heart by the rose buying public and many other rose growers are making them available too through an international licensing scheme.

Keith Berwick is a rose growing enthusiast who has been growing roses both professionally and for pleasure for over 40 years and enjoys helping others to get started in this rewarding hobby. For more great information on the English garden rose, visit

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