The Right Roses

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Brother Cadfael rose The Right Roses review english rose photo credit David Austin
'Rose Review' Series Color: Pink David Austin roses Disease resistance: Good Flowering: Repeat flowering Fragrance: strong Fragrance: very strong Ideal: Back of border Ideal: Very few thorns Shrub size: Large (5 ft)

Brother Cadfael Rose Review | David Austin 1986

Brother Cadfael rose


Fragrance Strength


Repeat Flowering


Bloom Size




Suitable for containers


Tolerance of shade


Disease resistance


Tolerance of poor soil


Few thorns


Best for cuttings



  • Among the English roses with largest blooms (5'' or 12 cm)
  • Very strong fragrance
  • Almost thornless


  • Such a huge bush
  • Not floriferous
  • Not suitable for pots and containers



English Shrub Rose

David Austin

Bears very large, globular, clear pink flowers, reminiscent of peonies. Despite their size, they are never clumsy and are held nicely upright on the plant. There is a particularly strong and rich Old Rose fragrance. It forms a bushy shrub; the flowers, leaves and growth all in proportion. David Austin, 1986.

The Right Roses:

David Austin introduced Brother Cadfael for the UK in 1986. He named this rose after the hero of the Ellis Peters detective stories, which are set in Shropshire, UK where our nursery is located. The series of historical murder mysteries were written between 1977 and 1994 by the linguist-scholar Edith Pargeter (28 September 1913 – 14 October 1995).



David Austin has named many roses to pay tribute to the local people and places, such as Molineux (the local football stadium of  Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C), Scepter’d Isle (his own country, England), Albrighton Rambler (his own local area, Albrighton), Charles Darwin (the English naturalist, born in Shropshire, England on 12 February 1809), A Shropshire Lad

Speaking about roses, some are very pretty and quite ‘girlie’. For instance, The Alnwick rose, Olivia Austin Rose, Desdemona, and Scepter’d Isle. On the other hand, others are more manly, robust, strong, and tall. For instance, The Ancient Mariner. Team The Right Roses believes that Brother Cadfael is a masculine rose. It used to be such a great rose. However, David Austin has introduced many more reliable roses since 1986.


Team The Right Roses believes that Brother Cadfael is a masculine rose. It used to be such a great rose. However, David Austin has introduced many more reliable roses since 1986”.

The Right Roses |


Brother Cadfael rose: The pros

Brother Cadfael rose has three main strengths.

First, his blooms are very large (5’’ or 12 cm). Brother Cadfael must belong to the group of David Austin roses which produces the largest blooms. In fact, his blooms look very similar to peonies. Of course, there are so many peony varieties. However, please just think about it. Large and gorgeous pink blooms of peonies. Not many other things in the garden could ever make you feel more fulfilled!

Apart from Brother Cadfael, David Austin has introduced a few other rose varieties producing very large blooms, e.g., The Lady Gardener, Jubilee Celebration, Golden Celebration and Princess Alexandra of Kent. The last two roses (Golden Celebration and Princess Alexandra of Kent) consistently produce very large blooms (probably the largest ones). The bloom sizes of Gabriel Oak, The Ancient Mariner, and Princess Crown Margareta are also very nice.

Second, Brother Cadfael produces a very strong and delicious fragrance of old roses. We cannot have enough roses in our garden. That is for sure. However, that statement is even so so right when you talk about strongly fragrant roses. Their fragrance strength is what really separates them from other beauties in the garden. Even peonies, mind you. We are the greatest fans of peonies. Their colors. Their huge bloom sizes. Just so gorgeous. However, if we have to choose between a super gorgeous peony bloom, without any fragrance, and a strongly fragrant rose bloom, we must go for the rose. In particular, with the old rose fragrance, Brother Cadfael is really something to die for.

David Austin has introduced 12 rose varieties best for fragrance including: Emily Bronte (2018), Harlow Carr, The Generous Gardener, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Gabriel Oak (2019), Gertrude Jekyll, Desdemona, R. Rugosa Alba, Claire Austin, Summer Song, Charles Darwin, The Poet’s Wife. According to our own experience, other David Austin roses are also heavenly scented, although they are not in David Austin’s list, e.g., Golden Celebration, Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood, Carolyn Knight. To a certain extent, Crown Princess Margareta also deserves a special mention.

We would like to make an extra comment regarding the fragrance strength of David Austin roses. For some David Austin roses, it may take them 2 or 3 years to live up to their true potential. For example, Princess Alexandra of Kent is extremely fragrant. However, in the first 2 or 3 years in your garden, her blooms hardly smell anything.

If you want some David Austin roses having an instant impact in terms of fragrance, you may want to consider 5 roses: Golden Celebration, Emily Bronte (2018), Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood, and Gabriel Oak (2019). They smell wonderful even in their first ever flush. You do not even have to put your nose into the blooms to detect their incredible scent. Just standing close to them is enough. Having 5 of them next to each other would make every morning of yours very delightful. Your garden is filled with their beautiful perfume.

If you really want us to rank those 5 incredibly fragrant varieties in terms of their fragrance strength, it is a tough job. The team at The Right Roses would include the first four roses (Golden Celebration, Emily Bronte (2018), Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood) in the first tier and Gabriel Oak (2019) in the second tier. David Austin may have a different idea. He thought that  Gabriel Oak (2019) was one of his most scented roses, while he did not include Golden Celebration, Lady Emma Hamilton, Munstead Wood into that prestigious list in 2019/2020. One of the possible reasons could be that David Austin would like to drive more attention to his newer introductions.

Broadly speaking, David Austin roses produces four main types of fragrance: fruity (e.g., Lady Emma Hamilton, Jubilee Celebration), old rose (e.g., Emily Bronte, Gertrude Jekyll, Desdemona), and Myrrh (e.g., Gentle Hermione, Claire Austin), and tea (Graham Thomas). Of course, it is all about personal preferences when we talk about roses. However, according to our experience, many gardeners find it easier to enjoy roses with fruity and old-rose fragrance. Myrrh is a beautiful fragrance. Nonetheless, you should make sure that it is your thing.

Third, Brother Cadfael is relatively thornless. To us, this is a big plus. Have you ever been bitten by your roses? Have you ever wanted to lift a gorgeous cluster of blooms but scared of doing so because of those sharp thorns? Have you ever wanted to decorate your dining table with a few cut flowers, but those sharp thorns scared you off? Let’s think about Princess Alexandra of Kent, The Lady Gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, Munstead Wood, and Harlow Carr, to name a few. Big sharp thorns. If you have not, you are among those luckiest gardeners. Brother Cadfael is a wonderful rose in this sense. He is so gorgeous with very few thorns. Heritage is another great rose, being almost thornless.

Brother Cadfael rose: The cons

Brother Cadfael has three main weaknesses.

First, he is a huge rose (not big, but huge). In the UK, he can get to 5ft tall and 4ft wide. However, in those warmer States in the US, he can be 8 – 10ft tall. Therefore, you should give him a lot of room in the garden. If you have a smaller garden like what we usually have in the UK, you may want to think carefully about it.

Just one little detail, Brother Cadfael is not very vigorous if you plant him as an own-root rose. An own-root Brother Cadfael would be a much smaller rose.

Second, Brother Cadfael is not floriferous. His Spring flush is so gorgeous. Breath-taking! However, there are very little after that. In this sense, he is very much like Gertrude Jekyll.

David Austin has introduced 2 climbing roses and 1 rambling rose, being best for flowering, including: Mortimer Sackler, Iceberg, Malvern Hills. In addition, some shrub roses can rebloom extremely well, including Harlow Carr, Olivia Rose Austin, Princess Anne, Thomas a Becket, Gabriel Oak (2019), Kew Gardens, William & Catherine, Lady of Shalott, and Roald Dahl. The team at The Right Roses would like to add three more varieties being best for flowering, including Royal Jubilee (2012), Princess Alexandra of Kent (2007), and Boscobel (2012). he

Third, Brother Cadfael is not the best rose to be planted in a container. He can outgrow the container very quickly. Therefore, container should only be a temporary option.

Brother Cadfael rose: The similarities

There are a few other David Austin roses looking quite similar to Brother Cadfael. Of course, each rose is so unique.

First, The Alnwick rose is a pretty and cute alternative. Her shrub size is smaller. However, her fragrance is not as strong as Brother Cadfael’s. Moreover, her bloom size is quite small (2’’ or 5 cm).

Second, The Ancient Mariner produces exceptionally gorgeous blooms. His blooms are large. His fragrance is not as strong as Brother Cadfael’s. However, it is still very good. He repeats better than Brother Cadfael. However, he is not one of the varieties best for flowering. The Ancient Mariner tolerates shade very well.

Third, Scepter’d Isle is such a great rose. Very fragrant. She repeats quite well. She also tolerates shade. However, like The Ancient Mariner, her blooms blow very quickly (2 – 3 days in the UK).

Brother Cadfael rose: The details

Height & Spread: 5ft x 4ft Color: Clear pink Fragrance: Strong
Fragrance notes: Old Rose Flowering: Repeat flowering Suitable for containers: No
Sun exposure: Full sunlight Bloom size: Large (5’’ or 12 cm) Disease resistance: Good

Photo credit:

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Daim Yunus
Daim Yunus
1 year ago

Thank you for keep writing about empirical insights on how David Austin roses perform in garden. The reviews on roses in this site contain almost all-performance-aspects comparisons between DA roses. Moreover, you have also stated opinions on how would DA roses do in different regions across the globe. That is the thing I most like about rose reviews by you guys. This site has been my first go-to reference on DA roses whenever I am curious about DA roses since the first time I found this site which I’m blessed every time I do that. Again, thank you for your… Read more »

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