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Carolyn Knight rose. The Right Roses. Rose review. Comments. Photo credit: English roses. David Austin. English roses
'Rose Review' Series Color: Apricot & Orange David Austin roses Disease resistance: Average Flowering: Repeat flowering Fragrance: strong Ideal: Back of border Rose: Shrub rose

Carolyn Knight Rose Review | David Austin 2013

Carolyn Knight Rose


Fragrance Strength


Repeat Flowering


Bloom Size




Suitable for containers


Tolerant of shade


Disease resistance


Tolerance of poor soil


Few thorns


Best for cuttings



  • Extremely vigorous
  • Gorgeous and larege blooms (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12.5 cm)
  • Would not nod too much
  • Strong fragrance
  • Reblooming well from year 2


  • Very ungainly shrub. She needs support (stake).
  • She needs hard pruning
  • Not very floriferous in year 1. She improves a lot from year 2
  • "Average" disease resistance
  • Must be planted in full sunlight



English Shrub Rose bred by David Austin

David Austin

We find that the occasional variety will, after a few years, produce a sport – in other words a plant that varies in just one characteristic, usually colour. Here, ‘Summer Song’, has sported from its usual striking burnt orange colour to a distinctive shade of soft gold. At the bud stage the colour is a most beautiful shade of apricot complete with a lovely pink flush. All other characteristics are the same as ‘Summer Song’. The young flowers are quite rounded opening up into large, fully double, cup-shaped flowers which hang gracefully on the stem. The sweet, warm honey fragrance has a remarkable depth and complexity. Each flower is subtly different with varying hints of almond, myrrh, blackcurrant and tea.

The Right Roses:

David Austin introduced Carolyn Knight for the UK in 2013. He named this rose after a staff, Carolyn Knight, for her great help in various aspects of design at his nursery.

We are big fans of David Austin roses. However, when reviewing roses, we would prefer to rely on our head to ensure all our reviews to be as unbiased as possible. Why? Because, we know that, when you choose to buy a rose, it is truly a statement of commitment.  First, it is a financial commitment. £24.50 per a potted rose in 2019 is not exactly a peanut. Second, it is a spatial commitment. The room in our garden is extremely limited. We only want garden-worthy plants. Once we decide to go with one rose, we probably lose that spot for at least a few years (in case you decide to discard it). And, third, it is a mental investment. It is a serious torture if our chosen roses would not turn out to be what we really want.

Carolyn Knight rose is a fabulous rose! She has five main weaknesses. We will get to that. Other than that, she is absolutely stunning. Her bloom size. Her intense fragrance. Her productivity. Her quick growth rate. So many things just keep coming off on top of our head. You need two things to succeed with Carolyn Knight: hard pruning and giving her time.


You need two things to succeed with Carolyn Knight: hard pruning and giving her time”.

The Right Roses |


Carolyn Knight rose: The pros

Carolyn Knight has five main strengths.

First, Carolyn Knight is an extremely (!!!) vigorous rose. She can go all the way from a potted rose to about 3 – 4 ft tall in just 4 months. Her foliage is large and very glossy. And, somehow, we found her leaves are quite sharp at the edges. I planted Carolyn Knight next to Boscobel, which is also a popular David Austin rose. Interestingly, their foliage is very different to each other. Carolyn Knight produces big and glossy leaves, while Boscobel has matte and smaller foliage. The glossy foliage makes her very similar to a recent introduction of David Austin, The Mill On The Floss (2018).

Second, Carolyn Knight produces incredibly large, gorgeous solf-gold, and dark orange blooms. Each bloom has up to 90 petals. The bloom size is very large (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12.5 cm) with a charming cupped bloom form. Interestingly, her bloom form is very similar to that of Jude the Obscure rose. Her blooms are slightly smaller than those of Princess Alexandra of Kent and Golden Celebration. Other than those 2 varieties, Carolyn Knight blooms must be among the largest ones that a David Austin rose can produce.

Third, her color is very attractive with a shade of soft-gold, which does not get paler in the outer petals.  In this sense, she is similar to Lady of Shalott. Despite her large and heavy blooms, she would not nod too much in a sunny day.

Fourth, Carolyn Knight has a very strong and delicious fragrance with notes of Myrrh and Tea. It may take many David Austin roses a few years until you can enjoy their true fragrance strength, e.g., Princess Alexandra of Kent or The Ancient Mariner. However, with Carolyn Knight, her fragrance is clearly detectable from the first year by just standing next to her. Incredibly charming fragrance!

Fifth, Carolyn Knight reblooms very quickly. She is not as productive as Boscobel, which is one of the best David Austin roses in terms of reblooming. However, she is one of the generous David Austin roses. Her blooms come out in clusters of 3 or 4. She could be quite disappointing in the first flush. However, she will greatly surprise you by her incredible performance if you give her 1 or 2 years in your garden.

Carolyn Knight rose: The cons

When gardeners talk about Carolyn Knight rose, most of the time, the discussion is about her weaknesses. Mind you, she is a sport of Summer Song rose, which does not do particularly well in the U.S.

Carolyn Knight rose has 5 main weaknesses.

First, Carolyn Knight makes an unattractive and ungainly shrub if you don’t prune her hard. Well, she is not too different to many other David Austin roses, is she? In the first few months in your garden, the whole bush is made of probably only three or four 5 ft wiry thin canes.

Her canes are also quite weak. Therefore, you would have to stake her, unless you would give her the risk of being destroyed by just stronger wind. You need to prune her hard to encourage more growths. Do not be scared. She will just come back quickly and better. Her shrub form will look a lot better with the hard pruning. Moreover, her flowering performance will improve with a larger number of shoots and growths as well.

Second, as Carolyn Knight does not produce a good number of growths in the first few months, she may not bloom profusely for you right away in your garden. However, give her one or two years, she will be just so stunning in terms of flowering. The number of canes and growths improve as she ages. The flowering performance will come as a direct consequence.

Third, Carolyn Knight only has an “average” disease resistance. Although David Austin is paying a lot of attention on improving his roses’ disease resistance, unfortunately, she is just ‘average’ in this dimension. We see black spot all around the lower stems.

We planted her in my South-facing garden in the UK, with good air circulation. You need to spray her to enjoy her absolutely gorgeous blooms. We find that some David Austin roses really need spraying, for example Carolyn Knight, The Mill On The Floss (2018), and Eustacia Vye (2019). Sometimes, it is not because of the diseases. For some reason, they are just aphid-magnets.

Fourth, many think that probably we don’t need to plant our David Austin roses in full sunlight. Partial sunlight is alright. That is wrong with Carolyn Knight. She would not perform to her best in partial sunlight.

Fifth, Carolyn Knight may not be the right rose for those of you living in warm climates. Summer Song did not perform very well in the warm States in the US.

Carolyn Knight rose: The similarities

Carolyn Knight is a sport of Summer Song. They are just like twin-sisters with only one difference in colour. All the growth habits are identical.


Summer Song rose. The Right Roses. Rose review. images. Photo credit: T.Kiya from Japan
Summer Song rose. Photo credit: T.Kiya from Japan


Carolyn Knight rose. The Right Roses. Rose review. Comments. Photo credit: English roses. David Austin. English roses
Carolyn Knight rose. The Right Roses. Photo credit:

David Austin also introduced another stunning shrub/climbing rose with a shade of apricot-orange, Crown Princess of Margareta. Crown Princess of Margareta produces masses of extremely beautiful blooms. Her fragrance is also strong. She is a big rose (5ft x 5ft). You need to give her a lot of room to thrive. You can plant her both as a shrub rose and climbing rose.

Carolyn Knight rose: The details

Height & Spread: 4.5ft x 3.5ft Color: Soft gold Fragrance: Strong
Fragrance notes: Myrrh/Tea Flowering: Repeat flowering Suitable for containers: No
Sun exposure: Full sunlight Bloom size: Large (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12.5 cm) Disease resistance: Average

Photo credit: The Right Roses |

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1 year ago

Reading your post, it seams Carolyn Knight roses are very demanding. Do you suggest other kind better with the similar colour? team
1 year ago
Reply to  Sue

Thank you Sue for your comments and questions. It is quite hard to find something as a direct substitute for each rose. As you know, each David Austin rose is a unique combination of both strengths and weaknesses. However, I think Tea Clippers and Crown Princess Margareta are quite similar. They produces similar colors and a strong scent. They can also tolerate shade.

If you would like a smaller rose, Lady Emma Hamilton is a great choice.

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