any bookshop, the shelves of garden titles are dominated by
books on roses, doubtless reflecting the plant's popularity.
With more than 10,000 varieties on the market internationally
and hundreds of new cultivars boosting that total annually,
there is always something different to write about or
Thus David Austin's English Roses, although in some ways an
updated version of his 1998 book The English Rose, has plenty
of new material, reflecting the stream of Austin roses added
to his catalogue over the past 14 years.
For more than 50 years, David Austin has been a major
influence on rose breeding. Starting with Constance Spry in
1961, his Albrighton nursery in the north of England has
released a stream of what are known as English Roses.
Originally, these were intended, as Austin put it in the
earlier book, ''to combine the beauty and fragrance of the
old roses with the practical qualities of the modern roses'';
in other words, he wanted the perfume and disease-resistance
of the former and the repeat-flowering attributes of the
In David Austin's English Roses, Austin describes how the
first roses were bred and how Constance Spry was back-crossed
to produce the roses named for characters in Chaucer's The
Canterbury Tales (The Miller, Wife of Bath and The Prioress,
for example) and outlines the continuing development of the
group using different types of roses.
He goes on to classify English Roses as old rose hybrids, the
Leander group, English musk roses and Alba hybrids. Each of
these four categories has its own section with descriptions
and good photographs of some of the most successful:
Constance Spry, Chianti, Mary Rose, L.
D. Braithwaite (old rose hybrids), Abraham Darby, Golden
Celebration (Leander group), Graham Thomas, Molineux and The
Pilgrim (English musk). The fourth group, the Alba hybrids,
are yet to make an impact in this country and to my mind are
uninspiring, being mainly semi-doubles with weak perfume.
I share this view with some internationally renowned
rosarians, including Australians David Ruston and Dean
Stringer, who have criticised David Austin for releasing in
recent years too many roses that have failed to meet earlier
standards. An exception is Munstead Wood, released in New
Zealand this year. This is an outstanding dark red rose with
Missing from the line-up in the book are some roses that do
well here, such as Happy Child - one of Austin's best yellows
- The Prince and Dove. Production of these apparently has
been discontinued in England. To make the situation clearer,
a complete list of all the Austin roses, with an indication
of those no longer commercially available, would have added
to the book's interest.
However, this attractive hardback has plenty to keep Austin
fans happy and would make a very acceptable gift for a
Gillian Vine is a Dunedin garden writer.