A Tribute to David Austin & His Exquisite English Roses

Late last year, on Dec. 18th, David C. H. Austin, Sr., the legendary English rosarian and founder of David Austin® Roses Ltd., passed away at the age of 92. According to representatives, he died peacefully at his home in Shropshire surrounded by his family, an end befitting a man who brought so much beauty and wonder to the lives of others.

Rose hybridizer and writer David C. H. Austin founded David Austin Roses in 1969 in Shropshire, England. The Austin nursery, display gardens and plant center in the village of Albrighton draw visitors from around the globe.

Born in 1926 and raised on a family farm in the Shropshire countryside, Austin’s interest in flowers blossomed early. As the story goes, he was just a schoolboy when he found in the school library an issue of the great garden magazine Gardens Illustrated. What he saw on the pages ignited a passion that would last a lifetime. Austin’s father, a farmer, did not initially approve of his son’s interest in breeding flowers, but when the younger Austin turned 21, his sister gifted him with a copy of A.E. Bunyard’s book, Old Garden Roses. The rest, as they say, is history. Austin devoted his adult life to breeding what eventually became known as “English Roses.” His groundbreaking varieties combine the beauty and fragrance of classic varieties with the diversity of color and repeat-flowering habit of newer Roses. Austin eventually achieved worldwide success, but it did not come overnight. Austin’s first rose, introduced in 1961, was ‘Constance Spry.’ Industry professionals told him buyers would never be interested in what they called his “old-fashioned roses,” but Austin persisted, initially selling stock from his own kitchen table. By 1969, he had developed and was offering repeat-bloomers. But his real breakthrough came in 1983, when he introduced three of his English Roses at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Back at Chelsea the following year, Austin won the first of many gold medals. With a subsequent increase in sales, Austin was able to upgrade and expand his business and also his garden at Albrighton, which today is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Rose gardens in the world.

The Austin gardens in Albrighton, England. The photo was taken in 2018 by White Flower Farm’s Eliot Wadsworth.

To best understand the patience, perseverance and wonder of what Austin accomplished in his lifetime, it helps to know that from pollination to sale, the process of creating a new Rose takes nine years. For each new Rose released, roughly 120,000 unique Roses are grown for research.

Rose Olivia Rose Austin™: Any Rose named for a member of David Austin’s family must be exceptional, and this lovely Shrub Rose is certainly that. Cupped, double blossoms of blush pink expand into old-fashioned rosettes that pale to pearly pink at their edges. They carry a rich perfume with sweet fruity notes.

Austin has 240 Rose varieties to his name. Although he was awarded countless honors during his lifetime, he has been quoted as saying that his greatest satisfaction was “to see the pleasure my roses give to gardeners and rose lovers around the world.”

Rose Claire Austin™: This intensely fragrant, double-flowering beauty is named for David Austin’s daughter. The shrub and its flowers are an elegant presence in any garden. Plants have an arching form that makes them well suited for use as small climbers.

At White Flower Farm, we are honored and privileged to have worked with David Austin’s company over many years. We are delighted that David Austin® Roses Ltd. and its remarkable breeding program will continue under the guidance of Austin’s eldest son, David J.C. Austin, who has been with the company since 1990 and who assumed the role of managing director in 1993, and David Austin’s grandson, Richard Austin. We look forward to doing our part to perpetuate David Austin’s remarkable legacy and to encourage the enjoyment of his exceptional Roses.

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