Our Head Gardener, Steve Parnham, writes about the extraordinary summer here at David Austin Roses and what autumn has in store..

Whilst the prolonged hot weather we saw this summer was welcomed by many, within the gardens it was the most challenging six-to-eight-week period we have seen since 1976.

On the one hand the roses in our gardens bloomed maybe better than I have ever seen in the eight years I have worked here, but on the other hand water became a big issue. As some of the country struggled with hosepipe bans, our reservoir, which holds 70,000 cubic litres of water, dropped below half for the first time. Our priority was to ensure enough water supply for our potted roses, which needed watering three times a day, for an hour at a time.

In the greenhouses it became so hot in the middle of the day that our breeding team had to start their days at 6am, finishing at 2.30pm to enable them to cope with the high temperatures.

As we wind down from our busy summer, one of our tasks is digging out some varieties in the rose gardens. This is to make room for the new varieties being launched and to replace roses that may not be growing so well. In total we normally change about 100 plants, digging out the soil with a digger and replacing it with about 200 tonnes of fresh new soil.

There is also the general ‘housekeeping’, such as dead-heading and spraying where needed and cutting all 2563m of the hedges. This year, we’re also adding 1571m of steel edging to the gardens. This will keep the edges of the pathways looking smart and tidy, as well as making them easier to maintain in the years to come.

As October approaches, we are beginning to prepare the bare root stock for the season, lifting each rose from the field, stripping it and cutting it ready to be sold. Meanwhile, in a secure area, secretive preparations begin for the Chelsea Flower Show to ensure the roses selected for our show garden are ready and in bloom for when the show opens in May.

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Our Rose Gardens, Plant Centre and Gift Shop are open all year round and are FREE to visit.

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