Thursday, January 22, 2009

Benjamin Britten - David Austin Rose

Benjamin Britten is one of the Austin Roses I have become very fond of. It´s bright colors of the rose blooms makes it stand out among other Austin Roses. Introduced in 2001 and named to commemorate the life and work of the famous English composer, conductor and performer.

I first saw it growing in rows in the rosefields of a rose nursery nearby. A beautifully deep cupshaped rose with a striking color; Bright orange red, with some yellow shades seen in the inner petals. The flowers having a very nice fruity rose fragrance.

I picked a small bouquet and was surprised how long they lasted as a cut flower in a vase. I was also surprised to see that the colour faded to a reddish pink when the flowers aged. Something that is seen when the weather is bright and sunny, so the flowers are bleached by the sun. Like many flowers it seems to close it´s petals at night and open them again when the sun comes up.

An elderly neighbour saw the bouquet and wanted the rose in her garden, to make it stand out among all her pink roses. The next fall she planted 5 of them in a small round rosebed. I planted 3 bareroot plants close together like David Austin recommends - so they form one big bush. (Something that is not needed most places in USA - where most Austin Roses grow 2-3 times as big and wide as up here in northen Europe). Notice - we plant bareroot roses in late October -nowember here - or in fact anytime during the winter when the soil is not frozen - a practice that seems not to be very common in in USA, where most plant bareroot roses in the spring. Bareroot roses planted in the fall, when they are dormant establish themselves better and faster than bareroot roses planted in the spring. The survival rate of fall planted roses is about 90 percent in my experience.

The first season the roses grew and bloomed well. Mine became almost 6 feet tall. They had a great spring flush and a smaller fall flush of flowers. My elderly neighbour's roses also did well - but hers only became 3 feet tall. I always think she was too cheap when it came to fertilizers. I use organic fertilizers in pellets with added micro nutrients. 2 times every season - in march and june. And perhaps add some dried seaweed and aged manure every fall. The difference between roses growing in her garden and mine were big! The canes on mine were twice as thick and they in general grew twice as big. The 2. season the 3 roses outgrew the spot I had planted mine and crowded some magic fountain delphiniums.

I also found that the rose was a bit stingy in producing flowers. Since I am not the most patient gardener I decided to find some other roses for this spot and moved them to my cutting garden. I often replace or move roses I do not like for one reason or another. Most often I replace roses that are not fragrant or healthy enough or do not produce many flowers for the space they occupy. My elderly neighbour kept hers and they did really well in the small rosebed she made for them.

Benjamin Britten has excellent disease resistance. Mine only got a little mildew (no wonder in my small garden with poor air circulation and overcrowded with roses! My elderly neighbour had an Abraham Darby rose that was plaqued with rose rust. And since it is a fungal disease that spread like wildfire, it spread to her rosebed with Benjamin Britten roses. Abraham Darby is in my experience a very healthy rose and I have never seen it get this diseased. Every year her Abraham Darby rose would get rust while mine were totally free of disease. I told her to get rid of that Abraham Darby rose since it seemed to infect all her other roses in her front yard. When it was dug up the rose rust never returned. She planted the Abraham Darby rose in her vegetable garden and it never got rose rust again! That rose simply did not do well in that excact spot.

You may wonder why I mention this elderly neighbour, when I write about this rose? I have mentioned her before - Love thy elderly gardener neigbour In november she got a cough and her doctor told her she had pneumonia. She was treated with antibiotics, but did not get any better. A chest ex-ray revealed that she had terminal lungcancer and her strength detoriated very rapidly. I encouraged her to go to a nearby hospice, but she felt she was not ready yet. The next day she was hospitalized because she had trouble breathing in spite of getting oxygen. A few days later she was moved to the hospice and she passed away the first night there. Knowing how much she loved roses we put roses on her coffin and her grave.

I had hoped she would live to see the roses bloom in the early summer. But she didn't. I am going to miss my garden friend. In fact I do miss her. During the winters we would often visit each other and talk about how we looked forward to the roses blooming. We talked about roses and gardening and shared garden books. We were so thrilled and excited when the roses started blooming after the long grey winters here. This summer - if I am lucky enough to see another summer - don´t we take life too much for granted? - I am going to cut myself a big bouquet of Benjamin Britten roses that she loved so much. Here today and gone tomorrow. Some garden bloggers like Zoë probably know more than any body what I am writing about. Life is so precious and fragile. All we can do is to love life and try to make the best out of our time here on Earth. As gardeners we are closer and probably more aware of the seasons of life in nature. Ahh soon - soon we are going to see the first signs of spring.


Mr.Anonymous said...

cool blog

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience on Benjamin Britten.

My eyes were a bit teary after reading about your neighbor. Sorry to hear about the loss of your neighbour.

You are absolutely right, LIFE IS PRECIOUS and FRAGILE. We only have one shot in life. We should try to make the most out of our lives and be happy no matter what.


Anonymous said...

I forgot to add in my previous comment that the blooms of Benjamin Britten remind me of The Alnwick Rose.


VP said...

Hi Niels - thanks for posting about this rose. I'll consider it for my own garden as I've just found out from my family history search that my grandad's cousin did a lot of work with Benjamin Britten and Sir Peter Pears when she was an opera singer.

Zoë said...

Hi Niels

I too have this one, it is a difficult colour to place, and much as I love the rose itself, I am not happy about how it looks amongst the other roses.

Sorry to hear about your neighbour, we lost a few family members recently too, and it makes it hard to feel positive.

Glad to see you blogging though, I miss your thoughtful and informative posts.


Niels Plougmann said...

Thanks Mr. anonymous!

Yes I feel very sad that she is gone Jimmy. It serves as a reminder to me to appreciate life and people more. And you are right - Benjamin Britten's flowers do look like the flowers of the Alnwick Rose. I really like these deeply cupshaped rose blooms whee the outer petals hugs the inner petals. The Alnwick rose however, produces more flowers and repeats better. But quantity is not everything. Maybe quality is more important afterall - just like life? Same with Gertrude Jekyll. The first big flush of flowers is amazing - and the strong rich old rose fragrance is so outstanding that I will grow the rose for this reason alone. My frontyard is drenched in that fragrance for 5-6 glorius week every summer. Really something I look forward to every year. A line from the Hymn in my last post keeps sounding in my head: This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,dispels with glorious splendor the darkness ev’rywhere.

Niels Plougmann said...

VP - How interesting - What a great way to commerate your grandad and Benjamin Britten to grow this rose.
Sorry I have not been visiting and reading many blogs during the last months, while I have been trying to recover from my deep depression. It finally does seem to go slowly uphill again - medications and excercise seems to help, but I have to push myself to do it - so I can get back in shape for working a bit again.

Niels Plougmann said...

You are right Zoë - the colour makes it hard to place with other roses - a solitary placement seems to work best. It also repeat in flushes, meaning that the plant sometimes does not have any flowers for 6 weeks, where it just takes up space for roses that bloom more continously. That is why I moved mine to my cutting garden even though I love the flowers of this rose. Since my garden is so tiny I have to choose carefully - if I had an Estate size garden I would plant a whole bed of them so I could cut huge bougquets!

Sorry to hear that you have lost loved ones too. That on top of your fight with breastcancer must be hard. Life truly is to be enjoyed and we have to keep in my mind how precious the gift of life is every day.

I sure hope to get my energy back again to write more blog posts. The past few months I have been totally drained of energy and needed to sleep 12-15 hours every day. I tell you - even working an hour or 2 in the garden left me beat for days. And my thoughts and ability to write were sluggish and slow - but I am slowly getting better now. I sure look forward to write more blog posts and to read my blogger friends blogs again.

JulenaJo said...

I have never been able to decide whether I like the unusual color of Benjamin Britten or not. Your photos and post make me want to add it to my garden, though. I'm sorry, too, about your neighbor. There ARE no guarantees. Gotta love while we can. I'm glad you did. Thank you for sharing, Niels!

VP said...

Hi Niels - I've been there too. The best present you can give yourself is time and don't worry about not being here.

We'll be here when you're good and ready :)

VW said...

I was so excited to see you posting about roses again, Niels! Thanks for a great profile of Benjamin Britten. I can't believe yours grew to 6' in the first season-I'll have to reevaluate the fertilizer and other care I give my roses to see if I can improve my results. And I appreciate your observations about the different growth habits of roses in your garden vs. the US.
I'm very sad for your loss of a gardener-friend-neighbor. A nearby friend to share your gardening passion is a precious thing. I look forward to spectacular gardening in heaven - surely fungal disease organisms go someplace else when they die! - but it's so hard to be left behind when a loved one moves on. I'm glad you can remember her through your roses. I have a little anemone in my garden that came from a friend who passed away a few years ago. I love to see the delicate flowers and think of her.
Best wishes for a continued recovery for you.
Regards, VW

queenofseaford said...

Thank you for these wonderful posts about roses. I have bookmarked your site as a reference to use as I make new choices of which roses I want in my garden.

Gunilla said...

Hi Nils
Glad that your are back. I hope that you feel a little better now.
What wonderful roses you have. The photos are fantastic. I dont have that kind of roses in my garden. I live where I think that roses cant grow. They aren´t hardy here. I live in zon 5 north of Sweden

Take care
Have a nice evening


Jan (ThanksFor2Day) said...

Niels, I am sorry for you having to lose a good friend. Life is difficult to understand. It is fleeting, no doubt. I had cancer a few years ago...and my blogs name is a reflection of my desire to remember to be thankful every day for the gift of life.