I still remember the moment I received an email last December from rose breeder David Austin’s family and learned that Austin had just passed away peacefully in his home at age 92.
A rose expert, Austin is to thank for bringing beauty to gardens worldwide. He bred more than 200 modern roses and is internationally known for his new types of fragrant, full-bodied English modern roses. He was named a “Great Rosarian of the World” in 2010.
It is no surprise that Austin developed a wide color range of these charming roses. They are all beautiful and stunning; however, this column particularly commemorates one of his roses: the Wollerton Old Hall rose.
Wollerton Old Hall, named after one of the most beautiful private gardens in Shropshire, England, was designed and developed by Lesley and John Jenkins in 1984. It is a large upright bushy shrub with long canes, so it needs bigger spaces to bush out.
This rose was first introduced to be a part of Austin’s shrub collection in 2011. Later, however, it was sold as a climber. Its canes can reach 8-12 feet tall. The best location for the Old Hall rose is near a wall or corner because its growth habit appears messy. You can even cut its flowers in extra branches and put them in a vase to make a stunning bouquet.
Wollerton Old Hall rose flowers are cupped blooms with a delicious fragrance, and have 45 petals. In fact, they are one of the most fragrant of all English roses, but still, I find their smell to be very mild. In my garden, they offer a little warm distinctive myrrh scent with a citrus element.
The colors are complex and depend on the temperatures; sometimes they are a soft peach cream, but other times they are a buttery yellow. In a vase, the chalice-shaped blooms of soft apricot/yellow fade a bit and become a softer cream, and last very well.
If you are new to rose growing, the Wollerton Old Hall is the one for you. It is easy to grow and disease resistant. The Old Hall rose is perfect for hot California summers. With few thorns, the plant is always green and shining, with no black spots or powdery mildew.
Wollerton Old Hall roses are repeat flowers that bloom throughout the season. You can make many bouquets with these cluster-cupped, puffy, charming flowers. In short, if you love modern roses, you must have one of David Austin’s roses.
Michelle Isaac is a gardener in Los Altos. For more information, email [email protected].
Julia Isaac contributed to this column.