Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.
A Touch of Shakespeare
The year was 2006. The venue was the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show. The renowned rose breeder David Austin presented the Sweet Juliet Rose flower and plant to the world. Austin had cross-bred several rose varieties to create this enchantingly beautiful rose breed and named it Sweet Juliet, after the play, Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. The cost of developing this new rose breed was about five million dollars and it took him 15 years to finish up this human-made yet 100% natural work of art. Not to mention that he sold it for ten million dollars. The debut of this rose was in many such ways, simply awe-inspiring. Though the price has come down over time, this rose is still often called the three million rose.
David Austin’s website describes this rose as below-
“An abundant peach rose with a deep, apricot heart, Juliet is the enchanting heroine of our collection. A classic choice that’s at the heart of many beautiful occasions. A distinctive full cupped rose with voluminous petals, that ombré beautifully from a soft peach to warm apricot."
The website says that this rose variety has a strong fragrance with a tint of the aroma of tea. The bloom size is medium. The price of a bare root rose cutting is listed as around 2300 euros as of today. Naturally, the price has come down as the rose variety propagated across the world. This rose belongs to the English shrub rose family.
David Austin had worked to create beautiful new roses since the early 1950s. Ever since he has created more than 200 new English rose breeds and enhanced the beauty of our planet through them.
The website, the-outlet.com has quoted Austin as saying, “When I started breeding roses, other breeders were allowing the fragrance to disappear, so I embarked on a quest to restore scent to the modern rose”. Many of us might remember that the roses bought from the market often feel incomplete as they lack their scent. Austin could be viewed as one of the most significant gatekeepers of fragrance for the rose kingdom.
Roses for Ever
There is an old saying about roses, “year one they sleep, year two they creep, year three they leap”. This is true about Sweet Juliet as well. It takes about three years for the rose plant to settle down in new soil and develop a strong root system. Only then, it will start blooming large scale and once this happens, they bloom in abundant flushes. The medium-sized, double cupped bloom is another feature of this rose that makes it dear to those who love the nostalgic old rose varieties. Growing up to 3 to 3.5 ft tall, this plant is the best one for fences and flower screens. Another interesting feature is that its fragrance changes as the plant ages. Initially, the rose has a tea rose scent but in a later stage, this changes to a lemony-peachy aroma.
Sweet Juliet is an exceptionally healthy flower, a heavy feeder and blooms aplenty, around half of the year. It loves full sunlight and well-drained soil. The shrub has a lot of upright branches growing right from the base of the stem, thus making it the perfect flowering shrub to grow. The plant is generally disease-resistant. To get a rich bloom, these roses are planted in groups of three. The next three can be planted 18 inches apart from the first group. There should be proper aeration in the soil and the roots should not be allowed to dry up. Also, care should be taken so that the soil does not become soggy. Early winter pruning is another best practice that helps the plant survive the winter winds.
The David Austin Legacy
David Austin developed 200 rose breeds in his lifetime. He died in 2018, at the age of 92, at his home in England in Shropshire, an idyllic county of the West Midlands. He was completely self-taught in his extraordinarily prosperous career as a florist and flower breeder. He had entered the flower market when roses had almost been banished from the modern gardens and many doubted his ability to pull off his life and profession as a rose breeder. However, he became the father of modern roses and his roses won more than 20 gold medals in the Chelsea Flower Show, the most prestigious flower show in the world. David Austin was a lover of history and literature and hence he named his roses, Charles Darwin, Dame Judi Dench, Roald Dahl and so on. His romance with roses was everlasting.
Juliet Rose: A Complete Guide, torontoflora.com
Rosa ‘AUSleep’ Sweet Juliet, ncsu.edu.com
Rose Day: Do You Know About Juliet Rose That Costs in Crores? Here’s All About It, timesnownews.com
David Austin, Who Breathed Life into the Roses, is Dead at 92, The New York Times.
© 2022 Deepa