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Abraham Darby health

I planted three in fall 2021 from Heirloom Roses. And no, I didn't buy them on sale (grrr). For me they are the most pathetic disease magnets I have BUT I know it's early and I have hope. I'm just wondering if yours improved through the years with own root?

Comments (28)

  • erasmus_gw
    last month

    My main plant of it is grafted and even with spraying it's blackspot prone at least part of the year I don't spray much in the heat of summer , and not much in fall and none in winter. . The vigor and repeat bloom are still good.

  • Kit_in_NJ_zone_6
    Original Author
    last month

    I expected it to be disease prone but I plan to have other plants around it which will make that less noticeable. Basically I'd be happy if my own root eventually gets at least four feet tall.

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    I guess they went back to the nursery and nobody could tell them if it was own root or not and they picked me up another JP Connell instead (which was my second choice). Mine is just starting to bloom (bought this year & so pretty!) I have a better chance of wintering over that rose than an Abe Darby, but still would love to have him someday. Was yours an own root or grafted Carol? I bought a body bag Graham Thomas at Home Depot in March and have it potted up and the buds are so heavy, that I have it staked. It is grafted, but am hoping to enjoy "him" for the summer (if it ever gets here) It weathered a 20 minute hailstorm well last night, but my canna's are toast Debbie
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  • mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
    last month


    First I need to stop laughing. My own root Abraham Darby is all of 12 inches tall. It's that big because we had a mild winter.

    AFAIK, there is no such thing as a reliably disease resistant Austin in the east. There is a relatively short list of Austins that will be tolerable without a spray program. Then there is Snowdon, but leave it to Austin to develop a zone 5 rugosa.

  • Kit_in_NJ_zone_6
    Original Author
    last month

    12 inches oh my goodness. I'm surprised you didn't get rid of it. Maybe in our warmer zone 6 mine will reach gargantuan size of 24 inches.

  • Ashley Smith zone 5a
    last month
    last modified: last month

    My Abe Darby looks awful. The only reason it's still here is because I love his blooms, tho few. Actually the blooms he has right now look awful too. I guess thrips?? Shame on you, Abe.





    And look at his tiny shriveled leaves at the top of that cane. Maybe someone can tell me whats wrong. He did have a few decent blooms earlier.



  • Diane Brakefield
    last month

    I will never call my Abe Darby "Twig Darby" again. He is huge compared to these examples (2.5 feet-wow). He's probably that tall because in our dry climate we don't get rose fungal diseases, and we have, almost always, mild winters. Otherwise, my own root Darby would probably be about 12 inches tall. Ashley Smith, maybe your Abe needs more sun. That big, encroaching hosta looks happy. Diane

  • Ashley Smith zone 5a
    last month

    Yes, I agree Diane. I've been threatening to move him. He gets some afternoon sun but I dont think it's enough.

  • Kit_in_NJ_zone_6
    Original Author
    last month

    Ashley, the leaves look perfectly healthy to me however the top growth looks spindly maybe because of aphids sucking on it or like Diane said not enough sun.

    Diane, how big is your Abraham Darby now? What kind of zone are you in?

    erasmus_gw, that picture is amazing! That's the kind of photo I've seen online that persuaded me to try this beautiful, reported fragrant rose. What did they spray with? To be fair, our soil is a bit heavy in clay and I may have not added enough compost so I might try that first at least on one of them.

  • Paul Barden
    last month

    I stopped using fungicides on the Austins (and other moderns) in 2010. All of the Austins died within 5 years, their expiration driven by chronic Blackspot infection. 'Abraham Darby' was very quick to die, being leafless for much of the year. Good riddance. Here, in a climate where disease pressure is quite intense, I would never attempt to grow it again. At its best, it never exceeded 2.5 feet tall, but I blame our heavy clay soil for limiting its size. Some things do very well in this soil, but many moderns are limited by it.

    I still have a few of the older Hybrid Teas, and by comparison, 'Tiffany' is a tower of strength and good health. I think its the greatest mistake in the Austin breeding program - that much more emphasis wasn't placed on breeding varieties with far better Blackspot resistance. I find that odd, given the climate these were raised in. The Austins could have been so much better than they are.

  • librarian_gardner_8b_pnw
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I have many newer Austins in my garden and it's just their second year so maybe I need more time to observe. Over all, most of them are doing well and i don't spray. I have a few with some blackspot this year where they didn't last year. This year has been a nonstop wet year, quite a test. Lots of botrytis on blooms (OGR, Austins, other moderns) because it's been so wet. Even so, the little blackspot is nowhere near what is described here. Maybe the newer Austins have better disease resistance?

    I've specifically stayed away from roses with a reputation as blackspot magnets, including Abraham Darby and Zephirine Drouhin.

    Kit, I think there are some threads on here where Straw Chicago and others talk about organic soil amendments that can help roses be more resistant to disease. I haven't tried any but if you're looking at long-term health and avoiding spraying it might be worth a look.

  • Diane Brakefield
    last month

    Erasmus, your beautiful Abe Darby looks like my Augusta Luise. Now if my Abe looked like that, I would find him a more respectful nickname.


    Kit, my Abe is about 2.5X3 feet. I garden in zone 7, semi arid desert, hence no fungal diseases. Diane


    Augusta Luise

  • erasmus_gw
    last month

    Augusta seems more bs resistant than Abe in my garden. A grafted Abe might do better for you, Diane.

  • Diane Brakefield
    last month

    I know. What I wanted was a grafted Abe, and the five gallon Abes at Edwards, my favorite local nursery, were sold out early that year. So, I thought I really needed Abe (don't know why) and ordered an own root, the only kind available online then, from a well respected seller. The rose was not bare root, but the leaves had been stripped off and it was soil free. I think this was in compliance with Idaho's strict rules about importing plant material. Abe never seemed to get over this indignity. I decided then and there I disliked own root roses. This was reinforced by the performance of an own root Julia Child, who is fine, but can't compare to my grafted Julias. The irony of this tale is that a woman had purchased every one of the Abes at Edwards, and after I got my OR Abe, this person returned all the grafted Abes to the nursery. I was quite irritated. An understatement. Diane

  • Diane Brakefield
    last month

    I don't get BS in my garden so that point is irrelevant for me, but not a lot of others. Diane

  • Paul Barden
    last month
    last modified: last month

    The fact is that - just like most of the entities that have bred new roses in the 20th (and 21st) century - Austin UK relies on grafting to a strong understock to evaluate their new selections. So they are giving a skewed performance evaluation of their selections that does not fully take into account how those selections perform on their own roots.

    You can be sure than 95% of roses bred in the past 100 years will under-perform on their own roots when compared to the same cultivar grown on a strong rootstock. Its just a fact. Many of the Austins (in my experience) are very modest (weak?) growers even when budded onto 'Dr. Huey' (or equivalent), so you can be sure those types will really, truly suck when growing on their own roots. I grew 'The Prince' budded onto R. multiflora (Pickering) for a decade and it never exceeded 24" tall, at best, always struggling to grow at all. I don't dare imagine what a crappy plant that would be on its own roots.

  • strawchicago z5
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I have 2 Abraham Darby (2nd-year own-root). Both are in partial shade, 3 to 4 hrs. of sun. The Abraham Darby that I spent 2 hours digging out ALL THE cement clay & rocks at a depth of past 2.5 feet is 100% healthy, no rose-slugs nor blackspots. That spot is so fast draining, that a 3-gallon bucket of water drains INSTANTLY at a depth of 2 feet.

    But the Abraham Darby near the rain-spout get a touch of blackspots during 2 inch. of rain per day. I also spent 2 hours digging that hole down past 2 feet, and test for drainage by dumping a 3-gallon of bucket, it drains in less than 3 min, but NOT FAST enough for my heavy rain climate.

    CONCLUSION: Own-root Abraham Darby needs fast drainage to stay healthy, and best in loamy soil rather than poor drainage clay. I grew mine in pots first before transferring into my dense & black gumbo clay. I drilled zillion of holes in my pots (even on the sides), in a fast draining potting soil, and 2 Abraham Darby were 100% healthy in pots, except I had to water these fast draining pots twice a day, plus lots of sulfate of potash.

    Below is my Abraham Darby's 1st bloom in pots. Note the glossy leaves (require more potassium to stay healthy), My alkaline clay is high in potassium & lots of dandelions, all my 34 own-root Austin roses are healthy IF DUG DEEP ENOUGH for drainage.

    Austins with climber-genetics (Abraham Darby, Evelyn) need a deeper planting hole so their deep roots won't be water-logged during heavy rain.

    Most Austin roses have deep & chunky & woody roots (like trees) and need good drainage past 2 feet. In contrast, Blue Mist (miniflora) has shallow cluster root and can stay healthy even in poor drainage clay.


    Below are Khalid's young own-roots Austin (Golden Celebration, The Prince, Geoff Hamilton) in his FAST DRAINING and LOAMY soil. His Pakistan has a monsoon season (raining the entire month), but his soil is fast draining & deep and loamy so Austin roses are 100% healthy as own-roots:



    Kit_in_NJ_zone_6 thanked strawchicago z5
  • Kit_in_NJ_zone_6
    Original Author
    last month

    Paul Barden,

    That is interesting. I never thought about it like that. It makes sense about own root.

    Strawchicago, Thank you for this information! I think I am still in denial about how hard like cement my clay soil is and didn't do all that digging and amending you did for these poor Abe's. I feel guilty that I could be unfairly casting shade on this rose simply because I'm not providing it the proper ideal conditions. I think I need to get some more compost and fix the situation. The photo of your Abe in a pot is beautiful and that photo of Pakistan is so colorful and beautiful!

  • erasmus_gw
    last month

    I know you don't get bs, Diane. I can see how you'd be irked with that woman. I like Abe's rebloom, the vigor of the plant ( again, grafted), the warm colors, and especially the fragrance. It's also hardy here and can take the heat.


    Some of my Austins do well own root and some are better grafted. Here's my own root Golden Celebration. I grew it from a 3" cutting which I planted directly in the ground a long time ago.

    So a grafted one may well be bigger . But this is big enough for me.



    The best plant of The Prince that I have is in a large pot, and it's rooted through the hole. It is only about 4x4' but is well-branched and has great rebloom. It's bs prone. Tiny rooted plants of it lack vigor and take forever to get to a decent size. But it can become a decent plant. It may take awhile. It's just a faithful bloomer. Plenty of my own root Austins have perfectly adequate vigor .

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    last month

    I have had plants get healthy as they matured including Austins and own root. So much depends on the weather too. I put alfalfa pellets under Cadenza and Rosarium Uetersen one Spring and got immediate BS on the leaves. I guess that was too acidic.

  • Alfie
    last month

    I must say I absolutely LOVE Abe Darby. We have about 16 rose vaeriries in our garden and for me this my second favourite after Chandos Beauty. It does suffer from black spot but I grow mine up a tree so that they pop out and flower in front of the tree therefore the foilage is hidden. The blooms are just stunning. I even love the buds with their marbled burnt orange and flame colouring. They smell incredible. The blackspot is indeed annoying but the blooms and smell of this rose definitely outweigh its shortfalls for me.


    These are all photos from within the last few weeks.















  • Alfie
    last month

    I must say I absolutely LOVE Abe Darby. We have about 16 rose vaeriries in our garden and for me this my second favourite after Chandos Beauty. It does suffer from black spot but I grow mine up a tree so that they pop out and flower in front of the tree therefore the foilage is hidden. The blooms are just stunning. I even love the buds with their marbled burnt orange and flame colouring. They smell incredible. The blackspot is indeed annoying but the blooms and smell of this rose definitely outweigh its shortfalls for me.


    These are all photos from within the last few weeks.











  • Alfie
    last month

    Sorry for repeat post - internet is so laggy today!

  • sultry_jasmine_nights (Florida 8b)
    last month

    I don't have any 'Own Root' Abes. I do know that both of my Fortuniana grafted Abes have way less blackspot & bloom more than my Doc Huey grafted Abes.

  • Ashley Smith zone 5a
    last month

    I'm happy to see my Abe is putting on some fresh growth.



  • Alfie
    last month

    @Ashley Smith zone 5a - looks excellent! very strong and healthy growth.

  • Kit_in_NJ_zone_6
    Original Author
    last month

    @strawchicago z5,

    Since you've posted that comment about drainage I took your advice and worked on the sites again as well as some others. I got 2 cubic yards of loamy soil...



    I dug around and below all three Abraham Darby roses except for one direction so I didn't disturb the roots too much and replaced the hard parts of clay with loamy soil. I also did this with a Crown Princess Margaret rose. I think I already see an improvement. It's still early of course and I might have to do more in the future. I was so exhausted in this heat but I think it will help. Thank you!

    @Alfie,

    Beautiful pictures.

    @Ashley Smith zone 5a, It's looking really good. Please share an update in future. I enjoy seeing this rose in bloom.

  • Ashley Smith zone 5a
    27 days ago

    Abe sent out several more blooms and I have to say I love them. And another redeeming thing about Abe is that the JBs seem to ignore him.



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