Profiles of 2017 English Rose Intros for the U.S. and Canada
by Sally Ferguson
January 16, 2017

In spring 2017, David Austin Roses brings American and Canadian gardeners two new English Roses: ‘Desdemona’ and ‘The Ancient Mariner’. Both are beautifully-shaped shrub roses that bloom profusely, pumping out masses of fragrant flowers from late spring through frost.

Following are descriptions of the 2017 North American introductions from Michael Marriott, Austin’s technical director and senior rosarian. For more on these and the 114 English Rose varieties available in North America, see The new varieties are available for Spring 2017 by mail order as bare root stock. In Spring 2018 they will also become available at select garden centers across the U.S. and Canada.

English Rose ‘Desdemona’ is a quietly powerful charmer, according to Marriott. “With its upright rounded bush awash with sprays of voluptuous white roses this variety is equally valuable as a statement plant or as a color foil to heighten the impact of other shrubs and plants,” he said. “In garden design, the color white makes other colors pop. White also reinforces depth of field and separates colors that might otherwise clash.”

‘Desdemona’ is expected to be every bit as strong a garden performer as Austin’s break-through 2016 introduction ‘Olivia Rose Austin’. In trials, the new rose has done well in a broad range of growing conditions, including both hot/humid and hot/dry conditions. Its fragrance is strong and complex. Austin’s professional “rose nose” Robert Calkin describes the scent as “Old Rose and almond blossom with hints of lemon zest and cucumber.” Marriott considers ‘Desdemona’ to be Austin’s best white English Rose to date, surpassing even ‘Claire Austin’ and ‘Winchester Cathedral’ for quick repeat-bloom. “White roses are quite tricky to breed successfully,” he said. “For Mr. Austin, the goal is to always to achieve the most pristine white in a beautiful, fragrant, Austin-style flower that holds up to rain without browning and has petals that fall cleanly away after bloom. All this, plus it must present the heady fragrance, lovely bush and extraordinary good health that Austin's English Roses are known for. "

The deeply-cupped, chalice-shaped flowers of ‘Desdemona’ are classic Austin with incurved petals that capture an intriguing interplay of light and shadow within the bloom. The gently-nodding flowers are borne in multi-flower clusters. With up to 25 flowers in various stages of bloom, each cluster will feature a mix of flower colors and forms, from opening buds of pale peachy-pink to young white flowers brushed with blush pink, to mature pure white, fully-open blooms.

As a cut flower, just one cluster in a vase offers satisfying variety. Details: Repeat-blooms very quickly all season. Exceptionally long bloom season, begins flowering two- to three-weeks earlier than most roses. White flower with early hints of pale blush pink. Fragrance is Old Rose and almond blossom with hints of lemon zest and cucumber. Medium-sized flower, 3-inches across with 50 petals. A compact bushy shrub with a tidy rounded shape and glossy, dark green leaves. Grows 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Excellent in garden or container. It is an Austin Musk Hybrid, as are ‘Tranquillity’, ‘Scepter’d Isle’, and ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 10.

Naming notes: Desdemona is the tragic heroine of William Shakespeare’s play, Othello. (David Austin 2015, Auskindling).

‘The Ancient Mariner’ is a taller English Rose that is beautifully suited for use as a vertical accent for the middle or back of a border or as a larger shrub rose for landscape beds. It’s a statuesque beauty that carries its masses of big, buxom flowers high on the bush, where their strong myrrh fragrance perfumes the surrounding area. The upward-facing, cupped flowers are densely packed with as many as 160 petals per flower in early season, and 60 to 100 petals later. The color is a rich glowing pink that seems deeper pink at the center and paler towards the edges. In fact, all the petals are the same shade of pink. The deeper pink at the center is a result of shadowing by the cupped petals and petal density.

The paler color is due to sunlight catching in the outer ring of reflexed petals, just one petal deep. The resultant halo effect is one that Mr. Austin finds particularly lovely. Over time, in the heart of each open bloom, a cluster of golden stamens is revealed. Though large, the flowers stand up to rain, holding their shape. After bloom, the spent petals fall cleanly away.

This is a very healthy and vigorous rose that is expected to fare well in cool, warm and hot growing conditions, including hot/dry and hot/humid areas. It will quickly form a handsome, bushy, upright shrub with shiny leaves, smooth stems with few thorns. Larger than most English Roses, it could become significantly larger where growing seasons are long and warm.

Details: Repeat-flowering. Warm glowing pink flowers. Strong warm myrrh fragrance. Flower size is 4- to 4.5-inches across. Bush grows 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide, larger in warmer areas. It is an Austin Leander Hybrid, as are ‘Olivia Rose Austin’, ‘Lady of Shalott’ and ‘Golden Celebration’. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 10.

Naming notes: The name ‘The Ancient Mariner’ was inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. (David Austin 2015, Ausoutcry).

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