Q&A with Jane Eastoe, Author of Vintage Roses

By Shelley Pierce | May 21, 2017
by Shelley Pierce
May 21, 2017

At the ‘tender’ age of 30 journalist and author Jane Eastoe transferred her loyalties from fashion to horticulture, ditching heels for wellies. She has written numerous books on plants,  gardening and the countryside for the National Trust, and occasionally still scrubs up to write about fashion. Over the past 30 years she has grown many varieties of roses – mostly with success – and spends her summers sniffing and picking them. This practical experience, combined with her love of historical research and her fashion sensibility inspired her to write Vintage Roses.


Read on for more information about this Gibbs Smith book and enter to win one of two copies!

1. What is it about vintage roses in general that you find inspiring?

I adore roses that have the characteristics of old roses, the look, the perfume, and the ability to blend with other garden plants. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as picking them and bringing them into the house – even just a single stem.

2. Tell us about one or two of your personal favorite vintage roses – why is it your favorite?

My personal favorite would be Tuscany Superb, the color is so deep, dark and intense, and it works wonderfully well with other flowers in both garden and vase.

3. What qualitiescharacteristics must a rose possess in order to be considered vintage? What really sets them apart from the rest?

The term ‘vintage roses’ was used for the book to incorporate both the true old roses and the new roses that are ‘old’ in style, but which have the benefits of repeat flowering. They are all graceful and charming, and blend with other garden plants. I felt the term defined the key characteristics of this style of rose, but kept away from the technicalities of precise classification which I wanted to avoid. Too many people are frightened of growing roses, and I wanted to make the book both accessible and inspirational.

4. How did you decide which vintage roses were to be included in your book?

The photographer Georgianna Lane and I came up with a list of what we both wanted to include. We wanted the book to be truly international and to have some less well-known varieties as well as some of the tried and trusted favorites.

The list was far too long, so we whittled it down to include our favorites, and also some varieties that exemplified the plant’s diversity of form and color.

5. Was it difficult tracking down the vintage roses in your book for photographs? Were there some varieties that eluded you when it came to tracking them down?

Georgianna is famous for her beautiful photographs of roses, but we wanted the book to have particular visual style, so she needed to specially shoot a large proportion of the images. Whilst I love books that have inspirational pictures of rose walks, or fabulous rose-hung pergolas, they can be disheartening – most of us don’t have the space to garden on that scale. We wanted the book to focus in on the individual beauty of each bloom, not the grandeur of the garden, or the beauty of the overall planting scheme.. Georgianna roamed the world to find the varieties we wanted and to catch them at their loveliest best and the results were breathtaking.

6. For those venturing into vintage roses for the first time, do you have any recommendations or advice to share?

Just go for it. Look for a variety and form you like. Plant it in sun, or in partial shade, ideally between November and January, and dig in some well rotted manure before you plant it so that it has plenty of food to give it a good start. Then sit back and enjoy, you’ll learn about pruning as you go!

7. What roses are in your garden?

I have moved house a few times in the last five years – so I am always bidding farewell to favourite roses. I mourn the loss of a fabulous Graham Thomas which bloomed profusely from early May until September, and then carried on throwing out the odd flower until late December – I nearly always had a lone yellow rose to pick on Christmas Day. My beloved Tuscany Superb grew quite out of control and romped happily though an olive tree which was a spectacular combination of silver and dark red. However the good thing about moving is that I can get to know yet more varieties. I am indulging my passion for pink roses in my new garden and have just planted Variegata de Bologna, a great two-tone ruffle of raspberry and white, a Gertrude Jekyll and an Alan Titchmarsh – I can’t wait to bring them into the house and see how they work together.


To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, May 28, 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Tell us about your favorite type of roses.

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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