January 27, 2014

Reviews of English Roses

I have grown quite a few English Roses over the past decade, so I thought I'd post about my experiences with them.   The name 'English Rose' is applied to roses created by David Austin, a breeder in the UK.  They have become popular all over the world for their old-fashioned, elegant, fragrant flowers and shrubby growth.  See the website here or buy them from local nurseries.
All of the roses in this post have survived through multiple zone 5 winters here in Spokane and are fairly healthy.  My experiences may be different from someone in a hot or humid climate, as Spokane is fairly dry in summer and cold in winter, and that keeps diseases in check.  Above are mauve 'Sister Elizabeth' and crimson 'Munstead Wood.'  The rest of the post is organized alphabetically.

'Abraham Darby' was my first English Rose in Santa Clara, California.  Its citrus fragrance is tied with 'Lady Emma Hamilton' for my favorite.  The flowers are large and gorgeous.  This shrub is more vigorous than the average David Austin rose, growing to around 5' x 5'.  Unfortunately it was a rust disaster down in more humid, mild California, so I was hesitant to try it again when we moved to Spokane.  However it has not had a speck of rust here in Spokane.  The flowers only last a couple of days when cut, but a small bouquet can perfume a whole room.  So don't attempt this one if you live in an area where rust is a problem, but otherwise I'd highly recommend it. 

'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' is the smallish mauve rose in the center of this arrangement.  CRM does not enjoy ideal growing conditions in my garden.  It gets too much shade and not enough water, so it has not grown very full or produced many flowers.  I hope this will change next year though, since I ran a drip line to it in the middle of last summer and it started blooming like mad.  The flowers are lovely and hold up very well in a vase.  Expected size is 4.5' x 3', and the myrrh fragrance is light.  

'Claire Austin'  is another rose that hasn't yet flourished for me, though Davis Austin says it is his finest white rose to date.  Its sad state is entirely my fault - too much shade, too much transplanting.  I've finally got it in its final position (probably, ha ha) and am looking forward to watching it fill out and produce more flowers.   I haven't noticed much of a fragrance to the blooms, but that's probably another consequence of poor growing conditions.  Eventually it should reach 4.5' x 4' and the flowers are supposed to have a strong fragrance.

'The Countryman' is one of the older English roses, but in his book David Austin lists it as his favorite.  The flowers have a strong strawberry fragrance and are produced generously.  This is a delightful rose that makes a lovely shrub (3' x 3') but it's very prickly.  The flowers don't last long in a vase, but it's wonderful to sink your nose into its soft petals and take a whiff. 

'Crocus Rose'  doesn't get enough sun in my garden yet it produces flowers generously.  It makes a full shrub of around 4' x 3'.  The flowers don't have much fragrance but last well in a vase.  Actually, a lack of fragrance makes roses last longer when cut because it takes a lot of energy to produce fragrance.  Fragrant roses die faster, which is why many of the roses in florist shops are sadly lacking in scent.

I planted two 'Crown Princess Margareta' roses at the base of trellises several years ago, and they have been slow to grow very large.  Last summer I used a sprinkler modifier (not sure what the real name is) to send drip lines out of the bottom of my sprinkler heads in this area.  I'm hopeful that the emitters I placed at the base of these roses will enable them to finally thrive.  Even though roses can be drought tolerant once established, it requires a lot of water to put on new growth and produce a lot of flowers.  Eventually CPM can reach 9-11' as a climber, or 5' x 4.5' as a shrub.  DA says the fragrance is strong but I haven't noticed much fragrance yet.  The flowers last moderately well when cut.

'Eglantyne' is a large shrub in my front yard (actually 3 plants placed 18" apart, as DA recommends) that performs beautifully for me.  The flowers are a pure, soft pink that have a gentle fragrance and an adorable button eye in the center where the petals fold inward.  One shrub can grow 4.5' x 3', so planting three together gives it enough width the balance the height. 

'Francine Austin' is no longer offered on David Austin's website, though 'Snow Goose' is similar.  Both have tiny white flowers that mix well with larger roses in a vase.  You can see a flush of pink in the photo above, but the flowers are usually pale enough to look pure white.  The blooms have a sweet fragrance that I can catch from several feet away. 

'Harlow Carr' hasn't been left in one spot long enough to settle in and really start performing for me, and unfortunately I'm planning another move in a month or two.  But fellow blogger Liz at Gwirrel's Garden adores this one, so I'm holding out hope that I'll love it in a couple of years.  The flowers are smaller than some English roses but not tiny.  It is supposed to be an excellent repeat bloomer.  The color is deeper than 'Eglantyne' and leans toward the cool side of pink.  The shrub grows to 4' x 3' and is reputed to have a strong Old Rose fragrance.  Again, I'll have to wait and see.

'Lady Emma Hamilton' is one of my favorites.  The photo above doesn't do justice to the vivid sunset hues it produces, and of course you can't sniff its delightful citrus-pear scent by computer.  New growth is lovely reddish bronze, and it repeat blooms very well for me despite getting just a few hours of afternoon sun.  It grows to 4' x 3', though I prune it hard in spring to keep it more rounded than upright.  Blooms only last a few days when cut, but the scent from a few flowers can fill a room. 

'Meidiland White' is actually a French rose, not English, but it has some similarities to David Austin's roses.  The flowers open beautifully, unlike many of the hybrid teas.  The dark green foliage is susceptible to blackspot in prolonged wet weather, but it's glossy and gorgeous otherwise.  This rose grows low and wide - 2' x 5', so it can act as a groundcover.  Though the stems are not very long, the roses last well when cut.  I have not noticed a fragrance.  The flowers are purest white - not a bit of yellow - and I really enjoy them in the garden and in the vase.

'Munstead Wood'  is another rose in less than perfect conditions in my garden, and perhaps this is why the flowers are not as dark as they are shown in the catalog.  I'd only recommend this rose for full sun positions.  It stays smaller than some other English roses at 3' x 2.5'.  The fragrance is only moderate for me, and I prefer the shape of 'William Shakespeare 2000' to MS. 

'Queen of Sweden' produces medium-sized roses with little fragrance that have few thorns and last well in a vase.  The growth is more upright than my other English roses at 4' x 2.5', so this would be a good choice to plant in groups of three.  The color is soft peachy-pink - usually deeper than in the photo above. 

'Princess Alexandra of Kent' makes lovely full flowers with a delicious fragrance.  The color is hard to place - the buds are salmon pink but mature flowers are cool pink.  I'm a fan of big fluffy roses, so this one is a favorite.  This shrub reaches 3.5' x 3'. 

'Sister Elizabeth' is a sweet little mauve rose that produces quite a few flowers despite growing in partial shade next to 'Munstead Wood'.  It has a strong myrrh fragrance that reminds me of my grandma's makeup.  The flowers at the end of the season have narrower petals and resemble double Japanese anemones.  They do not last well when cut.  This compact rose grows to 2.5' x 2.5'.

'Teasing Georgia' finally took off last year and grew taller than the 6' fence by the end of the season.  The individual flowers aren't as lovely up close as some others, but the whole effect is very nice.  I haven't noticed a fragrance, though it won an award for fragrance in the UK.  They last moderately well in a vase.  The color is soft yellow in spring and pale peachy-yellow in fall.  It can be grown as a shrub (4' x 3.5') or can reach 8' as a climber.  I like this rose but if you want a strong yellow it's not for you.

'William Shakespeare 2000' is lush and romantic and one of my favorites.  It has a definite Old Rose fragrance yet lasts fairly well when cut.  It looks especially nice with 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' in a vase.  Like all of the shrubs in this post, it repeat blooms through the summer with an especially heavy flush in late spring and early fall.  DA says it grows 4' x 3', but for me it seems to spread a little wider than it is tall.  Lovely rose, highly recommended.
David Austin's website has more information about these and many other roses.  If you live in an area with many disease problems for roses, look for the ones described as 'very healthy.'  There are also lists of roses for shady positions, very hot or very cold climates, and other specific areas.   


  1. It is always fun to see how differently roses grow in different climates. Here most of them are not really "shrubby" but more like greedy octopi.... William Shakespeare 2000 is also one of my favorites, the color is exquisite. I never could detect any fragrance from my two CPMs either. Interesting that you would describe Santa Clara as "humid"...

    1. Ah yes, Santa Clara isn't as drippy wet as Iowa was, or parts of the south. But I grew up in bone dry Moses Lake, so any moisture in the air in summer feels humid to me.

  2. I absolutely love Austin roses, though the only one I've grown is 'Pat Austin'. It did quite well until it was unfortunately killed by voles. I so love the shape of the English roses. I've thought of getting 'Claire Austin', as the shape is just so pretty. Any rose I get will have to be pretty hardy and disease-free, though, in my garden, as I don't have time to fuss over them!

  3. Hi VW,

    Lots of lovely roses there; I will have to get more... It's always far too difficult to decide which to buy!

  4. I've recently added Lady Emma Hamilton to my garden - I'm looking forward to her flowering next year. She's a beauty.
    This blog is a wonderful reference and has certainly left me wanting more for my garden.

  5. A subject close to my heart ! You grow such a wide variety of English roses and it is fascinating to read your notes on how they have performed, as we grow quite a few of the same roses. I have been pondering over 'Sister Elizabeth' and you have convinced me to give her a try. I planted 'the Countryman' last September, so will be interested to see how it performs. Which is your best performer in partial shade , please?

  6. I happened upon your blog and drooled over your lovely English roses. I live in snowy Pennsylvania and I'm "flower starved" lol. Nice to meet you.

  7. Hi VW, what a wonderful collection of roses. I love old fashioned roses, and maybe David Austin roses are better than the original old ones because they have been bred especially to resist disease, etc. Anyway, yours look extremely heatlhy and beautiful.

  8. I'm hoping to add roses to my garden in the next year or two, so I really appreciated this detailed review of the ones you are growing. -Jean

  9. amazing and awesome...

  10. Wow, this post is pleasant, my sister is analyzing these
    things, therefore I am going to inform her.


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