‘Benjamin Britten’ is an intriguing rose. Even David Austin himself says he finds the colour almost impossible to describe.
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.
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.
As the flower ages, it becomes slightly blotchy. The colour disperses unevenly, like watercolour seeping into thick paper.
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’.
The foliage is almost as beautiful as the flower. It is a lovely orange-red as the new leaf-buds form.
The leaves mature to jade, which sets off the flowers. The foliage always looks fresh and healthy, and is lush and full.
‘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’.
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.
By ‘Benjamin Britten’s second flush, he is surrounded by a slightly different crowd. There is Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’,
And 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?
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.
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.
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