Now I have to say first that Lady Emma Hamilton is my favourite rose, certainly my favourite from the David Austin stable and probably my favourite, full stop. Regular readers of these pages will know that Orange is a favourite colour, and Lady Emma has this in spades – a glorious bright orange richly set off by the dark bronze-purple tinted young foliage and stems, and the deep green of the leaves as they mature. I think, on the whole, it would be much less of a successful combination with an ordinary green leaf. The centre of each flower is pure sunshine, a golden gold. The young buds have flashes of raspberry which is particularly attractive. As the flower matures, the colour is toned down to pale apricots and peach and a shrub will have all stages present – bud, young bright golden chalices and the paler, looser flowers all vying for attention.
The scent is absolutely delicious, quite intoxicating – rich with exotic fruit, melon and mango, lemon and grapefruit, with sweet Sauternes wines coming through. And every flower fizzes with this heady mixture, always and never disappoints! Few roses can make such a claim.
This shrub rose is a little lanky, I admit, and would benefit from some support in the early years, but will make a fine shrub 4′ tall and a little less through. Plant 3 or 5 together and you have a grand sight.
I made a loose jam from the petals last year. With no natural pectin, I suspect I should have added more in addition to the preserving sugar. Collecting a quantity of petals from 5 plants (that had not been sprayed with any chemicals, though this is hardly necessary since it is a healthy shrub), from mostly young flowers before they take on the apricot tones, these were separated out and placed on a cloth and set aside – to allow any wildlife to wander off – before layering with preserving sugar, covered and left for the night. The flowers were picked in the morning, before strong sunshine had the chance to evaporate any of the fruity fragrance. For many roses, the white tip of each petal, where it connects to the flower, is a little bitter and should be trimmed. I didn’t bother with Lady Em.
The following day, the petals with a quantity of water, were boiled gently until the petals were translucent but still had a bit of bite, and then bottled, while still hot, into sterilised Kilner jars and left to cool. Vague instructions I’m sorry – for the quantity of petals, sugar, water and timing, as I didn’t weigh the petals, or count the flowers beforehand – or if I did, I didn’t record it – so a little googling is in order! As I said, the jam I produced was not completely set, so some tinkering with the recipe is needed.
The flavour retained all the fruitiness of the flower and a great colour too. I suspect a syrup could have been made – to gloss over ice-cream, or make Rose Bellinis… Candied rose petals might be another option, perfect for any number of dessert treatments and the colours would be magical, frosted. I’ll certainly be experimenting this season…