Monday, October 4, 2010

Designing a Garden of English Roses

I have 37 David Austin roses I have collected over the past couple of years, currently in pots of varying sizes, that I MUST get planted in the ground before winter.  I have a guy coming later this week (weather permitting) to prep the ground for the garden that will contain these roses.  Unlike other gardens I have designed, I don't have an area of a particular size for this garden ... it can be whatever size it needs to be to hold these roses.  It's like working backwards.

Over the weekend, I pulled some books from my garden library, borrowed a couple from my friend Robert, and began studying and making notes like mad to learn the habits of all of these roses ... some of which I have never seen mature and growing in the ground.  It's been a couple of days of making lists and sketching layouts, and hoping I get it as close to 'right' as I can.

Look at this 'teaser' design in one of the books.  It shows a lovely rendering and supposed design, with plant list, but no clue as to which roses were used where, or any idea about the dimensions of the space.  It's pretty, but it's no help at all.

Stuff like this is much more helpful.  The dimensions of this rose are what can be expected if it is grown in England ... Austin roses usually grow larger in the warmer, sunnier US.  The little line drawing tells me that the canes on The Reeve are longer and arching.

'Heritage' is tall and upright, according to this little drawing.  My own 'Heritage' is trapped in a pot that is much too small for it, and I'm sure it longs for the freedom of unrestricted soil in a garden.

The little line drawings in this growth guide from Vintage Gardens web site adds even more info to help me place the roses properly.  Unlike the drawings in the book, which only show a general idea of growth habit, these drawings also show size ... in relation to a drawing of a very stylishly dressed man and his dog.


I'm doing all of this to try to site each rose to its best advantage, to have a garden full of the beautiful English roses that I love.

'Mary Rose'

It's important to put the roses that want to climb in the back where I plan to install a fence, large shrubs behind smaller shrubs ... there's so much to remember.

'Happy Child'

The garden is going to be in a prominent location, toward the back of the property, by the barn, in a spot that overlooks the neighbor's pond.   I'm so excited to watch the roses develop through their first year in the ground, and beyond.

'Wife of Bath'

Stay tuned.  As soon as they're finished, I'll share my drawings ... and we'll watch as the garden goes from scribbles on paper to reality in the landscape.


  1. Connie, I can't wait to see how your English garden develops. I love my Austin roses. I have dozens like you and here in the south some do grow into monsters. I have to move my Charles Darwin this fall because he so much wants to be a climber here and throws out 6 to 8 foot canes.

  2. Connie, great post. It had never registered that "David Austin's English Roses" book had the diagrams and they meant something..but they're very accurate. Thanks for pointing them out. Heritage is certainly tall and upright here in Kansas.

    I've always run hot and cold on the English roses here in Kansas. Some seem quite hardy and vigorous, others fade like hybrid teas. So far, my best performers are Golden Celebration and Heritage.

    Can't wait to see your garden design.

  3. Best of luck with the Austins. Love the roses, but in Florida, they are monsters. 20 some will look great together. If you list the roses, I can compare to the Austins in my yard, I have a dozen or so.

    I know our growing zone isn't even remotely close but I'll gladly help any way I can. At least I know who wants to climb, who is more upright blah blah blah.


    Andrew Grover


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