King of the Old English: David Austin

Consider the young fellow, lost in his own kitchen, attempting to roast a chicken for the first time. He has called his mother - he should call her more - to ask her how to do it, but he tuned out at some point and was left, as he came around to find himself standing in the middle of the room with the phone in his hand, better informed but none the wiser. He has asked the Googler, but the Googler was little use as the temperatures were all in old money and the measurements in ‘cups’. Yet somehow he gets the thing roasted with nothing more than a drop of oil, a little salt, a squeeze of pepper and an oven.

He triumphs. There is, he discovers, nothing to it.

It’s the same with roses. Your aunt will tell you to plant garlic around the base to ward off greenfly. Another aunt will interrupt her and tell you not to. Diluted Fairy Liquid is the thing for greenfly, she says. Don’t you listen to her, says the third - it’s pruning when the sap’s up that you need to worry about.

Smile and say thank you, for they are your Aunts after all. Then pay their lore not the least attention.

As with chickens, so with roses. A vague idea is good enough - vague idea, and something to dig with, a slosh of water and a box of blood, fish & bone, which isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. Unlike a chicken, a rose will remain in midst of other woes long after the washing up is done and those aunts have gone off to the Great Perhaps.

There are roses for shady spots and roses that thrive even in poor soil. There are roses that sit up and pose, and roses that climb walls. Some roses – well some of the best roses like to ramble.

What’s more, they make an excellent present, and an inexpensive one at that. Twenty pounds might get you a half-decent bottle of claret but then again it might not. Twenty pounds will certainly, however, get you one of any number of beautiful roses, sent through the post and ready to go in the ground so that it might bring you, your family and your friends sweet-smelling pleasure for years to come.

Just visit next time you need a convenient, thoughtful and enduring present. That’s assuming, of course, that you’ve already had a look through Oliver Brown’s new catalogue