Thursday, December 08, 2011

My First David Austin Rose

I had a little thrill this morning when I saw that my first David Austin rose has finally arrived. I bought it for myself of course, and it's not a bunch of cut flowers that will only last for a few days but rather a bare root plant that can be planted out as soon as possible.

One extra thing that I liked about this new arrival is the packaging. I'm so used to receiving packages of plants on a regular basis, but instead of the usual functional brown cardboard box or jiffy bags unceremoniously wrapped with tons of tape and packing material, what arrived is a recyclable brown bag printed with intricate patterns and sealed with stitches. It looked more like I just bought a plant from a fancy flower shop down Marylebone Road rather than a muddy nursery somewhere in the countryside. So civilised!

Okay, I'm milking it now. There's some light humour going on behind this particular order and I'm basking on such a twee delight.

For those not in the know, there's a little bit of banter going on amongst exotic gardening enthusiasts that, if you want to quit exotic gardening or embody the complete antithesis of it then you must start buying roses and have a quintessential English Rose garden.

I must confess I do like roses, and just because we don't grow several in our garden (we only have one prior to this purchase) doesn't mean that I don't appreciate them, nor a style of garden that consists mostly of them. (And if you at least appreciate them like I do check out Holley's lovely blog here ).

My first impulse whenever I walk in a rose garden and/or see a rose flower is to smell it and bask in it's beautiful scent (and feel a little disappointment when a rose I just sniffed turns out to be unscented). And the experience of being in a well kept rose garden in the middle of summer, surrounded by thousands of blooms is magical and unforgettable (A rose garden in Warwickshire we visited a few years ago springs to mind).

'A rose in an exotic garden I hear you say?'

'Yes and well, why not?' I'd say! Roses have been cultivated in England for hundreds of years  to the point that it is already well ingrained into its culture and history (The English Rose, The War of the Roses, etc) and is synonymous to being English. Not to mention that all 'classically English' styles of gardening and gardens (Cottage, Rose, Knot, Formal, etc.) have roses as an essential, if not the main ingredient to the planting scheme. Hence, a rose is considered to be 'not so exotic'.

In reality though, most of these roses we see now are not exactly 'natives'. They have been introduced here through the years from various different locations around the world, cultivated, and adapted to the local conditions and tastes of local gardeners. So in essence, most of these roses are actually 'exotics' too.

Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha (photo from
But before I get carried away waffling on, I must go back to this particular rose I just bought from David Austin. I first saw the plant Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha (or rather bought to my conscious attention) when it was featured on Loree's fabulous blog a few weeks ago. Photos of those  gorgeous, bright red thorns glistening under the sunlight with it's dainty, ferny foliage was too much to resist and I had to add it to my 'wishlist'. Upon further research I found out that this particular rose is originally from China (so yes, it is technically an 'exotic' plant), introduced in the UK during the Victorian era and has been in cultivation here ever since. How could I miss it after all this time?

Photo from
The answer is, maybe because it is a rose after all. I tend not to wander around the rose section of various garden centres we've visited in the past, hence the most plausible reason why I've missed it until recently. One of the many lessons I've learned with this exotic gardening lark is to not bypass nor dismiss a plant just because they belong to a group that is generally regarded as 'non exotic', like Cornus, Aesculus, Impatiens, etc., when these genus' are so diverse that you can find species and cultivars of it introduced from all over the world. I just need to make a conscious thought to include the genus Rosa in this group from now on.

Photo from
And funny how some plants get to capture your attention if they are highlighted by somebody else, and photographed in a setting that is not normally associated with such plants. That's what exactly happened, Loree blogged about it, shown a photo of it planted beside traditionally 'exotic' plants, and presto, it's bagged a fan in me!

Now, as I've found out that this particular rose can be bought readily from most garden centres, I've opted to buy the named variety Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha 'Red Wing' (whew! what a name!) instead, also available at David Austin. Why pay the p&p for the usual type if I can pick it up from somewhere nearby? At least it gives me an onus to visit our nearest garden centre and browse at their rose section

Rosa sericea 'Red Wing' (Photo from
This particular variety is supposed to have more thorns and are brighter red in colour compared to the usual form. All I need to do now is to acquire the other one and compare them myself in the spring. And I'm so looking forward to finding out!

And so, back to David Austin, will this be my first and last rose from them? I'm keeping an open mind so probably not :-)



  1. more thorns ! how delightful... it'll take more than the amazing display of reddening stems you're showing to persuade me, I'm afraid ! Nice to read your passionate plant hunt !

  2. Love the thorns on that rose. I have a soft spot for roses too - though the main problem I find with mixing roses and exotics is horticultural rather than aesthetic; roses just don't seem to like being crowded in by huge leaves in my garden.
    However, I have had good results with a David Austin climbing rose, Golden Celebration, which has lovely rich yellow flowers. It combines well with orange and blue, so it looks good with agapanthus and cannas. And because it's a climber, it's not sprawling incongruously in the middle of everything else.

  3. Wowza, that's definitely not your ordinary rose. I've never seen one with thorns that substantial and red. I actually think that by adding a rose, considered non-exotic by many, you emphasize how exotic your garden really is!

    :: Bamboo and More ::

  4. Now that is one thorny looking Rose, but I'm sure it will be a beauty once blooming next year. I say it's only the start for more.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  5. Believe me you couldn't be anymore surprised that you've bought a Rose than I was when I bought mine, of course it helped that I got it at the coolest nursery in town (Cistus). I can't wait to see how your Rose looks and may have just put me on the path of acquiring a second, if indeed your thorns turn out to be brighter and more numerous!

  6. First, let me thank you for the mention! And second, let me congratulate you on getting into growing roses! Notice I said roseS! hahaha That's because they're like potato chips - you can't have just one. Love the rose you chose!!! Wow -I don't know this rose and I love the looks of those potentially deadly thorns! They look deadly, anyway, all blood red and big! Good luck pruning that baby! ;)

  7. My David Austin catalogue is languishing at the bottom of my knapsack. Thanks for the reminder - I've got half a dozen to order. I have bought bare-rooted from them before and you're right, there is something very special and exciting about the packaging!

  8. Hahah I also read that post on Loree's blog and I also have added it to my wish list. What an amazing specimen, it stands in a unique spot of it's own in the rose catagory. I will also be on the lookout. :)

  9. Thanks Celine! I should have also highlighted the flowers but it's true that the thorns and the foliage did it for me :) Fortunately plant hunting isn't so difficult now thanks to the net.

    Glad to know you also like those thorns Victoria! Maybe it's not just your garden but generally they don't like being crowded? A handy thing to keep in mind as I haven't decided yet where to plant this beauty. Thanks for the rose recommendation, I've had a look at the Golden Celebration and it looks great! So far I have two roses now on my wishlist, this included :)

    Gerhard, I'm not surprised you like this one :) And I agree that by adding a rose/roses to an exotic garden you emphasise the 'exoticness' even more. Looking forward to seeing you blog about this rose too very soon...

    Cher, that made me laugh, I'll try to restrain myself. Ok, maybe a few more won't hurt, lol!

    Loree, we seem to be on same wavelength when it comes to plants so I'm not surprised that you were as astonished as I am with this purchase. I so would love to visit Cistus someday!

    You're welcome Holley! How could I talk about roses and not mention your blog too? :) So far I have two roses already on my list, it just might grow even more..

    David, thanks for the mention about the catalogue! Now I think that's a handy thing to have (must make that request...) :)

    Nat, Loree's such an influence isn't she? Hope you get hold of one soon too!

  10. Hi,

    I have a lot of roses here; most were here when we moved in so I've actually no idea what they are. I'm slowly building up my David Austin collection though, mainly because I like my roses to be a)scented and b)thorny, the thornier the better and most of ours are nondescript hybrid tea roses with no perfume.
    So far the best has to be 'Harlow Carr' and then 'Susan-Williams Ellis' but I do have my eye on some others too!
    I hope yours does well for you :)

  11. Well, I didn't exactly expect to see you with a bed of David Austins generation of English Roses, but I have to admit this one is pretty novel. I do share your attitude, yes we can truly appreciate garden styles and plants which we ourselves may not have or grow. I will look forward to visiting alternative eden next year, especially to see how you are getting on with the pond.

  12. Now, both you and Loree have me wanting a rose. It certainly looks unique and those blood red thorns are fantastic. Something new to add to my must chase list.

  13. Thanks Gwirrel! Same here, I prefer my roses thorny and scented. And thanks for the recommendations, will look them up! :)

    Alistair, no intention indeed to have lots of roses in the garden, just a few! Enjoy the holidays, looking forward to seeing you again next year :)

    Bom, glad you like it, it's a gorgeous plant! :)

  14. Love the unique, never see it before. Thanks for sharing. I like rose too...but so difficult to maintain i my environment here...too dry and hot. I wish can visit your garden day ;)

  15. Hi Mark, that certainly is a lovely rose, and it doesn't include the flower yet. I remember when i was a kid my mother still have some roses, maybe you are familiar with those we have here in the country. I even have shares of wounds from its thorns, but when i look now at your David Austin, it is really scary. It is even colored red to foreshadow what will happen to you if you're not careful. Today, my mother still has a rose, i don't know where it came from but it is thorn-less! I will wait for the progress of your prized possession.


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