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GardenSMART :: Arranging Fresh-from-the-Garden English Roses

Arranging Fresh-from-the-Garden English Roses

By David Austin Roses
Photographs courtesy of David Austin Roses

If your ideal rose display is dozens of long-stemmed, identical roses in a stiff formal arrangement, read no further. Get thee to a flower shop and bring thy wallet. If, however, you crave luscious, fragrant garden roses in lovely, informal displays, read on.

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English Roses are known for voluptuous flowers and seductive fragrance. Bred by English hybridizer David Austin, they are among the easiest roses to grow. They bloom in profusion from early summer through frost, making them irresistible to those who love to cut fresh bouquets.

"English Roses are especially suited to informal arrangements, though they look as much at home on the kitchen table as they do in high designs for royal events," says Michael Marriott, technical director of David Austin Roses. In fact, when the United Kingdom celebrated Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2014, thousands of stems of Austin's crimson English Roses 'Darcey Bussell' and 'Munstead Wood' adorned the royal ceremonial barge as it made its way along the river Thames.

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Marriott's preference when arranging roses from his own garden is for more humble arrangements. He's an impromptu cutter, typically bringing in a few stems at a time to tuck around the house.

"Placed next to the bed or bath, or beside a favorite reading chair, these small jugs of roses make a lovely romantic gesture -- and can be done in a trice," he says.

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"Indoors, individual flowers are experienced at close quarters. We can watch the different flower types mature, gradually opening their petals to reveal distinctive flower formations. Close in, a flower's perfume is more enveloping, filling a room in the most delightful way. Even in decline, the blooms are engaging, each type in a different way."

U.S. and Canadian gardeners can find a full line of fragrant David Austin English Roses at

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The following are a few of Marriott's thoughts on arranging English Roses:

  • For stiff formal arrangements, longer stems are best. For spirited informal arrangements, any stem length is just right – except long stems!
  • In the garden, each flower is slightly different as a result of growing in wind and weather. Enjoy these natural differences.
  • For a dinner party, float garden roses with stems cut very short in low wide bowls of water. This is something English garden designer and writer Dan Pearson does. "I've pinched it from him," says Marriott.
  • For a different floral look, cut one sturdy stem bearing a cluster of roses. In clusters you'll often find many flowers at different stages of development, from tight buds and semi-open flowers to others fully open. This mix is as lovely in the vase as it is on the bush, with individual flowers opening successively.
  • Though tight buds won't open in the vase, include some in arrangements anyway. They're gorgeous, and definitely enhance that fresh-from-the-garden look.
  • As with ruffled parrot tulips, some English Roses may hang their heads a bit. Floral designers often play up this relaxed look in luxurious arrangements. Overly relaxed flowers may benefit from a little shoulder support from neighboring stems.
  • Garden roses look wonderful arranged on their own; it's also quite special to tuck in other flowers cut from the garden that day.
  • Blue and purple flowers complement English Roses of all hues. With this in mind, consider planting a few blue beauties in the garden as companion plants and for cutting. Top blue candidates include delphinium, lavender, veronica, anchusa or bugloss, bachelor buttons, pincushion flower, Salvia viridis or blue clary, and vining sweet peas.
  • Enjoy yourself when cutting and arranging roses, says Marriott, citing the cure-all benefits of stopping to smell the roses. "Feel free to experiment when choosing floral accents for impromptu arrangements, he says. "Be playful, scout around for interesting stuff – special foliage, perhaps, or twigs, sprays or berries. Or grasses, seedheads, even weeds. Add a little, a lot – or none of the above. Whatever feels right that day."


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