The Right Roses

When You Just Want The Very Best

Charles Darwin rose. The Right Roses. rose review. English roses. photo credit: David Austin
'Rose Review' Series Color: Yellow David Austin roses Disease resistance: Excellent Flowering: Repeat flowering Fragrance: strong Ideal: Pots & Containers Ideal: Shady areas Rose: Shrub rose Shrub size: Small - Medium (3.5 ft)

Charles Darwin Rose Review | David Austin 2003

Charles Darwin Rose


Fragrance Strength


Repeat Flowering


Bloom Size




Suitable for containers


Tolerance of shade


Disease resistance


Tolerance of poor soil


Few thorns


Best for cuttings



  • Strong fragrance
  • Relatively upright blooms
  • Blooms are full (140 petals)
  • Excellent disease resistance
  • Tolerance of shade


  • His blooms can fade to an unattractive color.



English Shrub Rose bred by David Austin


David Austin

The flowers are very full and rounded at first, later opening up to shallow cups. They are yellow in colour, tending almost towards mustard, and have a strong, delicious fragrance, varying between soft floral Tea and pure lemon. It makes a sturdy shrub with broad, spreading growth. Named after the naturalist who was born in Shropshire.. David Austin, 2003.

The Right Roses:

David Austin introduced Charles Darwin for the UK in 2003. He named this rose after Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882), the British naturalist. Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK which is about 30 minutes driving from where David Austin nursery is located.

For your information, 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 local area, Albrighton), Charles Darwin (the English naturalist, born in Shropshire, England), and A Shropshire Lad.

Charles Darwin belongs to the group of David Austin roses which have attracted so many mixed reviews, like Jubilee Celebration, Lady of Shalott, and Jude of The Obscure. One group of gardeners hate him with passion. The other group of gardeners consider him being one of the very best.


Charles Darwin belongs to the group of David Austin roses which have attracted so many mixed reviews, like Jubilee Celebration, Lady of Shalott, and Jude of The Obscure”.

The Right Roses |


Charles Darwin rose: The pros


  • Best for fragrance
  • Best for mixed borders
  • Best for shady areas


Charles Darwin has five main strengths.

First, he produces an addictive strong and delicious fragrance with notes of tea. He is among the most scented David Austin roses. Please let us tell you. There are only a very selective set of roses being a member of this  prestigious list. Therefore, if you love rose fragrance and really long for an immensely scented rose, Charles Darwin must be the right rose for you.

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.

In addition, broadly speaking, David Austin roses produces three 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). 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.

Second, he produces relatively upright blooms. As a result, you do not need to lift him up to enjoy his beauty. This is totally different to many other David Austin rose varieties, such as Golden Celebration, Jubilee Celebration.

David Austin roses are so full and gorgeous. However, many of them have two major weaknesses. First, it is their weak disease resistance. Even those varieties, being ranked as ‘excellent’ disease resistance, still get black spot. Second, it is their weak neck. Many of them really flop! For instance, Jubilee Celebration. If you choose to buy Jubilee Celebration, you should expect that you will not be able to see its blooms in the first couple of years in your garden. The blooms just face downward. You will never be able to see the blooms unless you lift them up.

However, in the last few years, it seems that David Austin has made a lot of improvements in both aspects: disease resistance and neck-weakness. The majority of the recent introductions (2019) have an  ‘excellent’ disease resistance, for example Emily Bronte (2018), Gabriel Oak (2019), and Eustacia Vye (2019). In addition, most recent introductions have an upright growth habit. Not many octopus’ canes. For example, Emily Bronte (2018). The blooms hardly flop. All of these things make David Austin a lot more attractive to gardeners.

Third, his blooms are full having a large number of petals (140). Probably he is among those with the higher number of petal counts. The Ancient Mariner blooms have 160 petals. Young Lycidas blooms have 90 petals. Roald Dalh blooms have 55 petals. As far as we are aware, Spirit of Freedom is the variety having the highest number of petals (200). Therefore, the number of petals Charles Darwin can produce is very respectable.

Fourth, Charles Darwin has an ‘excellent’ disease resistance. However, as we mentioned above, some older David Austin roses, even with an ‘excellent’ disease resistance, still get black spot. In the case of Charles Darwin, between 1/3 and ½ of his shrub can get black spot, which is not totally bad.

If ‘disease resistance’ is the thing that matters most to you, here is the healthiest David Austin roses you can find: Olivia Rose Austin, The Mayflower, Mortimer Sackler (climbing), Princess Anne, Hansa, England’s Rose, Kew Gardens, Susan Williams-Ellis, Claire Austin (climbing), Roald Dahl, Tottering-by-Gently, Malvern Hills (Rambling). The team at The Right Roses think that Olivia Rose Austin, Princess Anne, and Roald Dahl are 3 of the very healthy roses. You really cannot do much wrong with them in terms of disease resistance.

Fifth, Charles Darwin can tolerate some shade. He is among those David Austin roses being best for shady spots. However, you should give him at least 4 – 5 hours of sunlight during the Summer.

So far, David Austin has introduced 11 varieties which do very well in shady spots: Hyde Hall, Olivia Rose Austin, Eustacia Vye, Princess Anne, England’s Rose, Kew Gardens, R. Rugosa Alba, Lichfield Angel, Charles Darwin, Lady of Shalott, and Roald Dahl.

Charles Darwin rose: The cons

Charles Darwin has one main weakness.

His color may dramatically change under heat. He may never maintain the lemon-yellow shade. His color ranges a lot from being yellow to cream, and “kind of old white shirt” when his blooms age. It is so hard to describe that color. Let’s imagine. You have a very old lace curtain. You have never washed it for years. It has been there for years. That could probably be quite close to his blooms’ color when they age. Probably, this is the reason why many gardeners  do not really love him. His color is not rich or striking. However, apart from this trait, Charles Darwin is a wonderful rose.

Charles Darwin rose: The similarities

In recent years, David Austin has introduced two good yellow roses: The Poet’s Wife and Vanessa Bell.

The Poet’s Wife rose is also among the most scented David Austin roses. She is very floriferous. Moreover, she can tolerate shade (although not as well as Charles Darwin). Her bloom size is bigger than Charles Darwin’s (3.5 – 5’’ or 9 – 12 cm). And, like Charles Darwin, her color can fade quickly. However, her diseases resistance is only ‘good’, not ‘excellent’.

Vanessa Bell forms a slightly smaller shrub (3.5 ft x 3 ft). In addition, she is very floriferous. Therefore, she is great alternative for front of the border. However, her fragrance is only ‘medium – strong’. Similar to The Poet’s Wife, her disease resistance is only ‘good’. And, her color can also fade quickly in heat.

Charles Darwin rose: The details

Height & Spread: 3.5ft x 4.5ft Color: Yellow Fragrance: Strong
Fragrance notes: Tea Flowering: Repeat Flowering Suitable for containers: Yes
Sun exposure: Partial sunlight Bloom size: Medium – Large (4’’ or 10 cm) Disease resistance: Excellent

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