David Austin at 91

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Most folks in their 90s are not, by def­i­ni­tion, fu­ture ori­ented. David Austin, the leg­endary English rose breeder, is an ex­cep­tion. At a time of life when most peo­ple are long re­tired, he is in­tro­duc­ing some of the best roses he has ever cre­ated — still driven by the prospect of even bet­ter roses yet to come.

Rose breed­ing is, at heart, a ro­man­tic quest to achieve a vi­sion of beauty. It is a process that de­mands pa­tience. Each year David Austin Roses in Al­brighton, Eng­land, in­tro­duces just two to four new English Roses, culled from a pool of ap­prox­i­mately 150,000 can­di­date seedlings that are se­lected and tri­aled over eight to 10 years.

The son of a Shrop­shire farmer, Mr. Austin was born on Fe­bru­ary 16, 1926. He fell in love with gar­den­ing as a boy. “Both of my par­ents loved read­ing in all its forms. One day at my school li­brary I hap­pened upon a mag­a­zine called Gar­dens Il­lus­trated. It was filled with ar­ti­cles about flow­ers. It was the first time I re­al­ized that, beyond their beauty, flow­ers had sto­ries too."

Later his sis­ter Bar­bara gave him a copy of the book “Old Gar­den Roses” by Ed­ward Bun­yard. He re­mem­bers that it was this book that prompted him to pur­chase his first rose. From a small gar­den plot given to him by his grand­mother, to his jour­ney- man years farm­ing with his fa­ther, to fi­nally be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful farmer him­self, he never lost his love of flow­ers, es­pe­cially roses.

His rose breed­ing jour­ney be­gan as a hobby. He was in­trigued by the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing some­thing new through the in­ter­play of man and na­ture with sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics. From the be­gin­ning, Austin sought to com­bine the charm and fra­grance of old world roses with the re­peat flow­er­ing and wide colour range of modern roses. He asked sim­ply, “Why can’t we have all the beauty and fra­grance of the clas­sic Old Roses com­bined with the best at­tributes of the modern hy­brids, in­clud­ing colour,

dis­ease-re­sis­tance and re­peat bloom from late spring through frost?”

Austin’s 1961 in­tro­duc­tion of ‘Con­stance Spry’ first brought him to the at­ten­tion of the rose world. Though still an am­a­teur, he’d cre­ated a new kind of rose that im­pressed rosar­i­ans and met most of his ini­tial goals, ex­cept re­peat-bloom. By the late six­ties, he was cre­at­ing roses with the at­tributes he prized in­clud­ing that of flow­er­ing more than once per sea­son. He felt ready to turn to breed­ing full time. In 1969 he opened the David Austin Roses nurs­ery de­voted to the breed­ing of what he now called “English Roses.” It was a mile­stone in a ca­reer that was to take him to the very pin­na­cle of the rose hy­bridiz­ing world.

To date, Mr. Austin and his team have in­tro­duced 234 English Roses. All are re­peat-bloom­ing, ex­cept ‘Con­stance Spry’. Over 60 years, David Austin has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the world of gar­den roses, set­ting in­creas­ingly higher stan­dards for rose breed­ing. Today, he con­tin­ues to guide a breed­ing op­er­a­tion that rides the cut­ting edge of what’s new and de­sir­able in gar­den roses world­wide.

Ar­ti­cle pro­vided by Sally Ferguson on be­half of David Austin Roses.

Mr David C H Austin and Ber­tie.

David Austin Rose 'Des­de­mona Auskin­dling'.

David Austin Rose 'The An­cient Mariner'.

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