I have written here before about my love for the David Austin English rose ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’. The wonderful Cathy at Rambling in the Garden informed me yesterday that David Austin have decided to reduce their range of roses.
‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ and my other favourite, ‘Munstead Wood‘ are amongst those varieties that will no longer be available.
I have to confess I am surprised by the decision to cut Lady Em and Munstead from the range. I can understand Munstead slightly more. It is, in my opinion, by far their most beautiful crimson rose (you can see the other contenders in this post). Munstead’s scent of damson and blackcurrant is just… mmm… But its foliage and growth habit have no particular stand-out merit compared with other English roses.
‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ however. Well, she just has everything.
Her round blooms are like a perfect peach, warm apricot, just touched with pink. The petals are perfectly scalloped. The cup is gently incurved.
Over the next few days, the inner petals relax and open. It is as if the rose is enjoying the sun. It utters a satisfied sigh.
The peachy pink flush becomes more prominent as the flower matures. It takes on a pillowy softness.
The blooms are delightful to hold in the hand, being a perfect size to gently cup and bounce there.
The joy of the incurved bloom is that it perfectly fits a nose. As if nose and rose were made for one another.
I have written before that there is an art to rose-breathing, but I think it is worth repeating!
Exhale fully. Bury your nose in the bloom. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Keep going. You will notice different scents at different stages of the inhale.
‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ has a background of old rose scent, but oh! There is citrussy lemon and tropical mango and passion fruit. It is so fresh and fruity that it reminds me of sorbet, or a Solero icecream. But is also has warmth and depth. Like peach liqueur. It is sun on your face and birds singing. In scent form.
Lady Emma Hamilton’s foliage is the finest of all roses. It is deep red-maroon, with bronze highlights when the sun shines through.
Here it is before flowering, with a background of another English rose ‘Princess Anne’ and the rugosa hybrid ‘Hansa’.
The flower buds have a dab of cherry red paint on each petal. This adds a liveliness, setting off the maroon foliage.
The bright cherry buds add a vibrancy to the whole shrub. It zings if you plant it with a bright pink neighbour.
In my previous post about Lady Em, I focused on the partnership between her and the Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’. But I am equally enjoying her early in the season with my favourite gladioli, Gladiolus communis subsp. byzanitinus.
If you are tempted to buy this gladiolus, be sure that you are buying the subspecies ‘Byzantinus’. I have been caught out before by buying the smaller and paler Gladiolus communis. I tracked down the realy thing at The Great Dixter Nursery, which I highly recommend. They take phone and online orders.
You can go for a more gentle look, if you plant Lady Em with bright greens. Alchemilla mollis works beautifully. The geranium foliage also shows how this works:
We are growing tomatoes in pots on our new seating area. ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ even looks good with the little yellow flowers of tomatoes. There is a fresh citrus liveliness.
‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ is very healthy. I have only ever seen the odd lower leaf with a few black spots.
I don’t spray my roses. If I see greenfly, this is fine. Our garden birds love aphids, and they are very gentle when they pick off each fly individually. They find them quite delicious. It also delights me watching the smaller garden birds: sparrows, tits and the odd wren, darting around under the skirts of ‘Lady Em’. We get more garden birds because we do not spray, and there is a healthy ecosystem for everyone.
‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ has a beautiful growth habit. There are leaves and flowers right down to the ground. There is a fullness, so that leaves are evenly spaced, each taking up their own space, but still cradling the blooms perfectly.
I mulch my roses lavishly with fresh compost or well-rotted manure each winter. I might then give it a boost after its first flush of flowers with some liquid seaweed, or with some fish, blood and bone. If there is no rainfall for weeks, as often happens in Kent, I will give it a long, slow watering every three weeks.
I plant my roses in threes, as recommended by David Austin. This gives a wonderfully full effect, and masses of flowers. There are plenty for the garden, and plenty to pick for a vase.
I have planted ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ close to the seating area, where I can enjoy here scent the most. I love sitting here, drinking my morning coffee, sometimes eating breakfast, often eating lunch here. The sight of Lady Emma, and her scent, and the sound of birdsong, gives me untold pleasure.
This is why I am very surprised to see ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ on the list to be discontinued. If I could only grow one rose, ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ would be it.
You get beautiful blooms, from bud to maturity. You get scent. You get stunning foliage. You get a full, rounded growth habit. You get a rose which is easy to partner with other plants. You get health. You get joy, over and over and over again.
The David Austin online shop is still stocking ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ for now. If you are tempted, I would get your order in soon!
You can also take cuttings from roses. Select a healthy new stem, about 20cm long. This will be this year’s growth, so it will still have a green tenderness. Remove all leaves except for one at the top of the cutting. Put it in a very gritty compost, at the edge of a pot. You can put several cuttings in the same pot. Keep them in the shade, and keep the pot moist, but not waterlogged. Look for new leaf growth, and pot the cuttings on, so they each have a small pot. In about a year, when there is strong new growth, you will have a new rose plant for the garden.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. You will find lots more rose portraits, as well as other plant portraits, on this site. You can use the ‘search’ box to find specific plants or varieties. The ‘search’ will lead you to any blog posts which feature that plant.
If you would like a video tour of the garden, you can find me on instagram, as Ali, The Mindful Gardener.
I am trying to keep up with the roses as they reach their peak! I will be featuring a few more varieties through the summer.
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