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Celebrating the ageless style and grace of the world’s favourite flower – the vintage rose


Classic Blooms

To some extent, all vintage roses can be dubbed classics, since they are elegant, understated, timeless and enduring. Some, however, fit more neatly into this category. They exemplify their type in form – delicate single-flowered beauties, expansive cupped goblets, great overblown corsages, and frilled and pleated multi-petalled fancies. Their hue is also significant. Neutral tones cannot automatically be classed as classic merely because they are pale, and not all intense colours shout noisily for our immediate attention. These roses all have a warmth in tone that subtly shifts through a harmonious palette from bud to maturity.


Desdemona is a superb example of a classic rose – the colour works with everything in the garden and as a cut flower, it is the picture of elegance, equally effective alone or as a neutral foil in all kinds of flower arrangements.

Launched in 2015 by the indefatigable David Austin Desdemona buds a pale pink with a darker tip. It opens into a charming chalice of petals, imbued with the palest hint of creamy pink and paling as the incurving petals unfurl to a creamy white, then fade again to white. It creates a wondrous ensemble of shades of white that are influenced by the light and surrounding colours. At the heart you can catch a glimpse of the sulphur stamens.

The flowers, which reach 9cm (3½n) in diameter, have a strong fragrance with hints of myrrh. They bloom from early summer until the first frosts.

Desdemona’s flowers are apparently indifferent to rain, which is a huge bonus in a wet climate. Austin named this rose after William Shakespeare’s pure and innocent heroine from his tragedy, Othello.

Flowering Repeat-flowers

Aspect Sunny

Soil Rich, moist and well-drained

Habit Open, upright shrub

Average height 1.2m (48in)

Average spread 90cm (35in)

Pruning Light pruning initially; remove about one-third thereafter

Foliage Dark green and glossy

Thorns Yes

As a cut flower Utterly charming and fragrant

Similar varieties Lichfield Angel; Tranquillity

The featured extract is from Vintage Roses: Beautiful varieties for home and garden by Jane Eastoe