The inspiration for the English Roses
David Austin started breeding roses over 50 years ago as an amateur rose breeder. Inspired by a book on old roses, he set out to try to combine the best characteristics of the old roses with the best of the new roses. In the 1960s, most people selling roses believed that his idea would never catch on, because the trend at that time was to breed new colours of hybrid tea roses. Hybrid tea roses are bred to be beautiful in the bud or on the show bench but lack the glorious many-petalled flower forms and fragrances of the old roses. There were complicated rules for pruning hybrid tea roses so that they could produce one perfect bloom for the show bench. This also meant that the shrubby growth habits of the old roses seemed less valuable to hybrid tea breeders.
David Austin believed that the development of the rose was in danger of going down the wrong track. He set out to breed roses more suitable to the needs of the gardener, which would be outstandingly beautiful, yet very easy to prune and care for. This meant going back to the wonderful shrubby habit of the old roses which made them perfectly at home in the mixed border or the traditional English cottage garden.
The flowers would have the cupped and rosette forms and heady fragrances of the old roses but would have the repeat flowering capability and wider colour range of modern roses.
Rose breeding often needs a little good fortune, and David Austin was fortunate to discover Constance Spry amongst his early seedlings. Although this rose is only once-flowering, it had many desirable characteristics and was very old rose in style. More and more new varieties came through the breeding programme until, by 1969, David Austin was convinced that his roses had something new and worthwhile to offer the gardener and rose lover.
As most other rose growers still had little interest in promoting his new roses, David Austin decided to start his own nursery to sell his English Roses direct to the public. Over forty years later, his roses are grown and loved by gardeners in every rose-growing nation in the world.
Today, David Austin Roses is dedicated to preserving a wide selection of old roses and wild roses, together with many of the earlier English Roses which have now been superceded by more recent varieties. In total, we maintain over 800 different roses in our mail order collection, all available as bare root roses for despatch from November to April. These include our most popular varieties, through to much rarer roses, grown in very limited quantities for specialist gardeners and collectors.
The different types of roses in our collection include climbing and rambling roses, modern shrub roses, ground cover roses and floribundas. We believe that we have a rose for every possible purpose.
The full collection of bare root roses is available to search online and all roses are listed in the 96 page Handbook of Roses, which is available free of charge on request.
Most of our customers buy their roses as bare roots. These are despatched from late autumn to spring, when they can easily be established in the garden. English Roses will normally flower well in their first season, although they will take two or three years to reach their full potential.
English Roses are healthy, vigorous shrub roses which are easy to establish and very forgiving if you are new to pruning. They appreciate plenty of water and good feeding to give them the energy to provide several flushes of bloom each season. David Austin's roses are best known for their beautiful many-petalled rosettes or cupped flower forms, although singles and semi-doubles are also available. They are renowned for the variety as well as the intensity of their fragrances.
If you have not grown English Roses before, it is difficult to overstate the adaptability of these lovely garden plants. Often when gardeners try them for the first time, they find themselves totally captivated. They are designed to work well in mixed borders, blending well with herbaceous perennials to create a charming traditional cottage garden effect. Modern designers are increasingly turning to English Roses to soften the edges of hard landscaping, to add fragrance, or to provide color over a long season.
We hope that you enjoy our site and will visit us again in the future.
Explore our rose collection
Learn more about David Austin's rose breeding programme