A Touch of Shakespeare
Roses captivate and enchant us, their beauty so perfect, fragrance sublime, shape like a work of art, and all civilisations, irrespective of whether Asian, European or American, fell in love with this flower that touches and resonates with the ultimate romantic strings of our hearts. No surprise that a rose once has been the most expensive flower in the world, with no other flower beating that record so far.
The year was 2006, and the venue was the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show. When the renowned rose breeder, David Austin, presented the Sweet Juliet Rose flower and plant to the world in this flower show, the world's most ardent rose lovers present gasped in awe at the magnificence of this new rose variety. 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.
The English Shrub Roses
Shrub roses are roses with an open and outward-looking shape. The branches, spotted with sharp thin prickles, arch along bearing flowers throughout their length. These roses come in many hues- white, red, yellow, orange, pink, crimson etc and bear flowers with single, semi-double, or fully double architecture. They need full sun and plenty of space. As the stems arch, some varieties of shrub roses are grown as climbers, over a wall, obelisk, or arch.
There are older garden roses and modern roses among shrub roses and 'English roses' is another category of the shrub rose family. The old garden roses have strong fragrances and large blooms. The term, 'old garden roses' is attributed to the roses that existed before the first hybrid rose, 'La France', was introduced in 1867. Thus dawned the era of modern roses, the hybrids such as Tea Roses and Floribundas, with their milder scents and smaller than old roses blooms.
English roses were born when David Austen cross-bred the old garden roses with the hybrid roses, thus garnering the best features of both. These roses have large blooms as the old roses had and they bloom repeatedly and flaunt many rare colours as the modern ones do.
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.
Growing Sweet Juliet Roses
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, each plant being 18 inches apart. The next three can be planted 3 feet away 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.
Sweet Juliet Rose: A-Z of How to Cultivate
Sweet Juliet belongs to the large family of English roses and hence the standard care regime for English roses applies.
Planting: soak in water overnight before planting; the planting spots can be facing east, west or south. do the planting as early as possible; never let the plant roots dry out. keep the base of the bud union 3 inches below ground level if planting in areas having a strong winter. In areas with mild winter, keep the bud union at ground level. Mound the base of the plant with 15 centimetres of compost till leaves begin to appear. The same rules apply while planting in containers. Do not plant close to trees as there will be root competition and the roses are too fragile to win.
Watering: Keep the newly planted roses well-watered. Deep watering should be done at least once a week or even more frequently.
Sunlight: the plant should get at least five hours of sun daily. Morning sunlight is ideal for growth.
Fertiliser application: add a generous quantity of well-decomposed green manure or garden compost. Slow absorption of nutrients through organic fertilisers applied to the ground is the most effective method. Foliar sprays are also recommended. Do remember, excess fertiliser can cause diseases.
Mulching: Mulching with organic matter is a standard practice in rose gardening. Mulching helps preserve the water content of the soil and also helps the soil to stay healthy by creating a conducive temperature for beneficial bacteria and worms. Always keeping a mound of well-decomposed mulch around the plants and replacing that as and when needed is a good practice for soil health.
Pruning: Pruning back by a third is to be done in late winter. Also take out the branches that are crossing each other or crowding each other. In other seasons, deadheads and dried branches can be removed. Also remove the suckers that emerge from beneath the soil and from below the bud union.
Weeding: Keep the soil surrounding the plant clean and without weeds. Loosen and aerate the surrounding soil by mildly stirring it with a fork to a depth of 2 inches, every now and then.
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.
Learn How to Plant and Care for Your English Roses, gardenia.net
What are David Austin English Roses? gardeners path.com
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Deepa