Austin legacy lives on with new, stunning blooms

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The new David Austin “Bathsheba”…  a real stunner of a climbing rose with apricot-yellow buds opening to cupped, many petalled rosettes.

“David Austin’s legacy lives on with his son, also David. This year he’s released two new varieties in Australia,” says gardening columnist CEDRIC BRYANT.

ROSE-planting time has arrived and garden centres are overflowing with different varieties.

Cedric Bryant.

It’s exciting and at the top of my list will be the new David Austin roses.

It was a great loss to the rose-breeding world when David Austin died in 2018 at age 92. 

He broke the mould of rose breeding many years ago, when he crossed old-fashioned roses with modern varieties. An advantage of old-fashioned or heritage roses (bred before 1926), was their magnificent fragrance. However they didn’t last long on the bush, whereas modern roses, which generally had little fragrance, stayed in flower for long periods. 

There was only one thing for it and David Austin found the secret: intensive breeding. This provided roses that had both a long flowering period and magnificent fragrance. Now known worldwide as English roses, these took the rose world by storm. 

David Austin’s legacy lives on with his son, also David. This year he’s released two new varieties in Australia. It was hoped these would have been shown at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, but unfortunately due to covid, this event did not take place. However, they will be coming into stock at garden centres. 

David Austin “Roald Dahl”… a beautiful shade of apricot, with soft, orange-red buds. 

Firstly for the trial period from 2018 to 2020, David Austin “Roald Dahl” was presented with a silver medal and the prestigious Irwin Award for the most pest and disease-resistant rose in the three-year trial. It’s a beautiful shade of apricot, with soft, orange-red buds. The blooms are quite stunning, with a medium tea fragrance. It’s a compact rose, growing to around one-metre high and wide.

The second new rose that came out with excellent trial results was David Austin “Bathsheba”, a real stunner of a climbing rose with apricot-yellow buds opening to cupped, many petalled rosettes with a soft, myrrh fragrance. 

When roses first arrive here, they’re planted at the National Rose Trial Garden of Australia, in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. This is regarded around the world as a leading rose trial garden. All new rose introductions are assessed for their suitability for growing here for a period of three years, in addition to assessment for pest and disease resistance by an expert panel of rosarians.

DAVID Austin’s daughter Claire specialises in bearded iris. Her nursery in Shropshire, in the west of England, has possibly one of the largest collections of these stunning plants in Britain. Claire’s introduction to irises coincided with her father’s expansion of his rose breeding. He had a patch of ground taken up with a special bearded iris collection and needed the space for more roses. Claire took over the collection and went on to win a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her book, “Irises: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia”, is considered the bible on these majestic flowers. 

Claire brings in different varieties for breeding from America and interestingly, from Australia. Maybe it has something to do with being married to an Australian horticulturist. Claire now has more than 600 varieties, with the task of lifting and dividing more than 50,000 tubers every year. I only wish she was in Australia.

Some tips for growing iris in Canberra:

  • Divide every three years to retain vigour.
  • Rhizomes can be lifted six weeks after flowering.
  • Replant close to the surface to bake in summer heat, to encourage flowering.
  • Bearded iris are native to the Mediterranean region and revel in the heat; that’s why they do so well here.

THERE’S no stopping the Austin family and I have been fortunate enough to visit the award-winning rose nursery in England and discuss with them their numerous horticultural adventures. 

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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