A Day at Albrighton

Those of you who read my blog regularly will have picked up on my enthusiasm for David Austin English roses. I adore them for their gorgeous colours and textures, variety of flower forms, health, vigour, repeat-flowering, and of course, rich range of scents.

A week ago, I travelled up to the Lake District for a walking holiday. Guess what is roughly half-way between Kent and the Lake District?

The David Austin garden at Albrighton!

As we pulled into the car park, there was this view over the nursery beds, and the trial beds beyond. As far as the eye could see there were roses.

Nursery stock and trial beds beyond!

We were visiting at a mid-point between the first glorious flush of flowers and the second flush of flowers. I would love to visit in the second week of June, which I think is generally the best week in the year to see a tumbling mass of roses in any rose garden.

That said, the garden did not disappoint. This was the display at the entrance to the garden. The cerise rose is ‘Sir John Betjeman’, whilst the burnt orange rose is ‘Summer Song’.

English roses ‘Sir John Betjeman’ and ‘Summer Song’

I adore the combination of this deep, dark, burnt orange with any sort of deep pink or purple.

I have been critical of ‘Summer Song’ in the past, owing to its slightly annoying thin and upright growth habit. I must say though, that ‘Summer Song’ was one of the stand-out roses that kept reappearing around the garden in glorious combinations. It holds a unique position among the David Austin roses with its incredible intriguing colour. On a good day, I would also say it is the most marvellously scented rose in the garden. It has a depth and a range of floral and fruity scents which is quite thrilling.

I will come back to ‘Summer Song’.

At the entrance to the garden, there is a stage for roses in pots. These are the best examples of pot-grown roses I have ever seen. I attempted to grow my favourite rose ‘Munstead Wood’ in pots, but I failed miserably. Nosing around here, I think the secret may be an automatic watering system! Can you see the little hose?

English rose ‘Sir John Betjeman’

My dad and I had a little rummage around in the pots, and were surprised to find that there were three bushes in each pot. This explains their gorgeous plumpness. Growing a rose in a pot is a relatively short-term project; I would expect the roses only to thrive for five years. Growing three to a pot possibly shortens their life further, as they compete for water, space and nutrients. But if you can afford an automatic watering system and three to a pot, they do look gorgeous.

English rose ‘Hyde Hall’

‘Hyde Hall’ was the most glorious rose in the potted rose display. It smelled divine too.

English rose ‘Hyde Hall’

Moving on to the Lion Garden, here’s my mum. I wish I could tell you the variety of palest pink rose that is in front of her, but I forgot to note it down.

The Lion Garden shows roses in mixed borders with geraniums and salvias. The roses win here. Whilst in my garden the geraniums and salvia are allowed to clamber into the roses, wending and winding their way, and sometimes surmounting and surpassing the roses, in the David Austin garden the herbaceous perennials know their place. The gaps between planting were wider than I would like (I don’t like to see bare soil). Some say that roses like to feel the breeze beneath their skirts. I did not think that the roses here were any healthier than mine at home.

It is lovely to see new rose introductions in the flesh. This really helps the decision-making process if you are thinking of buying a new rose. You either feel a connection, or you don’t.

This is a new introduction, ‘Eustacia Vye’. Both this rose and the other Thomas Hardy-inspired 2019 introduction, ‘Gabriel Oak’, floated my boat. Unfortunately my garden is full-to-bursting, so I will have to admire them from afar.

English rose ‘Eustacia Vye’

It is also nice to see older varieties that have fallen by the wayside and are no longer heavily promoted in the David Austin catalogue. ‘Charles Rennie Macintosh’ spent a long time on my wishlist when I was planning my rose garden. It lost its position in favour of ‘Boscobel’. I am tempted all over again when I see it!

English rose ‘Charles Rennie Macintosh’

Between each of the gardens are these avenues with pillars and pergolas for climbing and rambling roses. When the rambling roses have finished flowering, they still look wonderful. We need more shade in our garden, and this is one of my secret plans…

This is the rambler ‘Minnehaha’, still in flower. Most rambling roses flower only once, for four to six weeks. They are absolutely covered in bloom when they are in flower. Ramblers are more vigorous than climbing roses. A rambler will typically cover its structure, be it a pergola, wall or even a shed. English climbing roses struggle to reach more than six feet, and so are more suited to a smaller arch or trellis. English climbing roses will repeat flower through the summer. If you have space, it is lovely to have a couple of each, but bear in mind that the rambler needs space, or it will completely swamp its neighbours.

Rambler rose ‘Minnehaha’

I really enjoyed the long views around the gardens. Here there were low hedges, allowing the viewer to see layers of roses through the gardens.

I think I must have been feeling a little giddy here, as I have taken a decidedly wonky photo of the formal Italian garden.

Here is ‘Summer Song’ again, this time in the Victorian garden. Do you see what I mean? Even with the marvellously attired photo-bomber to the right, ‘Summer Song’ steals the show.

English rose ‘Summer Song’

And here’s ‘Summer Song’ again! This time with ‘Minnehaha’.

Rambling rose ‘Minnehah’ and English rose ‘Summer Song’

Time for a cup of tea and a salted caramel brownie. Who should pop by, but my dear friend ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’.

English rose ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’

Satiated with tea and cake, I had the strength to resist making any unauthorised purchases in the shop. But I did enjoy the display.

David Austin Nursery Display

The delights were not done. In the car park I spotted another of my favourites, ‘Morning Mist’. Actually I think this was my absolute favourite today. The single blooms of sunset orange are just delicious. The bees agreed.

English rose ‘Morning Mist’

I grow this rose in the furthest corner of our allotment. It is a perfect rose for a boundary fence. It got me thinking that it would be ideal at the back of my bright border

English rose ‘Morning Mist’

I would thoroughly recommend a stop-off at Albrighton. Prepare to be tempted. If you can’t decide between two or more rose varieties, I would strongly recommend meeting up with them and seeing which one you feel a connection with!

The Mindful Gardener is an English rose fanatic. Feel free to explore the ‘roses’ or ‘rose garden’ categories at the top of this page.

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30 Comments Add yours

  1. John Smith says:

    A very helpful and informative post as usual, thank you. The last time i went to Albrighton they had only just planted out the walled garden, so it was a while back. I have one space left for a pink rose this autumn. I have been tempted by Eustacia Vye or Comte de Chambord, but have seen neither in the flesh. Looking at your photos I wonder if Hyde Hall might be better; it looks great ? I will be planting Lady Emma Hamilton in a row of three in the front garden, after reading many rave reviews of this rose – including yours! Do you grow delphiniums ?

    1. I have grown delphiniums once, but slugs attacked! We had a lovely one when we moved to this house five years ago, which disappeared, but returned this year! They are mysterious creatures.

  2. bcparkison says:

    Just beautiful . How do they keep the sharp edge to the beds.

    1. They will use an edging tool.

      1. Cathy says:

        The time we visited we talked to one of the employees who was edging at the time – all by hand, with an edging tool. We did ask how long it took for all of them but I am afraid I can’t remember the reply. He didn’t imply it was a thankless task though, and it is clearly an important one to maintain the ‘perfect’ image of the garden

      2. Of all garden tasks, edging is the only one I don’t enjoy. I put it off and put it off, and it always seems tedious. Unlike any other garden job.

      3. Cathy says:

        I don’t have that issue any more, Ali, so there’s the solution – do away with all your grass (and think of the extra planting space…)! 🙂

  3. Heyjude says:

    I love Morning Mist. I was looking for this one recently, but my local garden centre didn’t have one in stock so I bought the Fighting Temeraire instead. You might like to see my DA garden post from 2015 – it doesn’t look as though much has changed 🙂


    1. Loved your post Jude. Your photos are amazing.

  4. What a lovely post Ali! I’m so glad you took us on the tour with you. I can’t even imagine how delightful it must have been to see and smell all the varieties in bloom.
    I am clearing an area in my yard that I am going to designate to roses. Even though roses don’t do particularly well in Ohio with our harsh winters and hot summers, I intend to try again and give them a lot of pampering. I have 4 roses in pots waiting to go into the ground. Unfortunately, I have to wait until fall for planting, so a large pine tree can be removed. But I am excited. Your post has only excited me more and I must refrain myself from heading to the nursery.

    1. Ah, that is lovely to hear, Cindy. Your garden is looking lovely (from your insta pics!)

  5. Jo Shafer says:

    Wonky? That the low box undulating making even me feel giddy. My favorite scene, however, is the long vista featuring the Rambler rose ‘Minnehaha’ arching overhead.

    In my Mother’s day, roses in a bed dedicated to roses were planted as single specimens, not landscaped as Gertrude Jekyll taught, so there was plenty of bare spaces between the bushes. I don’t like that, either. I prefer the old-fashioned English style garden.

    1. They look very stark, alone, don’t they? There are are so many plants that associate well with roses, and they look so much nicer in company.

  6. Ann Mackay says:

    How on earth did you manage not to make any unauthorised purchases – with such temptation everywhere? I’d have been trying to smuggle a pot or two into the car! (And I like your ‘wonky’ photo – those diagonal-ish lines give a sense of movement, much enhanced by the wiggly hedge. Interesting and fun!)

    1. That’s nice to hear, Ann. I have developed quite a resistance to buying anything new; I am totally maxed out on space!

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        I still have space but now there is less grass, hehe! (Hubby hasn’t objected yet, but then he’s the one who has to do the mowing 🙂 )

  7. Emma Cownie says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful garden. My father was mournfully telling me that the repeated downpours of the weekend had knocked most the petals off his roses!

    1. The weather has been extremely trying this summer!

  8. What wonderful photographs.

  9. I love these pictures of trellises with roses. I grew up in Oregon, and it is know as the rose state. I visited my mom and dad there recently, and they have roses growing everywhere in their front yard. It’s wonderful.

    1. I didn’t know that about Oregon! I will look up some pictures. It sounds lovely.

      1. It’s so wonderful! I grew up there, and we used to visit the Rose Garden.

  10. Val says:

    How absolutely gorgeous! I wonder if I can persuade hubby (he can drive, I can’t) to go some time, he dislikes roses because of their thorns (so I am only ‘allowed’ a miniature rose or two here – beautiful but rather frustrating as I adore roses). Actually we were in the vicinity a couple of weeks ago but it was during the truly horrid weather, so a visit then would have been useless. You take such good photos and have such good taste. 🙂

    1. Thank you Val; I value that highly from you.

  11. Cathy says:

    I read your post a week ago Ali and am back now to make a comment. I really enjoyed reading it (both times!) and I suspect it is a post I will refer back to, as I do with some of your other Rose posts – you always write both descriptively and informatively. I can’t decide if I feel a bit cheated knowing the secrets behind those potted roses, which I remember from our visit – so discretely done!

    1. Thank you Cathy, that is such a lovely thing to say.
      I like having a bit of a nosy and seeing how the great gardens do things. It underlines that there are a myriad ways to grow, and we all end up finding our own ways. I won’t ever have pots like this but I love admiring them in the DA garden.

      1. Cathy says:

        And quite often it can be the teeniest thing that triggers an idea for our own gardens, can’t it?

  12. susurrus says:

    It really is a fascinating garden and it’s lovely to see it through your eyes. I’ve noticed before how when the garden is relatively quiet (in terms of blooming) one or another rose seems to stand out wherever it is planted. Some roses seem to have a slightly different rhythm of flowering, so your eye picks out this or that one as looking the best depending on the time of your visit. I often wondered why that is – it could be a natural tendency for some to flower slightly earlier or later, or a response to the patterns of rainfall, temperature and sun. I thought R ‘Morning Mist’ was one of the most striking at Rosemoor, earlier this year.

    1. It is a beautiful rose, isn’t it? Yes, it’s interesting about flowering times. I should track it to see if the same roses are consistently late or early in my garden. The climbers against the house are always earlier, which I guess is due to being sheltered.

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