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.