Winter Planning and Spring Planting with David Austin® Roses



Sandy Felton takes a look at what’s on offer from David Austin® Roses to tempt us in the garden next spring.

This year, David Austin Roses, published the 42nd edition of their beautifully illustrated Handbook of Roses. It’s one handbook I eagerly await as it is packed with some of the most sumptuous roses on the market as well as useful tips and advice. As the rain pours down outside during the winter, I sit with my handbook and make my decision for next year’s new planting.

David Austin claim that each of his new roses makes its own contribution to the diversity of his collection and that every English Rose has its own special character. Having grown them myself for the past couple of decades I have to agree that I have found nothing but delight in the beauty, vigour and reliability of the varieties I have chosen.

Rosa 'Lady of Shalott'Although all of the English Roses have good health, those introduced in the last eight or ten years have resistance in a very high degree. David Austin explains that some of the most reliable and hardy English Roses have been recent new varieties – the soft pink ‘Olivia Rose Austin’, the salmon-pink ‘Boscobel’, the pure white ‘Tranquillity’ and one of the most reliable and hardy, the rich apricot ‘Lady of Shalott’ (pictured left) have proved outstandingly successful.

In the Handbook of Roses, to help gardeners make their selections, David Austin marks his favourite varieties with a star symbol. The rose varieties are also grouped by type, i.e. English Roses, English Roses as climbers, Shrub Roses, Rambler etc. This makes the handbook easy to navigate and with each rose having a detailed description, the gardener can make their choice from an informed position.

Planting Advice:

Selecting the right position.

11.-Munstead-Wood-English Roses are unfussy plants but you will want to plant your new roses where their graceful flowers can be enjoyed to their best. Although they do like plenty of sun, as long as they get at least four hours of good sunlight a day, most varieties will do well. Certain varieties grow well in partial shade – the rich crimson ‘Darcey Bussell’, one of my favourites, is admired for its compact, bushy growth while ‘Charlotte’ one of the most beautiful of the yellow English Roses, is particularly good for mingling with other plants.

One rose which has given me great satisfaction this year has been ‘Munstead Wood’ (pictured right in a mixed border) which has flowered and flowered with its deliciously fruity old rose scent. I have placed this in a front narrow border and it has not disappointed.


Gertrude-Jekyll,Epilobium,-Geranium-'Brookside'When planting roses, make sure you enrich the soil in your planting area with plenty of organic matter, working the ground to a depth of at least 18” (30cm). Michael Marriott, David Austin Roses’ technical manager, says these simple guidelines will ensure strong growth: “Roses love lots of organic matter mixed into the soil, so it’s well worth picking up a few sacks of good quality soil improver.

“Of course, you can use garden compost, manure or green waste, but do make sure it is really well rotted otherwise it can contain weed seeds and may even take nitrogen out of the ground, which may do more harm than good.”  When planting in spring Michael recommends mixing 2oz (60g) of David Austin Rose Food into the soil. (pictured left above: Gertrude Jekyll)

Planting in groups of three:

English Roses look best when planted in groups of three or more of the same variety. Of course this may depend on space, but when planted in groups, they tend to form one dense shrub, which provides a more continuous display and makes a more definite statement. You can then prune them as one large bush – shorter at the edges and higher in the middle. When planting in groups of three or more, position plants about 18” (50cm) apart within the group and allow 3ft (1m) between plants of neighbouring varieties.

Planting Bare Root and container roses:

The-Poet's-Wife-(Auswhisper)-_13A9421It is best to plant bare root by the end of March making sure you do not allow the roots to dry out. Soak the root system well before planting if immediate planting is impossible and keep the roses in the sealed bag or box in a cold but frost free place. Alternatively, heel the roses in until ready to plant in required position.

The advantage of container roses is that they can be planted all year round as long as the soil around them is kept moist. Soak for at least 30 minutes before planting, allowing any excess water to drain away. (pictured right: The Poet’s Wife)

Dig a hole a little deeper than the length of the roots in your prepared planting position and then position the rose so the bud union is about 3” (7.5cm) below ground level. To get your roses off to the best possible start in the garden, sprinkle with the recommended quantity of David Austin’s Mycorrhizal Fungi over the wet roots, while holding them over the planting hole. Replace the mixed, excavated soil into the hole and firm well. I tend to do this with my shoe, but be careful not to damage your new tree if you do this.

Always water any newly planted rose well and afterwards keep an eye on it to ensure that it receives regular watering. Apply a generous layer of mulch which can be well-rotted manure, garden compost, garden chippings or other organic matter. The mulch will help prevent the water draining off.

I have planted both container roses and bare root roses and have success using both methods. Planting containerised roses is sometimes very useful because you may find yourself with a bare space in the garden, half-way through the growing season, which can accommodate a new rose. I have also found that the Mycorrhizal Fungi has been an enormous help in my garden and has really got my roses off to a good start. Using this, I have also planted roses in a bed where roses have been planted before and removed, and have never had a case of the so-called ‘rose-sickness’.

Gift ideas:

A look at the David Austin website will give you plenty of inspiration for gift ideas –

Olivia-Rose-Austin-The gift of a potted rose by post is always welcome and next day delivery is available for UK Mainland on all orders received by 2pm Monday to Friday. (pictured left: Olivia Rose Austin)

If you would like a free Handbook of Roses you can request your copy by logging onto their website or by calling 01902 376300.