All David Austin roses showcased at the symposium were kindly supplied by Alexandra Farms, Colombia; Green Valley Floral, California; and RosaPrima, Ecuador who are three of just a handful of growers in the world who are authorized to grow David Austin varieties.
David Austin English garden roses are justly famous around the world for their subtle hues; for their large, exquisitely textured blossoms; for the way they open slowly and hold; and above all for their delicious scent. Today that reputation extends not only to the original family of David Austin shrub roses, but also to the newer varieties bred for performance as cut flowers.
It’s natural to think of these English-bred beauties for hand- tied bridal bouquets or stately centerpieces in the classic style. But is that the only way to showcase their distinctive qualities? How do you make the most of David Austin cut roses—striving for the optimum not only in pleasurable enjoyment, but also in return on your investment in these premium flowers?
Among other factors in the sensational rise of Holly Heider Chapple to become the top trend setter in wedding florals today, Holly has long promoted the idea of mixing commercially grown cut flowers with materials harvested from the garden: abelia, mountain laurel, even home-grown, in-season peonies and hydrangeas. Starting from that premise, cut roses in the garden style become the natural choice for that most essential component of any bridal bouquet, the rose.
Minimalism might not be what you first think of when you think of David Austin roses, with their abundant petals and generous fragrance. Nonetheless, David Austin varieties are the favorite roses of Alex Choi AIFD, the Interflora World Cup winner from South Korea, who gave his program at AIFD Symposium the title, “Less Is More.”
“Once I had used these roses, I didn’t want to use any others!” he says. “A David Austin rose draws attention to itself with its awesome scent. It has its own power of presence. When I use it in a design, it elevates the whole level of the design to a very elegant, luxurious look.”
Although Alex’s work could be described as contemporary, it is not austere. “You could call my style Modern Natural,” he said from the AIFD stage. “Usually you would think that modern and natural are contrasting concepts. You would think of modern as compact, square, limited, contained, and of natural as airy, spreading… but when you put them together, that creates a tension that makes beauty.”
The classic David Austin wedding rose, Patience, is used in one of Alex Choi’s modern designs to create a vertical display.
Like many European designers, Alex relies heavily on water tubes to achieve his effects. American designers aren’t as accustomed to water tubes, but Alex showed how to make them user-friendly. In the workroom at Symposium, helpers utilized a handy technique for replenishing water (mixed with flower food) in the water tubes, with a squeeze bottle equipped with a downward-facing spout. On stage, Alex introduced an invention of his own that allows him to position water tubes freely and precisely: wire brackets with rings to hold the water tubes and long arms that can be bent into hooks on each end.
It turns out, then, that contemporary design techniques from Europe and Asia may be better adapted than traditional styles for making the most of David Austin roses. Leaving space around the individual blossoms can reveal the lovely shape of a deep cup or rosette from all sides, not just the frilly top. Combining ruffled David Austin roses with glossy anthuriums (following the trend known as tropical nouveau) makes for a striking contrast in texture. Scattered through a composition that emphasizes line movement, the round heads of exquisite garden roses provide perfect resting places for the eye.
All those ideas came to the fore in a Symposium program featuring designers from the EMC group—graduates of the prestigious European Master Certification program, conceived and carried out by Tomas de Bruyne AIFD and Hitomi Gilliam AIFD. For example, in contrast to the traditional hand-tied bouquet featuring roses, in which the heads are pressed compactly together,
Julia Schmitt AIFD, EMC created a showcase for Constance roses with a construction (what in the USA would be called an armature) made with two kinds of wire, including Oasis etched wire in a matte steel color, curled into a filigree design. The construction separates the rose heads, giving each one full play in the design.
“The concept of our program was to give designers the inspiration they need, not just to succeed artistically, but also financially,” says EMC leader Hitomi Gilliam AIFD. “To me David Austin roses are the perfect example of beauty that justly commands a high price. It’s really the only brand in the world of cut flowers that customers can identify by name. Certainly it’s the only one that covers a whole family of varieties, all different but all with the same qualities that you don’t get from any other brand: the sophisticated fragrance, the extraordinary palette.
“That’s why, any time you use a David Austin rose, it needs to be the star…”