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Constance Spry, Austin, 1961. Breeding: 'Belle Isis' X 'Dainty Maid'

Constance Spry is the very first of the English Roses introduced by David Austin, and has come to be seen as a landmark in modern rose breeding. It was to mark our release from the tyranny of the Hybrid Tea that has haunted us for so many years since the 1867 introduction of La France. ( If you detect hints of a certain disdain for HT's and Floribundas here, then you would not be entirely incorrect....just don't think that this is a complete dismissal of the classes...) It is generally well known that this hybrid arose as a cross between Edward LeGrice's single pink floribunda, Dainty Maid, and the gallica, Belle Isis. As the gallica parent is a summer only bloomer, then it follows that Constance Spry is as well. ( Remontancy is a recessive trait, and so to have a hybrid inherit the characteristic, the gene must be present in both parents. The gene is represented only once in a cross like this, and so this rose blooms only in the early summer. )

Constance Spry has magnificently large, clear pink blooms that are simple, and yet exceptionally refined. The plant in full bloom is a sight to behold, and it can get to be a huge plant in a very short time. A plant I once had in another garden got to be 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide in only two years! It can be trained as a climber of sorts, but I imagine that it will make an extraordinary free-standing shrub if given a lot of space somewhere. The flowers have a most haunting fragrance which Mr. Austin describes as "Myrhh-like". It is most distinct, and quite a hypnotic scent. One of the future hybrids of David Austin, Fair Bianca, has inherited this scent to an even greater degree, and I find it very beautiful.
All things said and done, I must concur with other writers when discussing this rose, and say that it is a treasure that is well worth growing in spite of it's habit of blooming for only a few weeks in early summer. Just be sure to give it lots of room!

ARS merit rating: 8.5
Personal merit rating: 9.0
Hardiness: USDA zones 5 to 8, possibly zone 4 in a protected location.
Shrub size: 6 to 12 feet tall X 8 feet wide, depending on climate
Fragrance: 4.0, strong Myrrh fragrance.

Abraham Darby Gertrude Jekyll St. Swithun
Charlotte* Graham Thomas Sharifa Asma*
Claire Rose* Jayne Austin* Sweet Juliet*
Constance Spry* John Clare Teasing Georgia
Country Living Jude the Obscure* The Prince
Eglantyne* Mayor of Casterbridge Tradescant
Evelyn Othello* William Shakespeare
Fair Bianca Prospero William Shakespeare 2000
Geoff Hamilton St. Cecelia  

Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2004