English roses

English roses

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English roses

Roses are among the most cultivated flowers, not only in gardens, but also for the cosmetics and perfume industry, and for the sale of cut flowers; there are many associations in the world of great lovers of roses, and their history, but often even those who cultivate some specimens in their garden know little about the history of these flowers; it often happens in the nursery to find someone who is desperately looking for the old rose that his grandmother cultivated in the garden, without being able to find it, simply because the grandmother cultivated a hybrid of tea, a decidedly modern rose.
In fact these shrubs have been cultivated by man for centuries; to the genus rosa belong about one hundred and fifty species, but the varieties, hybrid and cultivar, are thousands, and every year new ones are produced; for this reason, over the decades it has been attempted to divide the rose varieties into groups, which indicate the hybridization period, the area in which they were produced, or other characteristics.
Everything starts from botanical roses, spread all over the globe, and also present in our country, with about thirty species; the best known are dog roses, large bushy shrubs, with a white or pinkish bloom, in spring, along roadsides or in the undergrowth.
The botanical varieties present in Europe are many, and share some characteristics: the colors of the flowers of European botanical roses are in shades of pink, or sometimes white; these shrubs bloom for the most part only once a year, some species have a second flowering in autumn, this because they carry the flowers on the branches produced in the previous year, and no on the new branches.
Over the centuries, research and colonization expeditions brought roses from all over the world to Europe; at the time the breeders gave rise to many varieties of hybrid roses, now called ancient roses; all the varieties that were hybridized before the last quarter of the 800 are considered to be old roses; these roses in general are not very flowering again, sometimes they bloom only in spring, and often they have double and stradoppi flowers, in the shape of small flattened cups; many ancient roses are scented, and have colors in shades of pink.

As the name implies, David Austin's nursery is located in the United Kingdom, specifically in England; all the English roses that are sold in the world are sisters of those hybridized by David Austin. For this reason, some lovers of Italian gardens feel a bit uncomfortable when they suggest an English rose, as they imagine that these shrubs are more suitable in the fresh and damp garden of a cottage, rather than in the dry and sunny flowerbed of a Neapolitan villa.The English roses are beautiful, the flowers are rich and particular, very decorative, and the plants are very flourishing; together with these characteristics we can safely say that these are vigorous and rustic plants, which can easily live even in the sunny Italian gardens.English roses for every type of garden

As with all hybrids, English roses are also many, several dozen, among these there are certainly some varieties more suited to fresh and damp gardens, with summers that are not too dry; other varieties instead are perfectly suited to live even in the hottest and driest areas of Italy.
As with most roses, if we place a rose in a very sunny area throughout the year, in summer the shrub will tend to have a period of vegetative rest, waiting for the rains at the end of summer for start to bloom again.
For this reason it is advisable to choose varieties that are particularly resistant to drought, or to position the shrubs in an area of ​​the garden that is not excessively sunny, especially during the hottest hours of the day. If, after the June flowering, we prune the roses, cutting about a third of the branches that have brought the flowers, and watering regularly in the drier periods, surely our English roses will give us a beautiful flowering in August, which could at best be moved a few weeks.
To avoid that the summer heat is a pain for our plants, a fairly drastic pruning is a panacea.

Modern roses

Roses are one of the most loved plants in gardens. They have a very long flowering season, which finds equals only in some annuals. Corollas are available in a large number of shapes and colors. Even the size and posture can vary greatly, allowing many different uses. They can in fact be used in flowerbeds, borders, for the creation of hedges or, as far as sarmentose is concerned, for covering vertical or horizontal surfaces.
It is important to point out that the most widespread roses in cultivation today (both in horticulture and in nursery gardening), tea hybrids, were introduced only at the end of the 1800s. At that time they began to practice artificial pollination by applying theories of Mendel on genetics. The first to attempt this experiment was Henry Bennett who crossed the rebirth hybrids, very widespread in Europe, with the TI roses, originating from the East. It obtained erect and rather rigid shrubs, but very re-flowering. The flower was typically pointed, in colors from white to pink to red, and worn, solitary, on a very long stem (such as to make it excellent for cutting). The prototype of this category was registered in 1867 with the name "La France".
The great success obtained prompted the breeders to engage further on this path.
Another Frenchman, J. Pernet-Ducher, attempted crossings to acquire bright yellow corollas. He obtained a positive result by inserting the R. Foetida Persiana in this work and obtaining, in 1900, "Soleil d'Or". Many varieties also inherited a fruity and sweet fragrance, clearly different from that of the original types of Europe.

Defects of tea hybrids

The hybrids of tea had a dazzling success to the point that, most, they recognize them as a "sterotype" of rose, completely ignoring the endemic species as well as the varieties previously widespread in the Old Continent.
In recent decades, however, especially among the most ardent rodophiles, a certain dissent has grown in relation to this category due to some obvious defects.
- Their bearing is generally not very graceful. These are woody and very erect shrubs, which quickly strip off at the base: they rarely blend well in flowerbeds or borders.
- Although they are indestructible, they are often victims of cryptogams such as scab, oidium and rust which make their appearance, especially starting from the summer, quite pleasant.
- The repeated crossings, implemented to obtain more attractive and re-flowering varieties, have compromised the perfume in many, which is a recessive genetic character. We find ourselves therefore with beautiful corollas, but almost aseptic.


Here are some of the most interesting cultivars, divided by color.

colorfirst nameheightperfumeFlower shapeOther characteristics

Soft pink

1 m Strong, of ancient rose A rosette Beautiful bushy shape, very resistant to diseases
Sharifa Asma 1 m Strong, fruity First in a cup, then in a rosette Standing, sensitive to heat
Queen of Sweden 1,1m Light, of myrrh Cup Standing, cut flower
Gentle Hermione 1,2 Fort, myrrh and old rose Shallow cup Rounded shrub
Heritage 1,2 Medium, fruity and spicy Cup Leafy shrub

Rose on
Gertrude Jekyll From 1.2 to 2.50 m Very strong, old rose A rosette Upright or climbing shrub
Brother Cadfael 1.8 m Strong, ancient rose Deep cup, similar to peony Upright shrub
Scepter'd Isle 1.2 m Medium, of myrrh Small, cup-shaped Light shrub, with more flowers on a stem

William Shakespeare 2000 1.1 m Strong, of ancient rose Cup, then rosette Upright shrub
Munstead wood 0.9 m Antique roses with fruity accents Cup Bushy, almost black flower
Monferrato (Darcey Bussel) 1 m Medium fruity A rosette bushy

Graham Thomas 1.2 m Forte, of tea Cup Erected, but branched
Golden Celebration 1.2 m Tea and fruit Cup Rounded bush
Molineux 1 m Light, tea and moss Rosetta Erect and compact

Abraham Darby 1.5-2.5 m Strong, fruity Deep cup Leafy shrub
Lady Emma Hamilton 1.2 m Strong, fruity Cup Bushy, dark leaves
Crown Princess Margareta 1,5-2,5 fruity A rosette Tall, even climbing

Winchester Cathedral 1,2 Of ancient rose A rosette A mutation of Mary Rose, she can return to pink. bushy
William and Catherine 1.2 m Medium, of myrrh Shallow cup bushy

David Austin and English roses

The beginnings
As we have seen, around 1960 there was a need for something new, especially in the horticultural environment. Plants that harmonize in the borders, with perfume, healthy and perhaps tied in the shapes to the old roses.
This need is filled by an English farmer, David Austin, born in 1926 in Shropshire. Initially he was involved in the family agricultural business, but his primary interest had always been in the nursery gardening sector. A friend of his father, James Baker, breeder of perennial herbs, taught him the rudiments of genetics and helped him in the first crossings.
In the same period he began to read the classics where the ancient varieties of roses (gallica, alba, damascena) were illustrated and in him the idea was born to try to get plants with that charm, that perfume, the full and bushy bearing, but with the re-flowering and the range of colors available in the hybrid of tea.
The first introductions
After countless attempts, he introduced "Constance Spry" to the market in 1963: a very large and rounded shrub with huge cupped flowers of a delicate pink and characteristic scent of myrrh. It already has all the peculiar characteristics that Austin would like to achieve, except for the flourishing.
Later he also presented Chianti (red) and Shropshire Lass (rosé), always with zero regrowth.
The revolution of the new flowers
From the crossing of these three (usually with perpetual or HT hybrids) he began to obtain the first re-flowering cultivars. The new class, which I call "English roses" was inaugurated with Wife of Bath and Canterbury, around 1970.
His research continued tirelessly until the 1980s when he won numerous awards for presenting the varieties 'Graham Thomas', 'Mary Rose', Gertrude Jekyll and Abraham Darby at the Chelsea Flower Show.
David Austin quickly gained popularity in the United Kingdom, then in the rest of Europe, in the United States and in Asia. In Italy it began to spread in the mid-1990s.
His hybridization work continues today, assisted by his sons. He can count on at least 150 of his creations and numerous publications.

Cultivation, climate and exposure

The cultivation of English roses does not differ particularly from that of other garden roses. To get the most out of them, however, some small changes are important that will make them grow more vigorous and flourish with more continuity.
Climate and exposure
Roses generally prefer cool climates in which they grow and flourish with greater continuity. This is even more true when it comes to English roses. Almost all of them tolerate the hot and dry summers that induce them to enter dormancy. To overcome this problem, especially if we live in the center-south or on the coasts, it is good to put them in a sheltered area in particular from the afternoon sun. In our country, moreover, they have no difficulty in flowering even with only the direct light received in the morning.


Given their great propensity to flourish and the amount of foliage along the entire stem, English roses need a greater water supply, especially during the summer.
It is therefore good, in the absence of natural rainfall, to irrigate abundantly every 15 days in the months of June, July and August. Clearly the irrigations must be commensurate with the ground. The more this is poor, rocky or sandy the more intense and frequent they must be.


The ideal substrate for roses must always be heavy and fresh, with a good dose of clay and organic matter. If ours is too poor, we can incorporate a good quantity of mature flour manure and soil for flowering plants.


They are very demanding in this respect. To flourish and, above all, to flourish gloriously, they need a large amount of nourishment. To get good results, before winter arrives, cover the foot with plenty of flour or pelleted manure. In spring we will incorporate what remains by hoeing, adding a slow release granular fertilizer in which potassium is predominant.
We will repeat the administration of fertilizer at the end of the first flowering, around June.


For an optimal insertion it is good to dig a very large hole. On the bottom we will create a draining layer with gravel. Then we will insert abundant manure or, better still, cornunghia. After a state of separation soil, insert the plant with the roots down, cover and compact well, creating a mound around the base. If the plant is grafted it is good that the grafting point is below the ground level.
Let us water abundantly.
The best time for the plant is in any case autumn. However, it is also possible to proceed in spring in any case. Potted plants can be planted at any time, avoiding frost and strong heat.

Pruning and cultivation treatments

The pruning of English roses must be more delicate than the others. We proceed at the end of winter, eliminating first of all the weak, old, too woody or sick branches.
The remaining branches are then shortened by 1/3 or at most 2/3. Let us remember that by cutting more we will have less flowers, but larger ones.
After the first flowering it is important to intervene to remove the withered corollas, to encourage regrowth. Only the peduncle can be removed or traced up to the first complete leaf.
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  • English roses

    Only roses are called "English roses" hybridized by a brilliant breeder, English of course, of no

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