By D. W. Ruston of Renmark Roses in Renmark, Australia
David Ruston is the former President of the World Federation of Rose Societies and travels extensively, giving talks and demonstrating with great humor and finese the art of flower arranging.
I have been growing cut-flower roses for 30 years in the open on the River Murray at Renmark in South Australia. Our climate has cool winters and hot, dry summers very much like Southern California There is very little blackspot, next to no rust and mildew occurs mainly in early autumn. Our average rainfall is below 10" but we water about 60" to 80" per year with irrigation from the river.
Several years ago, I was asked for Austin Roses for churches and wedding bouquets with that old-fashioned look when brides wanted quartered full blooms rather than tight glasshouse grown buds. They also wanted perfumed roses. This has led me to put in 5 acres of Austin Roses and made me realize what lovely roses many of them are for cutting. In our climate I can pick them for 9 or 10 months per year.
Some varieties grow much larger here than in cooler climates and I class such varieties as ‘Charles Austin’, ‘Yellow Charles Austin’, ‘Leander’, ‘Graham Thomas’, ‘Claire Rose’, and ‘Swan’ as Pillar Roses, perfect where a height of 10 feet or so is required.
My most popular Austins for cutting are mainly pale colors, so ideal for weddings and almost all these roses reach full beauty at the freshly blown stage and need to be picked further out than other cut-flower varieties.
My selection is Swan - my favorite! Lovely foliage, very long stems up to 3 feet, buds of creamy yellow opening to a very full flat flower of creamy white that last well. The petals spottle in the wet, so ‘Swan’ is not for wet climates.
‘Clair Rose’ - An enormous grower with glorious foliage and tightly packed rosettes of palest pink reminiscent of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’. ‘Claire Rose’ will outlast any other variety in the vase - 14 days is quite normal. It too spots in the wet. Stems to 3 feet.
‘St. Cecilia’ - Very soft pink cupped flowers like a Peony, flowering later than other varieties and repeating well. Good stems of 2 feet.
‘Sharifa Asma’ - A shorter grower with flowers of great delicacy in a very lovely soft pink color shading to yellow at the base.
‘Dove’ - The nearest Austin to a Tea Rose of the palest pink imaginable on a small bush that repeats well. Buds are Hybrid Tea-like but open flowers are of Camellia-like perfection. A most refined roses.
‘Troilus’ - Another that will spot in the rain but here the pale honey-buff Peony-like flowers are lovely when used in bouquets against old lace wedding gowns. A shorter grower with good repeat.
‘Country Living’ - Another soft pink on a stocky plant that repeat very well. The many petaled rosette-shaped flowers last well.
‘The Reeve’ - A deep dusky pink of very full globular form on a spreading bush is the nearest shaped flower I have to Rosa Centifolia of the old masters which enables me to create Flemish rose arrangements for most of the year. I could not do this before the advent of the Austin Roses.
‘The Pilgrim’ - A newer variety with many petaled flat flowers of softest yellow - The color of Yellow Banksia and McGrady’s Yellow on a tall upright plant with good stem length. Most appealing in mixed flower groups.
‘Graham Thomas’ - Rich yellow long stemmed flowers that open a bit quickly and shatter sooner than I would like, but excellent for church arrangements and tall cascading table arrangements where the guests talk under the flowers. Peak bloom in the spring but continuity is good.
‘Abraham Darby’ - Tall bushes with lovely full-petaled flowers of apricot peachy-pink can be very apricot in warm weather and very pink in cold weather but is always attractive and holds well. Production is excellent.
‘Heritage’ - One of my favorites with good stems of delicate looking flowers of palest rose pink that last well on an almost thornless plant. Repeat is good and ‘Heritage’ performs well in all seasons.
‘Jayne Austin’ - A good grower with flowers of a unique soft apricot color that last well. Beautiful when used with ‘Charles Austin’, ‘Ellen’, ‘Sweet Juliet’, ‘Abraham Darby’ all in shades of apricot mixed with cream roses and brown ‘Julia’s Rose’. The addition of rose hips with these tonings can be most effective.
‘Perdita’ - A shortish grower with flowers of cream suffused with palest peach that is very useful for delicate color schemes. Good repeat.