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  • Nicola

From my Sketchbook: Bowling Green Lane

Bowling Green Lane in Albrighton, Shropshire is the home of David Austin Roses: a family farm surrounded by fields of beautiful roses that have inspired generations of gardeners around the world.

The late David Austin OBE - always Mr A. to his staff - started breeding roses in the 1940s, when he was just a teenager. He released his first rose, Constance Spry, in 1961 and during his long life he released over 200 English Roses. They combine the grace and scented beauty of old-fashioned blooms with the good health and repeat-flowering of 20th century cultivars and they are simply ravishing.

Left: Rosa The Pilgrim - with Rosa Kew Garden behind - on our terrace; Right: Pots of roses being readied for display at David Austin Roses in Albrighton

I first visited the Austin nursery - only 20 miles away from me - some thirty years ago and bought a deliciously-scented, lemon-yellow Pilgrim rose for my first garden. I was delighted to see the same rose in our present garden when we came to look around (I took it as a good omen) and I've added many more since, in every shade.

I've been back many times (!) in the intervening years. When my boys were little we used to visit with their cousins, exploring the beautiful gardens that surround the nursery, smelling all of the roses to choose our favourite (and usually buying it!) and enjoying a lovely slice of cake in the tea rooms.

Below is the courtyard we created from a gravelled parking area outside our front door. It was planned around winter-flowering plants - viburnums, daphnes, bergenias and camellias - but in the summer the pink roses take over, most of them bred by Mr. Austin, and they lift my spirits every day as I walk to the studio (you can see the roof peeking over the hedge).

I adore roses as much as quilts, so naturally wanted to combine my two loves, but all my attempts to create a rose block left me disappointed. Then as I pieced the cabbages for my Kitchen Garden quilt I realised that I might have stumbled on just the thing.

I wanted to echo the rose fields where they grow, so arranged the blocks in columns - like this traditional strippy quilt in the Gawthorpe Textile Collection - with the Austin family farmhouse at their centre.

I chose a Fat Eighth bundle of Vanessa Goertzen’s Love Note for Moda Fabrics to make my quilt, which had a lovely selection of pinks to create my blooms along with both cool and warm shades of green to add depth to my foliage. The rose blocks rely on a good graduation of colour to give them their full, English rose character, so bear that in mind when choosing fabric.

My lovely Jayne echoed the roses in Vanessa's fabric with her quilting. Honestly, isn't that a perfect match?

You can find the pattern for Bowling Green Lane in issue 98 of Today's Quilter, which is out on Monday. And if you're planning a trip to Shropshire, I'd encourage you to put the nursery and its exquisite rose gardens on your itinerary. You can visit for free …but I defy you to leave without buying a rose or two!

Nicola xx


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