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Graham Thomas – David Austin Rose

Graham Thomas is among the most enduring of the David Austin New English garden roses.

Introduced in 1983, Graham Thomas is still one of David Austin’s most beautiful roses. It is also a perfect example of the sometimes maddening nature of his New English roses.

Graham Thomas roses are simply brilliant. Butter yellow, large, with classic old rose form. It blooms reliably in the garden from spring through frost. It embodies the best of the classic David Austin rose program: remontant, gorgeous form, and fresh, inspired color.

David Austin roses
Graham Thomas rose.

Graham Thomas was named for the famed horticulturalist and rosarian. Not least among his many accomplishments, Graham Stuart Thomas is credited with working to save many garden roses from extinction. It is understandable and admirable that David Austin chose to honor Thomas.

Graham Thomas can get huge.

Large-growing shrubs are not a bad thing, but in 2014 David Austin’s website indicates a height of four feet. In hot climates, Graham Thomas (the shrub, not the climbing version) can top eight feet. Many gardeners have been antagonized by David Austin roses growing much larger than originally specified. note…I started thinking about this issue, and perhaps different catalog offerings are sizing roses based on their intended market.

In no way should this put you off of David Austin roses, but beware size recommendations until sufficient data for your region begins to come in. David Austin’s roses have not traditionally excelled when it comes to disease resistance. Graham Thomas is susceptible to blackspot. If you live in a hot, humid climate, there is the possibility your Graham Thomas will get huge and then lose its leaves in summer.

Graham Thomas is the favorite rose of many gardeners with good reason. It is the bane of others with just as much legitimacy. This is the territory one enters when considering growing roses. You just never know.

David Austin New English roses
Rose Graham Thomas in the garden

Protecting blackspot-prone roses without spraying

In the face of considering roses of such spectacular beauty as Graham Thomas, it is hard for me to advise that we should eliminate roses that require constant spraying from our gardens. Yet, this is the way I feel. I do not spray roses. Inevitably, I have roses die.

Should you wish to grow roses susceptible to blackspot, if you maintain good cultural practices and are willing to accept a little unsightliness on occasion, you can successfully grow many roses, including Graham Thomas.

  • Plant garden roses in areas with good air circulation. Do not crowd roses with other plants. Low growing perennials or a boxwood parterre to cover a rose’s ungainly lower half (the knees) are fine.
  • Do not water overhead if the leaves will not have time to dry before nightfall.
  • Clean up dead, diseased, fallen leaves and dispose. Do not compost.
  • Grow garden roses in as much sun as you can find in the garden. Healthy roses that receive lots of sun are best able to fight off disease.
  • Water deeply.

You may have come to this page to learn about Graham Thomas only to feel inundated with warnings and cautionary words. Graham Thomas is an incredible rose and I encourage you to give it a try. I also encourage you not to spray to control insects and disease.

Graham Thomas - David Austin New English
Graham Thomas is the classic David Austin New English rose: great color, great form, and repeat bloom.

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