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.
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!
Here we have the stock ready for picking and dispatch. They grow 600,000 roses here at Albrighton each year.
Amanda Brame from Petersham Nurseries just catching us up at the start of the tour and with Thomas Broom-Hughes in the gardens –