The Elusive Benjamin Britten

‘Benjamin Britten’ is an intriguing rose.  Even David Austin himself says he finds the colour almost impossible to describe.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' (2)
Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

I would call it a warm coral-red, which is quite bright and orangey on opening, but becomes a warm coral pink.  I might call it ‘watermelon’. The outer petals then fade unevenly, like vintage silk, being completely sun-bleached in places.


The flowers are perfect globes at first, and then they flatten as they open, with a lovely intriguing hole in the middle.

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

This is a delicious rose to unfurl.  I discovered this when I accidentally deadheaded a new bloom.  Not wanting to waste it, and a little intrigued about how everything nestles inside, I peeled it.  The innermost petals are folded into segments, like a tangerine.  The petals are incredibly soft, like ancient silk. Even deeper, nestled inside the segments, there are glowing orange stamens.  They are damp, and smell of cloves.

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

As the flower ages, it becomes slightly blotchy.  The colour disperses unevenly, like watercolour seeping into thick paper.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' (5)
Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

If you catch the rose at an early stage and put your nose in it, it is incredibly fruity. I love smelling a rose whose scent has never been inhaled before.  The scent is described in my David Austin as ‘intensely fruity, with wine and pear-drops’.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' (4)
Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

The foliage is almost as beautiful as the flower. It is a lovely orange-red as the new leaf-buds form.

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’ new growth

The leaves mature to jade, which sets off the flowers. The foliage always looks fresh and healthy, and is lush and full.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten'
Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

‘Benjamin Britten’ can be tricky to combine with other plants. I grow him in my bright border but he doesn’t mingle well with other hot colours. I have had to surround him with deep purples and blues, instead.  I think he benefits from plenty of green too.

When ‘Benjamin’ has his first flush of flowers in June, he is surrounded by dark Phlox foliage, Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ and Centaurea ‘Jordy’.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' with Geranium 'Anne Thomson'
Clockwise from top right: Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’, Phlox foliage (with dark crimson stems), Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ and Centaurea ‘Jordy’.

I have to make a special visit to sniff ‘Benjamin’ because I made the mistake of planting him at the back of the border.  Whilst this suits his height, it means that I have an obstacle course to get past.  I am like the Milk Tray lady, parachuting in, and balancing on one leg to avoid trampling foliage.

Rosa 'Benjamin Britten' with Geranium 'Anne Thomson', Salvia 'Ostfriesland' and Geranium 'Rozanne'
Clockwise from top right: Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’.

By ‘Benjamin Britten’s second flush, he is surrounded by a slightly different crowd.  There is Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’,

Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’

And Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’.

Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ hangs on.


Whilst the surrounding foliage of neighbouring plants might be starting to look a little big ragged, ‘Benjamin Britten’ is still fresh.  Have you ever seen such perfect rose foliage?

Rosa ‘Benjamin Britten’

The sage green foliage is the perfect backdrop for the coral flowers, isn’t it?

And I think that’s the thing about Benjamin. He doesn’t need anyone else. He is self-contained and perfect in his own right.

I would go so far as to say that ‘Benjamin Britten’ is in my top 3 roses, along with Munstead Wood and Lady Emma Hamilton.  There is no other rose to match Benjamin’s quirky colours, beautiful form and heavenly scent.

You can find more about David Austin English roses in these posts: Getting to know you…A Rainbow of RosesThe garden that keeps on giving, and Roses in the Bright Border.


Do you have a favourite unusually coloured rose?  Which is your favourite rose for foliage?  Or for scent?

If you have a thing for roses, click on the ‘Rose Garden’ category from the home page, or the ‘roses’ tab below to see more posts. You can search individual varieties: if I have mentioned it in a post, the relevant posts will appear.

My aim in this site is to share the sensory pleasures and earthy delights that I get from the garden. I might focus on colour, texture, form, scent, sound… or there might be practical advice for plant combinations, or jobs for the time of year. I have a particular obsession for roses, tulips, peonies and dahlias.

If you don’t want to miss a post, you can click on the ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of this page and you will receive an email link to each new post that I publish.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. Benjamin is very handsome and complemented beautifully with your geraniums. I was feeling tired and not in the mood for reading but you’ve put together a lovely post Ali and I enjoyed it. ‘Watermelon’ seemed a particularly apt and wonderful description of colour to me. I don’t know anything about the Milk Tray lady but you gave enough info that I could easily imagine the scene – so funny! Thanks Ali 🙂 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      That is such a lovely comment to read; thank you. The Milk Tray ad used to have a stuntman scaling tall buildings to deliver a box of chocolates ‘all because the lady loves Milk Tray’. I am flattering myself!!

      1. Being a chocolate-lover that story appeals to me enormously!

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    It’s a hard colour to describe I was thinking of the colours I’d have to use to paint it, but I’m not sure I’d get it exactly right. It’s a meaty rose!

    1. Ali says:

      That is a perfect colour description!

  3. Nice planting, as ever. One of my favourites is For your Eyes Only which goes on and on producing throughout the year. Otherwise Lady Emma Hamilton which you have featured

    1. Ali says:

      That caught my eye at Hampton Court on the Peter Beales stand!

  4. john smith says:

    Not sure about Benjamin up until this point; the one I saw in a garden centre had balled quite badly in the rain and was bleached. But I should no better really – roses in garden centres often have a hard time. You also mention Munstead; DA in their catalogue include Munstead as an ‘additional supplementary ‘ rose , not a fully recommended one. Do you find Munstead has some health problems or poor repeat flowering? Just wondered. Thanks for another great post !

    1. Ali says:

      That’s a bit of a shocker re:Munstead Wood! Mine are in pots, and have suffered with the heat and me being forgetful in my watering this year, but my mum has three in the ground and she hasn’t had problems. A couple of years ago DA were marketing Munstead as their best crimson rose; previously it was William Shakespeare 2000, but that is a frustrating beast: gorgeous huge flowers, but very ungainly growth habit. I’m intrigued about Munstead. My mum also grows Darcy Bussell, but she has been a little disappointing and small.

      1. john smith says:

        I have had William Shakespeare for a long time (in a family members garden). The colour is great but the flowers are few and far between, and often only semi-formed – not a full flower shape. I wondered if Munstead was perhaps a similar beast – great colour but a tricky performer ???? Does it grow large enough, repeat flower, and have good disease resistance – I suppose you have already indicated it does!

      2. Ali says:

        I have found Munstead to be a good repeater – there is a bit of a gap between the first flush and the second, but I think that is because the first flush is just so spectacular. Then there is a steady succession of fewer blooms until December. In terms of health, mine gets a bit of blackspot, but it is probably more vulnerable because it is being grown in less than ideal conditions, in pots. It is smaller than William Shakespeare 2000, at about 100cm high when grown in the ground, and it doesn’t have the annoying tendency of WS to send up crazy shoots.

      3. john smith says:

        I think I will get one, after your positive experiences. Thanks for your help.

      4. Ali says:

        My pleasure!

  5. Christina says:

    So much detailed information, thank you.

  6. Lovely pictures and a beautiful read.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Angela!

  7. bcparkison says:

    You mix and mingle your flowers so well. Just so pretty.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. That is music to my ears!

    2. Ali says:

      Though I shouldn’t let my ego get too big; it is after all the plants providing the beauty!!

  8. Benjamin is a gorgeous Rose. A very handsome chap. I am looking forward to seeing my Princess Margareta produce more orange blooms next year. She is still a baby 🌼

    1. Ali says:

      She is a beauty. On my wishlist!

  9. Thanks for this detail. I have a Benjamin Britten too and enjoy it a lot but have never taken this much effort to notice the detail other than that the colours change from red to pink. My foliage is much less beautiful, having quite a lot of fungal spotty stuff but the flowers seem to survive none the less.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you; I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. That’s interesting re: foliage; I guess a lot depends on climate and soil!

  10. You’re wise to site your Benjamin Britten in a bed of mixed perennials of cooler colors like blues and purples. To me, that’s the true beauty and charm of the English border. Sometimes my borders include whites, such as tall fleeceflower and certain peonies. By summer, all the whites have bloomed out, even the daisies. Lovely post!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. Yes, I suppose it comes naturally to combine perennials and roses because that’s what I’ve grown up with and is the sort of garden ideal imprinted on my subconscious! That sounds like a lovely combination.

  11. You have helped me tremendously again! I have a rosebush in front of my house–I call her Profusia. I did not know what kind of rosebush she was, but now I do. She is a Benjamin Britten rosebush. Many thanks!

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, that’s brilliant! What a lovely rose for the front of your house.

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