The rose expert on the wonder of a career spent breeding his favourite flowers – and finally having his own rose garden, at the age of 92
Look at a rose bred by David Austin and you may assume it has been wreathing cottage doorways and filling vases since time immemorial. And yet Austin’s blooms, known as English roses, burst on to the scene only in the 1960s. Over many decades, he learned to cross the beauty and fragrance of the genuinely old rose species – the musks and the gallicas – with the disease-resistance and repeat flowering of roses bred in the modern age.
At first, nurseries would not sell them – they were seen as old-fashioned – but Austin persisted, breeding more than 200 new varieties in the past few decades. In the process, he slowly but surely changed horticulture’s obsession with the stiff, scentless formality of the hybrid tea rose, embracing instead the softer, scented pastel shades that are now his signature style.