DAVID AUSTIN ROSES
David Austin was born
in 1926, on the farm where he now lives. He is the son of a farmer and
was farming before going into business as a nurseryman in the early 1960s
From an early age,
he has been interested in gardening and first turned to plant breeding
through a friend of his father's, Mr. James Baker of Baker's Nurseries.
James Baker was introducing new varieties of hardy plants, including Russell's
lupins, phloxes, delphiniums and so on. In the 1940s, a copy of George
Bunyard's book on Old Roses gave him the idea of crossing Old Roses with
Modern Roses. The Old Roses - that is the Gallicas, Damasks, Albas, etc.
- had all but died out at that time. His objective being to create new
roses in the style of Old Roses, thus combining the unique charm and fragrance
of Old Roses with the wide colour range and repeat-flowering qualities
of Modern Roses. He was also particularly interested in producing well
formed shrubs that would make good garden plants.
The first variety he introduced was 'Constance Spry' in 1963, followed
by Chianti in 1967 and Shropshire Lass in 1968, they only flowered once
in early summer. From these, he developed repeat flowering varieties with
similar flowers, the first group being introduced in 1969 and included
Wife of Bath and Canterbury. He called these 'English Roses', as the name
seemed to symbolise roses. When 'Graham Thomas' and 'Mary Rose' were introduced
at Chelsea in 1983, English Roses quickly gained popularity both in this
country and the rest of the world. Since that time he has introduced over
one hundred and fifty varieties.
David Austin started
David Austin Roses in 1969, largely with the objective of introducing
English Roses, as other rose nurseries were not particularly interested
in them at the time. Later, his eldest son, David J.C. Austin, joined
him in the business. David Austin Roses remains a family business, employing
over 100 people and growing over 1.2 million roses per year. Now 78, David
Austin is still very active at the nursery dividing his time between the
breeding programme and writing.
David Austin was awarded
the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2003
for his services to horticulture and the Dean Hole Medal by the Royal
National Rose Society. He has received an Honorary MSc from the University
of East London for his work on rose breeding. He received the lifetime
achievement award from the Garden Centre Association in 2004
The Nursery Today
The nursery runs one
of the largest rose breeding programmes in the world carrying out over
150,000 crosses each year, producing about 400,000 seeds. From these about
250,000 seedlings will germinate from which each year's new introductions
are selected after 9 years of trialing. The new introductions are divided
between the roses bred for garden use and those for cut flower use. The
5 or 6 new garden varieties are introduced each year at the Chelsea Flower
Show in May. The breeding of fragrant, cut roses in the style of the English
Roses is a relatively new venture for us, after more than 10 years of
breeding and trialing we introduced our first four varieties in the spring
The retail catalogue
contains over 900 different varieties, covering the whole range of roses
and with particularly good selections of English Roses, Old Roses, Shrub
Roses, Species Roses and Climbing Roses. It is translated into French,
German and Italian and we export to many other countries around the world.
We have a special American edition for sales to North America using US
grown stock. In addition we have a network of approximately 300 licensees
in all the main rose growing countries in the world that grow the English
The wholesale division
supplies roses to the trade including garden centres, garden designers
and other nurseries. Roses are supplied both bare root and containerized.
At our nursery in
Shropshire we have one of the best rose gardens in the world containing
over 700 varieties and covering nearly 2 acres. We also have an excellent
plant centre, tea room and garden shop. For more information on these
two please click here.