My esteemed colleagues from Petersham Nurseries, Noriko and Deborah from the Green Team and Andrea from Visual Merchandising (green) – joined me – and drove yesterday together for a couple of hours up (and down) the M40/M6/M42/M54 to David Austin HQ and their impressive 2-acre rose gardens in Albrighton, Shropshire to see how they grow roses – and they grow an impressive selection of old roses, wild roses and their eponymous English Roses in a series of beautiful gardens – and to go backstage to their breeding and trialling programme.
I’m an Old Hand at these gardens and it was a joy to share their enthusiasm for the collection, the design and innovation in rose growing and to listen and learn from their experiences. It refreshed me enormously.
Although I had been there merely a few weeks ago when it was in first flush and abundant (-oh wow was it -), the show was still amazing – for my colleagues in their eyes, and so in my own. It was a brilliant opportunity to see roses grown in such a variety of ways and to see the versatility of these English Roses, grown together and with complimentary perennial planting – in beds and borders, imaginatively and beautifully combined – on pillars, posts, arches and pergolas, against walls and buttressed by sharp evergreen hedging – and grown spectacularly in containers too. Mature specimens are difficult to imagine from the ‘baby’ plants on sale. They grow up fast!
The Glasshouses were open to us to showcase where the hard work of crossing (breeding) new roses takes places and was a really an eye-opener – they make tens of thousands of new crosses each year – but the Trial Fields, where potential new varieties are tested for seven or more years was the real treat – a glimpse into the future.
Who knows, we have probably had a preview of the new releases for the next half-dozen years. We spent a couple of hours at least among these pristine new roses and the shop and plant centre had closed by the time we came back to the gardens – we weren’t disappointed, having seen so much more than the usual visitor might ever have glimpsed.
An amazing day out.