David Austin was born in 1926. The son of a farmer, he developed an early interest in growing roses. A nurseryman-friend of his father's, James Baker, lent him a book on old roses, which inspired David Austin to start his experiments in rose hybridization in 1950. By 1961 he had created his first English Rose: Constance Spry, a rose still popular today. She is the product of the seed of the old rose Belle Isis and the pollen of the modern rose Dainty Maid, a floribunda.
The next English Roses that David Austin offered were Chianti in 1967 and Shropshire Lass in 1968. All of these early English Roses were once-blooming roses.
By 1969 David Austin had created his first repeat-blooming English Rose, Canterbury, and the following year he started a mail-order nursery.
With the introduction of the luscious Graham Thomas and Mary Rose in 1983, his English Roses seized the attention of rose growers.
David Austin gave his roses elegant names befitting their grace and beauty. Many were named after influential horticulturists, English authors or composers, or notable English landmarks.
Throughout his program, David Austin kept crossing back to Old Garden Roses to keep the old rose character, and selecting for color, form and fragrance. The seedling hybrids that met those criteria were budded onto rootstock and subjected to field trials of up to 8 years to prove their disease resistance and ease of care before they were offered to the public. There have been over 200 David Austin roses introduced, and he offers new ones every year.
It is not surprising that he has received many awards for his amazing efforts, including The Victorian Medal of Honor in 2003, OBE in 2007, and Great Rosarian of the World in 2010. Now if only the rose societies would acknowledge that his roses deserve a more specific title than shrub...
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