The David Austin Roses exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show is one of the highlights of The Great Pavilion. It is the first destination for many rose enthusiast visitors: we all want to see the new introductions of the season. MyGardenSchool Tutor and rose expert Michael Marriott is the man every rose lover wants to speak to when they visit the exhibit. His eye for rose qualities is quite amazing so we asked Michael if he would share his views on RHS Chelsea 2014 and the new David Austin introductions with us.
Michael: We introduced three wonderful new varieties at Chelsea this year – Olivia Rose Austin, The Poet's Wife and The Lady of the Lake, the first two being classical English Roses with very beautiful, fully double, fragrant flowers while the third is a repeat flowering rambler.
Olivia Rose Austin has flowers of the most beautiful old rose formation and in a lovely soft shade of pink. The growth is relatively upright but still bushy and, crucially, it is extremely healthy, indeed the healthiest rose we have introduced so far. It is one of the first to start flowering at the start of the season and repeats very well through to late in the year. To crown it all it has a lovely fruity fragrance. It was named for David Austin’s granddaughter and so had to be a top quality variety! It looked superb at Chelsea, right up the last day when a few others were starting to look a bit tired.
It is over 10 years since we introduced a yellow variety and so very pleased to have one at last this year. The blooms of The Poet's Wife are an unfading strong yellow and, in form, a very well filled rosette. The fragrance is particularly strong and delicious- lemon at first, become sweeter with age. Unlike Olivia Rose Austin the growth is rather more rounded and not too tall, so an ideal rose for the front of the border or a small garden.
The Lady of the Lake is quite different from the other two, it is a repeat flowering rambler and so has relatively small flowers and quite flexible growth, but unlike most other ramblers it is not too vigorous reaching a height of perhaps 3 or 4m (10-12ft). The individual flowers are semi double and a soft pink that fades gradually with age giving a beautifully mixed effect. It would be excellent for growing up a trellis, over an arch, or onto a pergola. This was particularly popular at Chelsea trained against the wall behind the seats especially, after TV presenter Carol Klein featured it in one the BBC Chelsea programmes. Another of our repeat flowering ramblers - Malvern Hills looked very at home trained on the back wall of the garden.
What else looked good at Chelsea? The combination of Lady of Shalott and Benjamin Britten created a stir, the former a bright coppery apricot and the latter a fairly bright salmon pink. Kew Gardens in the central metal dish looked beautifully frothy on press day but by the end with many thousands of legs walking past was looking decidedly bedraggled.
We had some roses in large containers and many visitors remarked on those, there was the deep red Darcey Bussell, the richly fragrant salmon-pink Boscobel and as a climber with medium sized pink flowers and almost no thorns Mortimer Sackler. I didn’t think the Paul's Himalayan Musk on the entrance arch was going to last the week but in fact it did and had hardly changed by the end. It is a very vigorous rambler so not really suitable for an arch, but at least visitors were able to see the flowers at close quarters rather than way up into a tree which is where it is best encouraging it to grow.
Another major attraction in our garden was non horticultural although still a crucial part of enjoying a garden. It was the table set for tea and cakes; I'm amazed nobody was tempted to take a surreptitious bite!
It was altogether an excellent show for us where we won a gold medal and had so many complimentary comments from amateurs and professionals alike.
If you would like to learn more about roses and how to grow them to Show quality enrol on Michael Marriot’s 4 week online gardening course at MyGardenSchool. Courses start on the first Saturday of the month and you can have one to one contact with the Master in our virtual classroom. http://www.my-garden-school.com/course/david-austins-growing-roses/