While interviewing David Austin at his gardens in England, I discovered that as a boy he’d always dreamed of creating a flower like the world had never seen. A nursery run by a family friend had introduced successful hybrids including the Russell lupine, so young David learned early on how crossing one plant with another could result in something magical.
Although Constance did not bloom repeatedly, Mr. Austin remained optimistic: “I asked Graham Thomas to look at it, and he thought it was a marvelous variety, which gave me the impetus to keep trying.”
Today the late, great horticulturist and garden writer Graham Thomas would be especially pleased that he encouraged David Austin to keep striving to hybridize roses that looked old fashioned, smelled old fashioned, and bloomed throughout the season.
The variety that Mr. Thomas's old friend David named to honor him has just been voted the world’s favorite rose, as 41 national societies belonging to the World Federation of Rose Societies have voted and inducted Graham Thomas into the Rose Hall of Fame for 2009. More than 100,000 members were eligible to cast ballots.
The fact that Graham Thomas has such enthusiastic admirers is not surprising. Since the rose was introduced in 1983, it has grown in popularity every year. The large cupped flowers are a rich, pure yellow. It has a lovely old timey tea rose fragrance.
The bush itself is winter hardy and almost annoyingly vigorous. In fact, many American gardeners have decided to let Graham do his thing and are training the bushes as climbers.
Whether grown in a grouping, as a climber or pillar, there are few sights in the garden as breathtaking as Graham Thomas in full bloom.
So cheers to Graham and to David Austin, who succeeded in creating a flower like the world had never seen. And today we know the world absolutely loves it.