A David Austin Rose Garden
This is the first year for this David Austin rose garden here in zone 10. Back in Spring 2022, I planted a rose garden from scratch and filled it with seven, carefully selected, David Austin English roses. I’ve always been mesmerized by more cupped, heavily layered, and fragrant roses, plus our backyard garden space was in need of a more permanent garden area that served both my flower-obsessed self and our pollinator friends. Naturally, my imagination just started to take off, and I followed.
My question for you is this: can this really be an “update” if I never wrote about the rose garden to begin with? I’m somewhat astonished that I shared so much of our our rose garden planning and planting stages in my Instagram stories, but never got around to writing about it for the blog! I’m flabbergasted honestly.
This blog post started as an entire breakdown of the process—from receiving the bare roots, to garden prep, to planting, etc.—but there was simply too much to say! Therefore, I’ve decided that two posts are best suited here. First, since many of you have been watching the rose garden grow on social media, I’ll review how our new David Austin roses have been growing here in zone 10 and how the rose garden is filling in. For a second, follow-up post, I’d like to write about how to care for bare root roses upon arrival, more details about prepping the space, etc. What would you like to know?
Update: my no-stress bare root planting guide is now posted! You can read how I planted these bare root roses after arrival (there’s a link to a short video too).
Selecting David Austin Roses for Zone 10
This post was not sponsored by David Austin, and I purchased everything myself. I’m simply a long-time fan of their roses! The main inspiration for our rose garden was to create a bright, sherbert-like (or is it sorbet?) color palette and mix in drought-tolerant perennials all around—-extra bonus points for pollinator friendly plants! As I’ve mentioned in Getting Started Growing Roses, I made use of cut-out pictures of roses from the catalogues to envision the whole color scheme together. After much deliberation on which roses to choose (thanks to my online garden community for their help and input), I settled on seven David Austin roses for zone 10. Some of the top considerations for my rose choices were: color, climate-preferences (zone 10b), and growth habit:
The roses I chose were:
Princess Alexandra of Kent (PAOK)
Some of these choices, such as Carding Mill, were selected because other Southern California rose growers raved about their tolerance for our climate. On the other hand, I threw in Benjamin Britten solely because I found this rose quite mysterious. Many gardeners say the color is impossible to photograph, it’s incredibly thorny, and it’s simply not a very popular rose. Of course, I felt I had to experience this one for myself!
Filling in around the roses
Our David Austin roses are planted with a selection of drought tolerant perennials for zone 10. For the perennials, I went with a pre-planned garden—have you heard of them? Companies sell a garden layout (often created by a landscape designer) along with the plants to create that garden. Again, not sponsored, but I purchased a pre-planned garden, called the “soft colors inferno,” from High Country Gardens. Below is what their package included:
The small garden covers 30 square feet (3’ x 10’) and includes 18 plants:
1 x Caradonna Salvia
3 x Walker’s Deep Blue Nepeta
2 x Seafoam Artemisia *mine was ‘powis castle’ artemisia, so it appears it has changed
2 x Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe)
2 x Fragrant Persian Stonecress (Aethionema)
2 x Agastache neomexicana
2 x Firewitch Dianthus
2 x Rocky Mountain Penstemon
2 x Blue Woolly Veronica
You might be wondering how the we planned to water plants with different watering needs? Roses and drought-tolerant perennials obviously don’t require the same amount of water, so we devised a system where the roses are on one loop of irrigation tubing, and the drought tolerant perennials are on a different loop. Moreover, both loops have a toggle switch that allows me to turn it off….so the drought tolerant plants usually stay “off” while the roses run more consistently.
No Garden is Without Problems
Oh, I’ve run into my fair share of problems with this space, and it’s only fair to share them before jumping right into the “good stuff” right?
Because our rose garden is an irregular shape, I didn’t use the professional planting layout from High Country Gardens. Instead, I looked at the plants’ mature height specifications and decided to wing it! Unfortunately, this resulted in a) some issues with plants shading out other plants b) some color imbalances where the color palette doesn’t feel properly spread out and c) there weren’t enough plants to cover my entire space. PS: the “large size” pre-planned garden wasn’t recommended for zone 10 due to an aggressive plant.
This was all gardener error, but it’s nothing that has “ruined” the garden, nor is it completely permanent. For example, the artemisia grew so insanely large, that they shaded out a dianthus, woolly veronica, and stonecress. With transplanting, I was able to save the dianthus and stonecress, but it was too late for one of the woolly veronica specimens! A sad reminder that plant. spacing. matters.
My second issue with this garden was the Nepeta ‘walkers deep blue’ also known as catmint. Does catmint attract cats? This has always been debated in gardening forums, so I figured I’d just see for myself. I can confirm that one of my catmint plants succumbed to a death by trampling—because one cat continuously would roll on it at night. A second catmint died due to my carelessness, and now I’m left with one. It’s quite gorgeous, albeit possibly troublesome. I’ve yet to conclude unanimously that cats are attracted to catmint, as I’m more inclined to think it’s based on individual cat preferences—some like it and some don’t.
As many gardeners could probably confirm, there were other issues—there always are—but overall, my biggest problem was the space was too big for the number of plants I had. Later in the Summer I added some yarrow, culinary thyme, tarragon, geranium, and sprinkled some of my favorite self sowing flower seeds throughout the space. Next season, I’ll re-assess the filler flowers to see what is working and what isn’t.
How are the David Austin roses growing?
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff! Here’s a little rundown on each David Austin rose in this new zone 10 garden space. Update: It’s 2023 now and I did a full rose garden tour if you’d like to see the progress. Watch my rose garden tour on YouTube.
If any rose islike a perfect little raspberry cupcake, it’s The Alnwick. What impressed me the most was how not-awkward the first year blooms are on this rose. The Alnwick has put off the prettiest cupped blooms all season! Definitely an impressive and romantic rose for bouquets. It took me a while to pinpoint the fragrance of the Alnwick because it’s very light to me (could be a maturity thing) but one garden friend pointed out it’s kind of like fresh raspberries—-I’m inclined to agree. Additionally, this rose has grown very upright and stayed manageable in size.
Desdemona. Now, if you ever told me that Desdemona would end up being one of my favorite roses, I would have been surprised! It’s not that Desdemona is necessarily more gorgeous in appearance or petal-count. I think there’s just something about Desdemona’s delicate appearance, yet unexpected strong fragrance, that just makes it endearing! Having grown up where iceberg roses are used pretty much everywhere for landscaping, I was kind of worried I’d end up finding Desdemona too similar and kind of boring. But let me tell you, Desdemona is deliciously fragrant and at times presents the softest blush color that is so romantic. A definite winner for me!
Carding Mill is one rose I purchased mainly because it is rumored to be exceptional for zone 10b. Also, I already have a Lady of Shalott in the front yard, but needed an orange-toned rose to complete the sherbert palette in the rose garden. Carding Mill is indeed pretty and growing well for me. The size is not overhwhelming and the bush seems tidy. I’m happy with it’s color with the rest of the roses, but there’s nothing that’s really WOW’ed me yet about it. Care to convince me?
Maybe I was a little over zealous with the ‘Golden Celebration.’ After an overhwhelming majority of fellow gardeners warned me this was a monster David Austin here in zone 10b, I was pretty aggressive with the shaping and disbudding of this rose, resulting in not may blooms. Regardless, I can absolutely see where Golden Celebration gets it’s reputation for being a monster of a plant. The plan is to find a cute obelisk or structure to support this one. Lastly, I must tell you how incredible ‘Golden Celebration’ smells. It has an exceptionally strong tea fragrance.
Since we are on the topic of HUGE roses, let me introduce ‘ ‘Benjamin Britten’. The ‘Benjamin Britten’ rose is outpacing the ‘Golden Celebration.’ This first year it has grown to about four and a half feet tall! There’s very little written on Benjamin Britten, but I can tell you that it is the thorniest rose I have in the whole garden. In fact, with it’s size and thorns, I’m confident it was the right decision to place it in the back of the garden. There isn’t much frgrance to note, but the blooms are a thrilling watermelon, neon-at-times, reddish pink. There’s a reason that David Austin’s catalogue has the term “glowing” in the description.
Of the seven roses I purchased this year, there’s a mix of structures—-from cupped to rosette—and Boscobel is turning out to be a very nice addition in terms of structure. It is very cupped, blossiming into a full rosette. I LOVE the more coral pink coloration, which is very obvious when next to the orange-leaning Carding Mill. It’s a beauty!
And lastly, we have Princess Alexandra of Kent. Sadly, this plant has not had the easiest debut due to gardener error. I had placed two artemisia on either side of it in the garden, and the artemisia immediately grew into gigantic bushes which gave the PAOK rose a case of powdery mildew and lack of light! Since the powdery mildew was due to lack of airflow, I chopped back the surrounding shrubs to give PAOK some air. Additionally, I removed the most infected powdery mildew leaves, and did a DIY powdery mildew treatment (there’s a whole deal to that, so let me know if you’re interested in learning more). Fortunately, the end of Summer brought some healthy new growth and we also have some buds. I can indeed vouch for the stunning fragrance of this rose, so I am really happy that it has recovered.
A blooming friendship
As I was planting this rose garden, a fun fact popped up in my mind: some rose plants can live as long as people. Isn’t that strangely comforting, like a friendship? Somehow, knowing that this year was only a tiny sample of the growth, bouquets, and fragrant Summers to come, feels like meeting new friends! I feel as if I’ve just started to learn the personalities of all these roses! Many of you planted your first (or new additions) roses this year with me. How are they doing? Did you enjoy watching them grow this year?
Don’t forget, you can now read my No-Stress Bare Root Planting Guide for what to do when your bare root roses arrive!