David C.H. Austin OBE: A Personal Valediction

It was a sad day when I opened an e-mail to tell me that David C.H. Austin (or ‘Mr A’ to many of those who knew him) had died at the age of 92. So close to the company’s Christmas party, I imagined, just a couple of days before the anniversary of the death of his wife, Pat. You can read the official obituary of someone who will always be one of my heroes on the David Austin Roses website. Here, I’m sharing my memories of the man who changed my life when he approved my appointment to one of the most fascinating jobs I can imagine.  Continue reading “David C.H. Austin OBE: A Personal Valediction”

One Perfect Rose

Perfect rose at a flower show arranged against foliage

The exquisite bud-within-a-flower form of this rose makes it a winner on the show bench. Labelled Rosa ‘Dr. John Dickman’, this flower only has a hint of the mauve colour I’ve seen in other pictures – perhaps that’s the effect of the light level in the marquee, or it may be that the flower will develop more pronounced mauve tones as it matures. It’s a miniflora rose, which means that the leaves and flowers are larger than a miniature rose but smaller than a floribunda.  Continue reading “One Perfect Rose”

Prolific Shrub And Rambler Roses

A cluster of pink roses

The best roses are prolific. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy spotting a spindly climbing rose around the entrance to an old cottage or leaning in a corner of a graveyard as much as the next person. And I try not to judge. Tough enough, these roses give the impression that they are barely clinging on to life. Often they are red ones, throwing out a long, languidly arching stem to one side or the other that they wave around romantically in the wind, careless of their own mortality. Those are the ones that can get away with the merest peppering of tatty blooms and still provoke a genuine ‘ooh!’ or an ‘aah…”, until I pull out a camera, of course, when the ‘ooh!’ usually turns to an ‘oh!’ in an instant.

No, give me the prolific ones, where bloom competes with bloom for its moment in the full sun.

Ballerina roses

I don’t know the name of the pink rose at the top, but the second one is Rosa ‘Ballerina’, a shrub rose (technically a hybrid musk) that liberally smothers itself in flowers. The young flowers are bee targets, like fried eggs, dressed up in pink edges for a garden party. The elderly flowers lost their pink days ago, paling to white, and making a lovely contrast.  Continue reading “Prolific Shrub And Rambler Roses”

Variations On A Theme: Rose, Peony Or Camellia?

Camellia with many petals

When I first started working with roses and discovered I was going to need to distinguish between 30 or 40 pinks and know their names, I resorted to flash cards: the kind young children use to learn words. In no time at all I was well on the way to a lifetime of floral nitpicking. Is a the shape of a double flowered rose technically a shallow cup, recurved, a pompon or a chalice? That kind of thing.

So I often notice when people mistake a peony or a camellia for a rose, even if I’d have to concede that the colours and forms of their flowers can be essentially the same.

Roses with many petals

Continue reading “Variations On A Theme: Rose, Peony Or Camellia?”