Documents: Latest From: Art Drysdale:

English Roses ‘Roald Dahl’, ‘Imogen’ and ‘Bathsheba’

2018 Intros for U.S. and Canada
by Sally Ferguson
February 18, 2018

In Spring 2018, David Austin Roses expands its North American offering with three new English Roses: ‘Roald Dahl’, ‘Imogen’ and ‘Bathsheba’. The new varieties will be available as bare root stock sold online and by mail order in Spring 2018, with shipping January through mid-May. In Spring 2019 these new varieties also become available in nursery pots at fine garden centers across the U.S. and Canada where David Austin roses are sold.

Following are detailed descriptions of the 2018 North American introductions provided by Michael Marriott, technical director and senior rosarian of David Austin Roses in Albrighton, England. For more on these and on the full collection of 116 English Rose varieties now available to North American gardeners, see

English Rose ‘Roald Dahl’ is considered a break-through rose by the hybridizing team behind David Austin’s heralded breeding program. According to Marriott, “’Roald Dahl’ builds on the strengths of two exceptional recent introductions -- ‘Desdemona’ and ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ -- taking their impressive levels of quick repeat bloom and disease-resistance yet a step further. Initial trials suggest that it should thrive in a wide range of different U.S. and Canadian growing conditions, including hot/humid and hot/dry conditions."

The new rose is an indefatigable bloomer. “’Roald Dahl’ blooms its heart out from late spring till well into autumn, with just the slightest pause to catch its breath in mid-summer during peak heat,” says Marriott. The flower color is perfectly peach, a shade considered particularly useful in garden design. “Peach and apricot flowers are incredibly versatile in the garden,” says Marriott. “They mix well with flowers of nearly all colors -- even strong pink and strong yellow – and are especially beautiful in combination with blue and purple flowers or plants with purple-bronze foliage."

'Roald Dahl' features the heady fragrance and intricate flower form found in the Old Roses so loved by David Austin. The fragrance is a medium-strong Tea with leafy elements and dark fruit notes. The flower is a cupped rosette ringed by soft outer petals that seem to glow when backlit by sunlight. The resulting halo-effect is a signature trait seen only in Austin's English Roses, Marriott says. The bush is upright and full at the base, giving it a beautiful rounded silhouette in the garden. It blooms from the ground up, with the flowers nicely displayed above the foliage. “The leaves are beautiful but tough, a bit leathery like those of ‘Olivia Rose Austin’", says Marriott. “This is another trait that Mr. Austin selects for in breeding and one reason why the new varieties are so incredibly healthy.”

Details: ‘Roald Dahl’ delivers an exceptionally long bloom season, running from late spring through frost. It repeat-blooms so quickly that the bush is nearly always in flower. Its robust flowers are medium-sized, 3-inches across, with approximately 55 petals each. It has few thorns. Soft orange-red buds open to cupped rosettes of perfect peach coloring. The bush is upright with a rounded shape and glossy, dark green leaves with an olive-green cast that are especially appealing with peach-colored flowers.

The medium strong Tea fragrance has subtle leafy elements reminiscent of fresh mown grass, with dark fruit notes including hints of blackberry, damson, blueberries and plum. Grows 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Excellent in garden or container. It is an English Musk Hybrid, as are English Roses ‘Desdemona’, ‘Queen of Sweden’ and ‘Graham Thomas’. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. (David Austin 2016, Ausowlish)

Naming notes: Named in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of British author Roald Dahl. In 1961 Dahl published James and the Giant Peach, his first children’s book. That same year David Austin introduced the first English Rose, ‘Constance Spry’.

English Rose ‘Imogen’ is a fresh-faced beauty with a rare and desirable characteristic: a classic button eye. “The button eye comes from true Old Roses, especially antique Gallica and Damask roses," says Marriott. "Few modern roses have it. In the English Roses, you see it in ‘Munstead Wood’ and ‘Port Sunlight’ – and now ‘Imogen’.”

The soft lemon yellow flowers of 'Imogen' are exceedingly pretty. The blooms begin as pointed buds that become more rounded as they open. The fully open blooms are quite distinctive, with abundant, delicately frilled petals. Over time, the dense petals soften in color from lemon to nearly cream. Throughout, the color retains its clarity with no hint of green. The fragrance is light to medium in strength with hints of fresh apple. “’Imogen is ideal for an informal perennial garden where its lemon meringue coloring will blend beautifully with similarly-hued blue and lilac flowers,” says Marriott.

Details: ‘Imogen’ is an extremely floriferous rose that begins to bloom in early summer with late peonies and repeat blooms till frost. The medium-sized blooms have 65 petals. Its sturdy bush is quite upright with attractive mid-green, glossy foliage. The light to medium fragrance nicely supports the flower’s look and coloring, with hints of fresh apple and almond blossom and, occasionally, teasing wafts of a musky/clove scent from the stamens.

Grows 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide; in areas with longer growing seasons it is likely to grow taller. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. (David Austin 2016, Austritch).

Naming notes: The name ‘Imogen’ takes inspiration from the daughter of King Cymbeline, and virtuous wife of Postumus, in William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

English Rose ‘Bathsheba’ is a vigorous climbing rose with big, beautiful apricot-colored flowers. It blooms repeatedly from early summer till frost. ‘Bathsheba’ is notable as David Austin’s first new apricot-hued climber in 20 years. Austin’s apricot English Rose climbers now include: apricot-peach ‘Evelyn’; apricot-pink-soft yellow ‘Bathsheba’; apricot-yellow ‘Abraham Darby’; and apricot-orange ‘Crown Princess Margareta’. Its fragrance is equally notable. ‘While the three earlier apricot climbers offer strong fruity scents, the fragrance of ‘Bathsheba’ is a strong myrrh that is floral and warm in character with hints of honey and Tea.

The long, elegant apricot-yellow buds open to shallowly-cupped rosettes. Each flower is densely packed with up to 170 petals. While the overall impression of flower color is rich apricot, in fact each petal is apricot-pink on the upper side and soft yellow on the under side. In a charming halo-effect associated with English Roses, the outer petals are paler in color and softly fanned to catch the sun.

Details: Austin’s team ranks ‘Bathsheba’ in its “Top Five Climbers for Fragrance” along with ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ and ‘The Generous Gardener’. As with all English Rose climbers, ‘Bathsheba’ grows full to the ground with plenty of basal stems to fan up and across a trellis. It blooms from the ground up. Its foliage is mid-green with a satiny surface. It grows to 10 feet in height.

It is an Austin Leander Hybrid, as are ‘The Ancient Mariner’, ‘Olivia Rose Austin’, ‘Lady of Shalott’ and ‘Golden Celebration. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 – 9. (David Austin 2016, Austchimbley).

Naming notes: The name was inspired by the spirited heroine of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.

Photo: English Rose ‘Bathsheba’

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row