We have always been intrigued by beautiful roses, especially repeat-flowering fragrant ones with pink blossoms. So, it was exciting to receive information about one of the two new 2017 spring introductions from David Austin Roses, named ‘The Ancient Mariner’.
Inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the hybrid, bush-type rose (as opposed to climbing) grows to 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide and features a “strong myrrh fragrance.” It is hardy in USDA zones 5 – 10.
It is beautifully suited for use as a vertical accent for the middle or back of a border or as a larger shrub rose for landscape beds. The upward-facing, cupped flowers (4- to 4.5-inches across) are densely packed with as many as 160 petals per flower in the early season, and 60 to 100 petals later. Though large, the flowers stand up to rain, holding their shape. After bloom, the spent petals fall cleanly away. Especially appealing is the fact that its stems are smooth with few thorns.
We first learned about David Austin Roses at a Garden Writers Symposium many years ago. Each year David Austin Roses (based in Albrighton, England) introduces just two to four new English Roses, culled from a pool of approximately 150,000 candidate seedlings that are selected and trialed over eight to ten years.
The son of a Shropshire farmer, David Austin was born on February 16, 1926. He fell in love with gardening as a boy. From a small garden plot given to him by his grandmother, to his journeyman years farming with his father, to finally becoming a successful farmer himself, he never lost his love of flowers, especially roses.
His rose breeding journey began as a hobby. He was intrigued by the challenge of creating something new through the interplay of man and nature with science and mathematics. From the beginning, Austin sought to combine the charm and fragrance of old world roses with the repeat flowering and wide color range of modern roses.
Austin’s 1961 introduction of ‘Constance Spry’ first brought him to the attention of the rose world. Though still an amateur, he’d created a new kind of rose that impressed rosarians and met most of his initial goals, except repeat-bloom. By the late sixties, he was creating roses with the attributes he prized including that of flowering more than once per season. He felt ready to turn to breeding full time. In 1969 he opened the David Austin Roses nursery devoted to the breeding of what he now called “English Roses.”
To date, Mr. Austin and his team have introduced 234 English Roses. All are repeat blooming, except ‘Constance Spry’. Over 60 years, David Austin has literally revolutionized the world of garden roses, setting increasingly higher standards for rose breeding. Today, he continues to guide a breeding operation that rides the cutting edge of what’s new and desirable in garden roses worldwide.
Most folks in their 90s are not, by definition, future oriented. David Austin is an exception. At a time of life when most people are long retired, he is introducing some of the best roses he has ever created, still driven by the prospect of even better roses yet to come. Today, David Austin Roses remains a family business. David Austin has been joined by his son David and his grandson, Richard.
This spring we’ll look forward to introducing “The Ancient Mariner” rose to our own garden. But, first things first: On February 16 we’ll be sending the rose breeding legend our “Very Best Wishes” as David Austin celebrates his 91st birthday!
For more information including photos, ordering, planting advice and much more, visit www.davidaustinroses.com.