Gardening: Leading rose authority to speak at DIA

Nancy Szerlag

One of the field trips I took during a weeklong garden symposium at Great Dixter in England a couple of years ago was a visit to Sissinghurst to see and compare the famous formal gardens of Vita Sackville West to those more relaxed borders inspired by the great Christopher Lloyd.

Sackville West was passionate about roses and the Sissinghurst gardens are renowned for its rose garden and her gardeners’ method of pruning to force them into abundant bloom, which is practiced to this day. Few of the antique roses used in her garden are available, but thanks to the work of David Austin, world famous for breeding roses with the look and fragrance of old-fashioned “English” roses and their ability to rebloom, we can enjoy the “look” in American gardens today.

One of the world’s leading rose authorities, Michael Marriott, who has worked with David Austin Roses for three decades, will be speaking at the DIA in October to showcase these beauties and how to use them.

Marriott has designed dozens of gorgeous private and public gardens around the world, including the spectacular David Austin Rose Garden outside of Sennan City not far from Osaka, Japan, which will be featured in his program. He says Japan boasts some the best rose gardens in the world and after viewing photos published in the July 2016 edition of the American Rose magazine, I added it to my bucket list. Michael says the garden is at peak bloom in early summer and again in fall.

Marriott also orchestrates the David Austin Rose displays at the Chelsea Flower Show in London and the Flower Show at Hampton Court. Having attended both several times, I can attest they, too, are spectacular.

Marriott, himself an avid gardener, will share his experiences in choosing plant partners for the growing conditions, backing them up with soil management, watering, mulching and fertilizing, other secrets to success. His personal garden thrives on organic principles and is never sprayed – he uses companion plants to attract beneficial insects. In his program at the DIA he’ll show how to artfully combine roses with perennials and other plants.

Timely Tip: Find the Sissinghurst method of training roses at -more-flowers.

At 2 p.m. Oct. 14, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Friends of Art and Flowers presents the Betsy Campbell Lecture, “English Roses in the Garden” by Michael Marriott, senior rosarian at David Austin Roses. The lecture is free with museum admission. General admission to the DIA is free to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at