|'The Dark Lady'|
I also grow an early Austin rose, 'The Dark Lady', on her own roots and she has survived a number of years to produce these big, very-double fragrant blooms for me. In fact, I once moved her and she came back from a forsaken root, so I have two growing in my garden and both are passable representatives of their clan. She does not need any preventative maintenance for blackspot in my climate, but I wouldn't call her a vigorous rose, and you can see from the photo at the left that our recent rains have left her a bit bedraggled. According to one anonymous post at a website, "feeding her bananas" will take care of the weak necks, but I'm a bit skeptical of such an easy fix.
'The Dark Lady', otherwise known as 'AUSbloom', is a shrub rose bred by Austin prior to 1991, and she throws dark magenta-blue flowers of 100 to 140 petals for me, although Austin describes the color as "dark crimson." Helpmefind.com lists her as having a bloom diameter of 3.25 inches, but many of the flowers in the photo above are around 4 inches in diameter. She does repeat with several flushes over a season, but I wouldn't call her a continuous bloomer. The poor woman is described as being 4'X 5', a little wider than she is tall, and I would agree with that unflattering shape description with the exception that she seldom gets more than about 2.5' X 3' for me in a season. She is moderately cane hardy here, with some dieback each year but usually not to the ground. Her heritage is a little perplexing; helpmefind.com/rose lists here as a cross between 'Mary Rose' and 'Prospero', but Austin's website says she has a R. Rugosa parentage. The latter, if true, would help explain the hardiness and the somewhat rough matte foliage. And perhaps the color.
According to the David Austin Roses website, Austin named 'The Dark Lady' after "the mysterious Dark Lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets. In those somewhat heated sonnets, we learn that Shakespeare's mistress had black hair, dun-colored skin, and raven black eyes. In several places, Shakespeare suggests that she wasn't that pretty ("In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes, for they in thee a thousand errors note"), and that she also had bad breath ("And in some perfumes is there more delight, than in the breath that from my mistress reeks"). Always the contrary, cynical professor, I think Austin misnamed this rose because she is a very beautiful rose and her fragrance is strong and sweet. At least, in my opinion.