I don't think it would be an over-statement to say that David Austin is probably the most important and influential breeder of modern times. David Austin roses have reignited a fierce passion for roses world-wide and introduced a whole new generation of gardeners to this most beautiful of blooms. Born in 1926, on a farm in the English Midlands where he still resides, David started his breeding programme with the objective of combining "the best of the old with the best of the new". His first releases were crosses between Gallicas and Floribundas producing "Constance Spry" in 1961 and "Chianti" in 1967. Two lovely roses but only once flowering, the main aim was to produce reliable "repeaters". This was achieved in 1969 with the release of The Canterbury Tales series. Around about the 1980's David Austin started to use the brand "English Roses" but such is our association with the man and his roses that these wonderful roses are simply and affectionately called "David Austin's" or just plain "Austin's".
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International success was achieved in 1983 with the release of "Mary Rose" and "Graham Thomas". In 2009, 26 years after release, "Graham Thomas" was voted the "World's Favourite Rose" by the World Federation of Rose Societies. Many other awards followed for both the man and the roses. "Princess Alexandra of Kent" and "Munstead Wood" are two recent releases which have received top awards for fragrance. David Austin has been awarded an OBE, the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society, the Dean Hole Medal by the Royal National Rose Society, an Honorary MSc from the University of East London and a lifetime achievement award from the Garden Centre Association in 2004. In the family owned rose nursery where David Austin now works along side his son, David junior, roughly 300,000 rose seeds are planted every year in order to find the next magical Austin to delight rose lovers around the world. Modern Austin roses have the desirable characteristics of good vigour and fragrance but to me their very best feature is that they are at their most beautiful when fully open. Simply irresistible!