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David Austin's legacy lives on at Chelsea Flower Show

By Mark Andrews | Telford | Albrighton & Cosford | Published:

David Austin's legacy will live on at this year's Chelsea Flower Show – with two now roses which had been developed under his watchful eye.

Next month's show will be a bittersweet event for staff at world-famous David Austin Roses in Albrighton, as it will be the first year they have taken part without their inspirational founder.

But company marketing officer Gayatri Barua-Howe said the late David Austin Snr would still have a presence at the festival through two new roses, Eustacia Vye and Gabriel Oak, which had been grown under his supervision.

David Austin Sr meeting the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show

Mr Austin, who died in December at the age of 92, was responsible for introducing what became known as the English Rose.

His flowers, which combined the character and fragrance of old garden roses but with the repeat-flowering ability and wide colour ranges of modern varieties, were first publicly shown at the 1983 Chelsea show to rave reviews from both the Press and public.

The following year he won his first gold medal at the show.

Mrs Barua-Howe said there would also be a special memorial to Mr Austin, affectionately known to his staff as 'Mr A', at this year's show.

Eustacia Vye, one of the latest flowers from David Austin Roses, will be displayed at the first Chelsea Flower Show since the death of founder David Austin Sr

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She said: "The Chelsea Flower Show was always a very special event for Mr A because it was where he won his first gold medal in 1984.

"His involvement will still be there in the two new roses we are showing at this year's festival.

"It takes about nine years to grow a new breed, and he was very much involved in the creation of these new roses."

The new flowers are named after characters in Thomas Hardy novels.

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Gabriel Oak will also make its debut at Chelsea Flower Show

Mr Austin's son, David Jr, said Chelsea was also where his father introduced his first English Rose varieties to overwhelming acclaim from the press and general public.

"A calendar highlight for my father, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be exhibiting with two new English Rose varieties that were lovingly created and nurtured over the last nine years under his ever-watchful eye”.

Named after the exotically beautiful but restless heroine of The Return of the Native, Eustacia Vye is a soft apricot-pink with ruffled petals and red-tinged stems. The blooms begin as shallow cups opening to full rosettes, revealing petals which gradually pale over time.

David Austin, centre, pictured in 2016

The central male character from Far from the Madding Crowd was the inspiration for Gabriel Oak. The outer petals of each bloom are a shade of deep pink and has a strong fruity fragrance.

The two striking new roses will be seen for the first time in bloom at the show, creating the focal point of David Austin’s Secret Garden themed display.

Mr Austin Jr said: "As ever, this year’s garden promises to be a true feast for the senses, a stunning show of scent and colour set in a beautifully fluid, circular design – the perfect setting for a moment of quiet reflection – and a favourite Hardy novel, perhaps."

Last year the company won its 24th gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judi Dench examines David Austin's rose named after her at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show

It also received a number of celebrity guests at its display, including Mary Berry and David Walliams.

Mr Austin, who would be followed around wherever he went by his faithful Staffordshire bull terrier Bertie, died in his sleep at his home in Albrighton on December 18. Fans of his blooms included The Queen – who met Mr Austin Sr at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show – and Dame Judi Dench, who had a rose named after her.

Tributes flooded in from around the world following his death.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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