But surprisingly, some of the healthiest, and most beautiful roses available were hybridized by David Austin.

The late David Austin is known for beautiful roses, but in the beginning, he had difficulty with disease. He later conquered these problems, and hybridized some of the best and healthiest red roses available. Here are a few.

The Dark Lady

Hybridized in 1991, and a cross of 'Mary Rose' and 'Prospero' this very double red rose (that, quite honestly turns a bit fuchsia in bright sunlight) may be for you. It is an exquisitely formed flower with rapid rebloom, excellent hardiness and a moderate old rose fragrance. It blends beautifully with other plants. Here you see Allium cristophii, Heuchera sanguinea 'Firefly' and feverfew 'Tetra strain'. I have two, and it appears to be completely disease resistant in zone 5a/b. I have never seen blackspot, mildew or rust on this plant. And, for whatever reason, Japanese beetles pass it by. It is 3 feet tall and wide. The only thing is - it's not really dark, and was in fact fuchsia when I received it! But it's gorgeous, and in cooler weather it darkens.

It has about 40 petals with an average diameter of 3.25" It is recommended for zones 5 to 11.

The Dark Lady with perennial companions.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Another great red Austin is 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. Hybridized in 1998, it is beautiful, disease-resistant and slow to fade. It blooms from spring to fall in flushes, and the flowers are full and last a long time. This one can be grown against a trellis, in which case it will perform as a semi-climber. Some roses are rampant and get out of control - not this beauty. It is recommended for zones 5 to 11. It is a cross of 'The Squire' with an unnamed seedling.

When Austin states in his catalog that it is 4 feet by 3.5 feet or 6 to 8 feet as a climber, he should really emphasize the latter. One stem is over 8 feet, several are about 4 feet, and smaller stems are coming from the base, at least three feet in front of the main stems. I had to install a small trellis to restrain the tall stem. The smaller, as well as the larger stems have flowers appearing in small clusters at the end of the stems, and all of the stems, of whatever weight, bend forward and therefore require discreet staking. I have two, and am growing one as a shrub and the other as a climber.

It has 41 petals and the flowers have an average diameter of 3.25". It is cluster flowering. It has medium, semi-glossy, medium green foliage.

Note that this rose stays redder in full sunshine than some of the other reds. I grew it facing fully south and it stayed quite red.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles rose

LD Braithwaite

This rose is a cross of two other Austin roses, 'The Squire' and 'Mary Rose' (the latter being one of the soundest of the early Austin roses). The initials stand for Leonard Dudley Braithwaite, who is David Austin's father-in-law. It is said to have the brightest crimson coloring of all the reds. It is 4 feet high and 4 and a half feet wide, but can be somewhat larger in optimal environments. It is very double and fragrant, with four and a half-inch blooms, is in a crimson red shade and is continually blooming. This rose gets excellent reviews from those who grow it. It is said to be very fragrant, and has 80 petals.

Hybridized 1988, it is said to be somewhat open growing, and a bit light on foliage, but has many charms. It has burgundy buds and four inch flowers. It is very upright. The outer petals reflex, but the flower ends up in a classic rose shape. Zone 5 hardy. It can be grown in partial shade, which will preserve the darker red tone.

L.D. Braithwaite

Sophy's Rose

Hybridized in 1997, this is a cross between 'Prospero' and an unnamed seedling. It is recommended for zones 5 to 11. Like a number of these roses, it can turn bright pink in sunlight, since the undertone is actually described by Austin as crimson-pink. The flowers are an upright type. It has what is referred to as strong tea fragrance. The height is up to 4.5 feet and the width is about 4 feet with twiggy growth. The average bloom is 5", and it has a little under 50 petals, forming a rosette.

sophy's rose

William Shakespeare 2000

This rose was hybridized in 1994 but not released until 2000. This rose, which is a cross between 'Mary Rose' and 'Prospero', is a strong, excellent rose by all accounts. It is reported to be very disease resistant. It replaced a version of 'William Shakespeare', hybridized in 1987, which was a cross between 'The Squire' and 'Mary Rose'. It was an exceptionally weak and diseased rose, hence it's withdrawal and replacement.

It is crimson, aging to purple, with up to 120 petals and a strong old rose scent. The average diameter of the flower is 3.5 inches in a quartered bloom form. Rebloom is quite strong, in flushes throughout the season. It's maximum height and width are 4 by 3, respectfully. It is hardy in zones 5b though 9b.

william shakespeare 2000

Darcey Bussell

This rose, which is sometimes described as a red blend, is hardy in zones 5b through11. The deep crimson blooms turn mauve. It has up to 80 petals, with a diameter of 41 plus, making them quite full. It is quite vigorous, growing three to five feet, in small clusters, and blooms in flushes through the season. It has a quite old fashioned bloom form. The fragrance has been described as fruity. It was introduced in 2005.

While this is a lovely rose I received a lot of conflicting information on it, from height to scent to habit to color. But it is clear that it is a strong repeat bloomer. It is a tribute the glorious British ballet dancer.

Again, bear in mind that in hot climates some Austin roses turn fuchsia, so they are better gown in part sun/part shade. On the other hand, I found the 'Dark Lady' so wonderful that I bought a second one. As you can see from the image below, it wasn't red. I got it from a nursery in the southeast, which partially explains it.

darcey bussell rose

And note that 'Dublin Bay', a Sam McGredy climber that came on the same day from the same nursery, was decidedly red.

The Dark Lady on arrival.

Dublin Bay, center, The Dark Lady, right

But please don't let that deter you. Although some red roses will in fact change color in bright sunlight, the resulting flowers are lovely.