The whole rose world has been saddened by the passing of David Austin Senior on December 18th 2018 aged 92 years. He had a vision to combine the beauty and shrubby growth of old world roses with the repeat-flowering abilities and the much wider colour palette of modern roses. He set about to make this dream a reality and the resultant ‘English Roses’ were exquisite in their bloom form, uniquely fragranced and their shrubby growth habit made them garden roses like no other. And he named them after literary and historical figures, gardeners, artists and treasured family and friends added a whole new level of charm to the roses. The David Austin roses set themselves apart from other roses in so many glorious ways. There are roses and then there are David Austin roses.
My first David Austin rose was a prize in a raffle at the very first meeting I ever attended at the Rose Society of Victoria. Talk about beginner’s luck. It was Jude the Obscure, soft yellow, large deeply cupped and incurving blooms filled with numerous small petals and the fragrance of a sweet white wine. I was enchanted. My second David Austin rose Munstead Wood was dark crimson and delighted with a fragrance of Old Rose, blackberry, blueberry and damson. Sophy’s Rose came next, also a prize, it’s crimson pink rosette flower were almost peony-like. Tranquillity was my first-bare-rooted David Austin rose and it took two seasons to get established into the magnificent floriferous shrub it is today, with perfect long-lasting rosettes which are tinged yellow and become pure white and a light apple fragrance. Winchester Cathedral a pure white sport of the favourite Mary Rose with the same distinctive fragrance and Pretty Jessica, a compact shrub with perfectly formed blooms of a rich warm pink with a fragrance reminiscent of strawberry cordial were both given to me by a rose-loving friend. I acquired The Prioress at a budding demonstration at the Rose Society and was thrilled to watch this rose develop into a vigorous upright shrub with blush buds opening into semi-double blooms with large yellow stamens adored by bees. The peachy pink A Shropshire Lad and the dusky pink with a tinge of yellow Jubilee Celebration complete my collection for now.
I will admit I was intimidated by the complexity of the David Austin roses before I started painting them. The first David Austin rose I painted was coincidentally the first rose introduced by David Austin, Constance Spry (pictured top of page). As far as experiences go, there is painting roses and then there is painting David Austin roses. You enter another world when you focus on the interior of a David Austin rose. I discovered there is a perfect moment in the opening of one of these exquisite blooms before the rose divides into what seems likes hundreds of petals and I was delighted to capture Olivia Rose Austin (pictured above), the pale pink rose named after David Austin’s granddaughter, just at this perfect moment. And named after the most famous painter of roses of all time, Redoute, was the third rose in this series that I painted (pictured below).
Sincerest condolences to David Austin Senior’s family and colleagues and deepest gratitude for the legacy of a life well spent steadfastly following a vision to create beautiful roses in flower, leaf, growth habit and fragrance.