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Enjoy Rose Shopping During Winter Months
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
After all of these years, I admit to still being hooked on David Austin English roses. Winter is a great time of the year for rose suppliers to try to capture your attention and dollars with pretty pictures.
David Austin English roses number in the hundreds, and if there was ever a group that looked like they were designed for a southern-style cottage garden, it has to be these. They are all over the state, draping a picket fence here or a split rail there. They are superior shrub roses, too!
I know a private garden in Madison, Miss., that probably has the best collection of these roses anywhere in the country. We have filmed these roses for Southern Gardening television, and I have watched as selections have been added. When the rose, Pat Austin, came out, I didn't trust the copper color shown in the catalog. Then I saw it in that Madison garden, and by George, it is a copper-colored rose.
Why do I love David Austin English roses? As a famous author penned, "Oh let me count the ways." First, these are vigorous, supercharged roses. They have the look of old-fashioned cabbage roses, and the fragrance of most of these roses is unsurpassed.
Austin groups his roses into five strains. The first he calls the Old Rose strain, and it has the species rosa gallica in its breeding. Roses like Wife of Bath and Mary Rose fall into this group. Also included is one of my favorites, L.D. Braithwaite, named after his father-in-law. It is a deep red that repeated nicely in my Mount Olive, Miss., garden and held its color well.
Many don't realize the David Austin group has some nice red selections. In addition to L.D. Braithwaite, other good red ones include Wenlock and Fisherman's Friend.
The second group is the Heritage strain. These roses are related to a popular floribunda, Iceberg, and include Heritage, Perdita and the ever-popular Graham Thomas. The third is the Portland strain named after the Portland group of roses. Two of the famous roses in this group are Gertrude Jekyll and the Countryman.
Gloire De Dijon is the name of the fourth strain and an old noisette rose. Jayne Austin, Sweet Juliet and Evelyn are examples of this strain. Evelyn is heavenly in fragrance and was chosen by Crabtree and Evelyn to be used in some of their product lines. The final strain is Aloha, a modern day climbing rose. Charles Austin and my favorite, Abraham Darby, are examples of this strain.
David Austin recommends placing the roses in groups of three to five bushes for the best display. This definitely works, but they also work as specimen plantings. The larger ones can be trained as small climbers or pegged to give a gorgeous shrub look. As these are repeat flowering shrubs, one should aim at building a well-shaped, bushy plant while keeping in mind the natural height.
In Mississippi, it is probably best to cut roses back by a third after the first year. In subsequent years, cut out weak, twiggy growth and dead or diseased wood. As the bushes age, cut out some of the older wood to its base to make way for new growth. Branches can be cut back by a third to a half, if needed, but I prefer light or selective pruning.
Roses need five to six hours of direct sun each day. Morning sun is essential, but afternoon shade is tolerated. Good air movement helps the dew and rain dry quickly, discouraging disease. Plant on raised beds with plenty of organic matter incorporated. Avoid planting under eaves or gutters where bushes can be damaged by falling water.
Plant your roses where they are easy for you to watch and enjoy. This will also keep you tuned to any insect or disease problems. Water with soaker-hoses instead of overhead sprinklers to greatly enhance your success.
There are scores of David Austin roses to try. As you sit by the fire contemplating which roses to choose, you also may want to cast your vote for David Austin English roses.