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.


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  • Joanna
    Comment added May 24, 2017Reply

    Thank you! I grow at least 150 roses, I lose count. I also grow several vintage roses. I love the newer David Austin roses too. My Graham Thomas is still going after some twenty years or so. I would love a copy of your book. It sounds very interesting.

  • Debbie Truss
    Comment added May 24, 2017Reply

    REMEMBER ME rose that i planted with my late father's ashes 24 years ago, they still look lovely.

  • Lauren
    Comment added May 23, 2017Reply

    The rose that was specifically bred for dame Judi Dench, got me into the Chelsea flower show for the first time!

  • Sharrie
    Comment added May 23, 2017Reply

    I love the found rose, "Maggie". Itscolor and fragrance are lovely. Mine is new to the garden but I know it will grow much bigger.

  • Harish Chinai
    Comment added May 22, 2017Reply

    To name my most favorite rose in my garden is like asking a parent to name the most favorite child. All my 65 roses are my most favorite. That is why I grow them in my garden. I look forward to reading the Vintage Roses when it is released.

  • Cindy Vincent
    Comment added May 22, 2017Reply

    I love American Beauty roses

  • Angela de la Cruz
    Comment added May 22, 2017Reply

    I love the heirloom Rose ?

  • G. Rutkowski
    Comment added May 22, 2017Reply

    I love the David Austin roses. They're so pretty.

  • Ed Yemola
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I have a few miniature roses that are perfect for my miniature fairy garden.

  • Carol Yemola
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I love all types of roses and the Hybrid Teas are my utmost favorite. The problem is that they have so many issues and Black Spot is a given. I have little by little been leaning towards the Double Knock Outs. Less work and lots of blooms.

  • Ann Marie Mones
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    China Rose - Old Blush is one of my favorites. They are simple, delicately sc need, easy to maintain, and absolutely beautiful!

  • Cara Kirkland
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    My favorite type of rose is the Double Knock Out Rose.

  • Kathryn Estes
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I have fallen in Love with vintage roses. The blooms are more beautiful. The smell is breath taking. Forget the boring Knock Outs that everyone has now. I love the idea of having roses my great grandmother would have had. Roses that have withstood climate change, air pollution and are still adapting yet flurishing... I have 7 roses dated prior 1899. They must be repeat bloomers and be fragrant. Doucher 1869, is my favorite- the white petals are gorgeous. And Great Western 1840, the pink with the white streaks.. simply fabulous.. I Will Never buy box store roses again. Nothing beats the age old beauties!

    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    A few years ago we had a beautiful pink rosebush that produced roses like you buy in a florist. That rosebush eventually died and I would love to know what type of rosebush to buy to get them again in pink or yellow.

  • Dollie Haynes-Buckhaults
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Although, as a rancher, my Dad might not have fit most people's idea of a dedicated rose gardener, he was. His mother & grandmother had guarded & nurtured roses in what is a pretty rough and arid area here in the Texas panhandle. My father died 4 years ago & I now live in our family home so caring for his roses gives me great joy. My favorite rose is one I have no name for (it looks a bit like Gertrude Jekyll). My dad planted some of them from cuttings he took from a rose out on our ranch and those plants on the ranch had been grown from cuttings from a neighboring rancher. In the early 1900's that rancher, Lord Gething, brought his wife over to the ranch from England and she carefully cared for cuttings on the trip over and made them thrive on the ranch! So my favorite roses are the ones with that fun history and their fragrance is unparalleled. I would love to have a copy of this book!

  • Anne
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I've loved the old rose gardens all my life but am just now getting into learning names and trying to establish a rose garden of my own, hoping for all my young grandchildren to get hooked on and hold dear in their own memories! I love any of those that have sweet aromas! :-)

  • Kirsten Cox
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I love all roses! I look forward to walking my garden each day to check on any new blooms that may have appeared overnight. I inherited my fave (I do not know its origins) from my father in law. It has the most beautiful deep maroon color!

  • Suzanne Zimbelman
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Vintage Roses, sounds like a new adventure. I have several tea roses that are doing beautifully this year. Several larger roses that were left at our family home. I purchase roses that have a wonderful fragrance & had always heard tea roses do well in the N.W. The search for Vintage is on.

  • Jill Hanson
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I love any rose that has a beautiful scent, Lavenders and yellows especially.

  • Kellie Blackwell
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    The "penelope" rose is my favorite but I love all roses, Especially the fragrant varieties. I also love books so I would love a copy of my own.

  • Mary Alice Butcher
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    I love roses. Their colors, shapes, smells and even the mindfulness of the thorns. My favorite roses were given to me when my daughter was born. Miniature pink roes, delicate as she was. I saved those roes for many years until they were gone.
    I currently have a miniature pink rose bush that was given to me and my husband when we married a few years ago. The blooms are beautiful, soft vivid pink hues of luscious sutle deliciously frangrant. Sorta like pink cotton candy on a warm summer day. The blooms open and melt into beautiful blooms before the petals fall all around.
    I think of my daughter, I think of happier days before the thorns.

  • Margie Stankoven
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Once upon a time I had three beautiful shrub roses in the small piece of ground next to my condo patio and they bloomed profusely but I had to leave them behind and now I have an acre to finally try again.

  • Stan The Rose Man Griep
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Super article. I will have to obtain the book for my Roses Library. I cannot really name a favorite rose of mine as I love the unique traits all of them have. The vintage roses bring their history and romantic charm with them always. The English Roses do as well and the fragrances can send the brain into a dizzy tizzy to be sure. Over the years I have become fond of Lavender colored rose bloom smiles. A mix of lavender, red and yellow roses along with a touch of the apricot colored bloom and a kiss of pink and white makes the heart beat stronger.

  • JW
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Rosa chinensis, I just think it's pretty

  • Stefan Haessig
    Comment added May 21, 2017Reply

    Good article.

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