My struggles with roses have entered their final phase: reconciliation. After getting rid of all the boring Meidiland shrubs that came with the house (though for their kind, they were nice enough), I experimented with a few old rose cultivars as well as some Carefree varieties. Nothing really thrived and the Carefrees took up too much space. The one hybrid tea I had was a ridiculous blackspot magnet, and I dug it out early on. I kept a couple David Austins—Abraham Darby (above) and Charlotte, a couple climbers, and one or two others.
But then I was sent two new David Austin varieties: Darcy Bussell and Lady Emma Hamilton. These started blooming almost as soon as I put them in the ground, and, aside for the 5 months between December and May, they haven’t stopped. There is no breather between flushes of blooms and they remain healthy without any spraying or other treatments—which I stopped doing years ago.
The things other people don’t like about David Austins make them perfect for me. Yes, they are lanky; all of them seem to aspire to be climbers. But verticality is perfect for me. A full, bushy rose takes up too much space on my property. Their lankiness makes it easy to fit in other plants around them or even train plants to climb around them, such as clematis or even an out-of-control buddleia. All my DA roses bloom more or less continuously, earning their keep in a small garden. They all have wonderful fragrance and big, full blooms. I won’t tolerate a scentless rose.
Just don’t pay any attention to the height specs on the label. The Darcy Bussell is supposed to get to 3 feet. Ha. Mine is 5-plus—so far. I like roses to surprise me, which is why all the boring, easy-care, non-stoppers (if you don’t mind the ugly flowers) have no place in my garden.