David Austin roses are some of the most renowned and beloved roses in the world. Since the 1950s David Austin has been working to combine the beauty and romance of old roses with the performance of modern roses. More specifically his goal has been to bring together the flower forms and fragrance of old roses with the wider colour range and repeat-flowering of modern roses.
You need only look at the photographs and to grow your first David Austin rose to understand that these English roses are unique in the rose world. They will quickly grow into magnificent shrubs and climbers that will transform your garden with their old world charm, fragrance, and performance.
David Austin roses are usually listed as hardy to zone 4 or 5, depending on the cultivar. However, that is not the full story of their hardiness when it comes to cold climates. If you’re willing to employ a few strategies, David Austin roses can be hardy for gardeners even in the cold of zone 3 which includes much of the Canadian prairies, northern Ontario, and parts of northern BC and Quebec!
At Phoenix Perennials we benefit from having an experienced cold climate gardener on staff. Our production manager, Terry, used to live and garden in Winnipeg, firmly and proudly located in zone 3. She learned how to grow David Austins in Manitoba’s capital city from her friend Zeena who in turn learned her tricks from an experienced Manitoban rosarian. Here are their tips on how to successfully grow David Austin roses in zone 3:
- Bury the rose deeply. The crown of the plant should be 6-12 inches below the surface. New shoots may not appear until June but the crown will be protected below ground from the worst of the wind and cold. If suckers come up from the root stock, dig down and remove at their base. They can usually be identified right away due to a difference in the leaves. If you don’t notice a sucker from the leaves, you’ll certainly notice it when it flowers!
- Choose a protected spot. Your rose should be protected from wind especially from the north and northwest. But don’t plant against a warm building. You want your rose to be evenly cold on all sides.
- Mulch heavily in autumn with 1-2 feet of fallen leaves, flax straw, or other organic matter that is tough and breaks down slowly. Cover with burlap and hold down with pegs or stones if there is a risk that the leaves might blow away. An organic mulch will insulate the root zone and stems from extreme cold but also slow down the rate of freeze in the fall to avoid the possible shock from a quick drop in temperature.
- Pile on the snow. Over the winter when you’re shovelling snow from your driveway, patio, stairs, and pathways, shovel it onto your rose creating a mound 2 feet wide and as high as you can go. Snow is insulating because it contains lots of air between its crystals. Think of igloos. Snow not only protects your rose from extreme cold, it insulates your rose from swings in temperature and freeze/thaw cycles which can also cause damage.
- If you grow in pots, bury the pots in the ground covering the crown and follow the steps above.