David Austin’s ‘Constance Spry’ at the Rose & Fragrance Garden at Penn State
If you’re a fan of David Austin’s roses, then it is very likely you have heard of ‘Constance Spry’ which was his very first introduction in 1960. When I visited the Rose & Fragrance garden last summer, I was floored by the beauty of this rose, but it wasn’t labeled and admittedly I thought perhaps it was some kind of Old Garden Rose. The question was nagging at me, so I finally contacted The Arboretum and when they told me it was ‘Constance Spry’ I had one of those head-slap moments. I’m still a rookie at identifying roses, but it’s probably not surprising that my first thought was that ‘Constance Spry’ was an OGR, because her form, with full, rounded, cupped blossoms in clear pink and the fact she bloomed just once last season made me instantly think of old European roses. And that is exactly what David Austin is striving for in his creations: to create roses with the lush habit and scent of an OGR but with the reliable remontance (repeat-bloom) of a modern rose. Since ‘Constance Spry’ was introduced over 50 years ago, a lot of roses have been added to his vast collection that do, in fact, flower all season long and many that take up a lot less space. However, if you have the room in your garden for ‘Constance Spry’, I think she would be worthwhile growing for her incredible charm, beauty and vigour as well as her significance as the forerunner of the modern “English” shrub roses we enjoy today.