The Teddington Gardener

A Riot of Roses at David Austin HQ – An Access All Areas Tour of the Gardens, Glasshouses, Breeding Program, Trial Fields …

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A superb display from Rambler Phyllis Bide – several stunning specimens of this cottage garden favourite hroughout the gardens .

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Hyde Hall in a container – at least 40 litre pot (think a half barrel as a minimum), with John Inness No. 3 compost – regular feeding and a lot of water!

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Clematis to take over from early flowering ramblers to extend the season

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The same English Roses can often be pruned to achieve taller – and shorter – plants in the same garden, using the same variety

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Strong lines – paths, hedging, beds – allow the exuberance of these roses to be this wild, yet still contained

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Use ramblers to twine over the top of pergolas – with climbers to clothe the pillars

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Simply Stunning!

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The Gardens at David Austin Roses, Albrigton, Shropshire

They may have been battered by the rains but how beautiful are these gardens still! A veritable riot of colour, in beds and borders, along paths and clothing walls and clambering up and over pillars. Every conceivable space is festooned. Walls have climbers and ramblers flowering from bottom to top; pillars have roses wrapped around them like Maypoles and overhead the show continues. The Lion Garden has a mix of perennials and other climbers to set off the show but otherwise it is roses all of the way.

Inventive and imaginative are the ways in which the roses are used and displayed and even though these are gardens spanning over 2 acres, there is much that you can bring home and apply to the most modest of town plots. Roses in containers and smothering walls and fences, plants pruned to keep them neat in habit (and they are trialling potentially smaller shrub roses at the moment too, with an eye on smaller gardens, balconies and patios).

You can swoon through each of the gardens and enjoy the sights and smells, and you can look more closely to see how they have been pruned and trained – and keep and eye on the aspect as there are shadier spots here too and north-facing walls that are just as bountifully rosed-up as the west and southerly aspects.

I think I’m quite well versed now in ‘rose lore’ but the day was superb in many ways –

  • seeing roses grown this well, and especially mature specimens
  • refreshing for me pruning (when, how, when), deadheading, training, feeding, watering and pest control techniques
  • underlining the needs of growing roses well in containers
  • the importance of choosing the right variety for the plot you’ve got – and how versatile many of these English Roses can be
  • having them displayed in contemporary as well as traditional settings, being reminded they can suit a wide variety of garden styles and –
  • with ornament, garden furniture and sculpture and –
  • in gardens of very different design and atmosphere and reinforcing some of the principles of design
  • seeing such a wide selection of roses and getting my nose into them, especially less well-known varieties
  • really rather liking the creams and yellow – so ‘on trend’ in fashion and lifestyle arenas  – but really my heart still belongs to Lady Emma Hamilton!

…. even though I am familiar with the gardens and have been here in winter, spring, summer and autumn before – I go away better equipped to look after these beauties, to grow different varieties with confidence and to use them in new and different ways  – and to different effect. I already have plans for a pergola walkway and more roses in pots … and I brought home The Poet’s Wife, a delightful fragrant warm yellow rose for my own garden.

The Trial Fields

The trial fields (featured below) are the future of David Austin roses, with prospective candidates laid out in open fields for five, six, seven years – where they are assessed daily, weekly, monthly, annually to record their performance over summer and winter, good and bad alike. The field we walked through is overlooked by Mr Austin’s house, so close in fact, he can regularly inspect the roses that might be future Chelsea introductions.

Breeding Program

With the introduction of Olivia Rose Austin, they believe there is a real quantum leap in the health and performance of their roses and the breeding program (50,000 crosses each year, all pollinated by hand, resulting in 150,000 seedlings each year) will benefit from this advance and the cumulative knowledge of rose breeding over five decades and more. We toured the breeding glasshouses and saw how the process begins …

The annual budget for the breeding program is close to £1million and can take the better part of a decade – before three, sometimes four, roses are introduced at Chelsea in any one year. Only recently, the candidates for release that had been named and chosen were scrapped because the roses coming through in the following year and years ahead were thought to be so much better, this quantum leap forward, that pretty much the whole £1million was written off and the next season roses brought forward. Tough decisions but they want their roses to be the best they can be and the future is brighter still …

The hand pollinated roses and glasshouses filled with fluttering tagged and labelled rose hips are the start.

The trial fields are a joy – row upon row of hopefuls, the X Factor arena of roses. I’d like to think I’ve already seen those roses that will be introduced in 2017, 2018, 2019 … maybe even 2020. If you look closely, you might see them too!

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There’s a red/cerise climber in the middle here that I liked the look of last year – this might be a contender …

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I like this tall softly ruffled pink with yellow eye too …

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Budding in the field

Here we have the stock ready for picking and dispatch. They grow 600,000 roses here at Albrighton each year.

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Experimenting with peat free growing medium here

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Hand pollinating a rose from pollen collected from another variety or species

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Preparing bud wood

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Amanda Brame from Petersham Nurseries just catching us up at the start of the tour and with Thomas Broom-Hughes in the gardens –

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15 comments

  1. karen obrien

    Thank you for maintaining your lovely blog and posting such gorgeous photos – very, very inspiring! Would you happen to know the name of the beautiful yellow and apricot full rose climbing what looks like an arch – about mid-way down the page, coming after a photo of lovely pink roses (with statues) and one of Jude the Obscure? I love it! Many thanks, and please keep the photos coming!

  2. Cole

    Awesome! Could you share more of your learnings on how to care for roses in containers. I just started growing roses in containers last year. Any details/ideas you could provide would be great! Thanks for sharing your journeys with us! All the best, Cole.

    • There are some superbly grown roses in pots on show there. The key is to have big pots – at least 40 litres of a soil based compost like John Inness No. 3; something as big as a half barrel and deeper is better than wide. They are thirsty things and might take 4-5 litres of water each day – more in hotter weather/climate – so an irrigation system might be worth investing in – they are not as expensive as they once were. A regular feed from leaf-break in March/April, each month through to the end of August – liquid seaweed, tomato food, rose food (again in liquid form) – and a top dress with fresh compost each spring. They’ll be super stars for up to 10 years but probably not for much longer, unless the pot is much larger. Watch the drainage in winter. Have fun with them – I’m going to be planting more in pots (I already have several standards in big containers at home but more shrubs on the terrace would be a fine thing).

      Best wishes, Martin

      • Cole

        Thanks so much – really appreciate the information and always enjoy your blog! All the best, Cole.

  3. I was there yesterday on the tour. A fantastic day and great team. Very insightful day and thoroughly enjoyed. Your pictures are of course, much better than my snaps! Thanks for sharing them on your blog for us all to see.

    • It was a good day and though I’ve been many times – and on this tour last year – there is always something fresh to absorb. It’s excellent they invest the time of all their senior staff over the four days, especially since Hampton Court is just around the corner. Where are you based?

  4. In Hampshire so it was bit of a trek but I used to work in the Midlands. I recently joined Hillier HQ and am bit of a horticulture learner which is why I like to follow your blog. If you’re ever in our direction let me know – would be happy to show you around.

    • Thanky you- I get down to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens every couple of months, and Mottisfont of course for the roses – and Hardys Cottage Plants and … so thanks for the offer – would love to have a look around –

      Best wishes Martin

  5. Ming

    Your blog has been my best find of 2016! I am constantly looking in to see if you have done any new posts! Please keep up the good work:)

  6. Elaine A. Senft

    I visited this magnificent spread of roses in June, 1995. To say even then is was a Joy to walk through. I had p lanned on bringing out a garden tour from Vancouver, BC, the following summer…this spectacle included. Being a Rosarian myself, we were given a VIP tour walkabout, and a scrumptious lunch, afterwards with some of the Royalty there, …Mr. Austin, Sr. was away in East Anglia on business. Many tours later, on my own,… have visited some the venues, Munstead Wood, Woollerton Hall, etc..ever since, and do grow them in my Garden…magnificent plants!! ..another one comes to mind, Malvern Hills, as I am prone to climbers.

  7. Nola

    Thank you so much for posting these beautiful pictures. Your blog is like a breath of fresh air that I look forward to each week.

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