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Graham Thomas world's favorite rose

David Austin's English rose Graham Thomas is the world's favorite rose, according to the rose aficionados in the 41 member countries that make up the World Federation of Rose Societies. It is considered by many rosarians to be the rose world's highest honor.

Each Hall of Fame inductee wears the crown of World's Most Favorite Rose for a three-year reign. The first world's-favorite winner was the famed Peace rose, in 1976.

Introduced in 1983, Graham Thomas was the first David Austin hybrid to fully meet its creator's vision for a new kind of rose: the plump, cabbage-rose form and fragrance of heirloom roses beloved by English cottage gardeners combined with the repeat-flowering and broad color range of modern hybrids.

The cup-shaped bloom has a strong, fresh tea rose fragrance and is a rich yellow with golden overtones.

Graham Thomas, a bushy shrub 5 feet high by 4 feet wide, is recommended by the company for areas where summer heat and humidity can be problematic. Summer pruning encourages repeat bloom.

The rose also can be trained as a climbing rose for a wall, rose pillar, obelisk or fence. It enjoys full sun but also will perform in partial shade, provided it is not planted directly underneath a canopy of trees, according to the British company's catalog.

David Austin's U.S. distribution center is in Tyler, Texas, where its grafted, bare-root roses are stashed in cold storage until shipping begins in January.

Chamblee's Rose Nursery, also in Tyler, is licensed to grow nongrafted, own-root roses taken from Austin's hybrids.

Many gardeners, myself included, believe own-root roses perform better in places with Texas heat and humidity, being better able to fight off diseases.

Not all rose buffs include Graham Thomas on their list of favorites, including Betty Vickers, a Dallas gardener who's active in local and national rose organizations.

"While Graham Thomas has a beautiful blossom," Vickers harrumphs to me in an e-mail, "I cannot imagine an international body selecting it as 'everyone's fave.' Reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor's winning an Oscar for 'Butterfield 8.' "

Austin named the world-favorite rose for one of the leading horticulturalists of the 20th century, the late British artist, garden designer and writer Graham Stuart Thomas (1909-2003).

Check local nurseries for rose availability. David Austin Roses produces a free catalog. Call 800-328-8893 or go to the Web site www.davidaustinroses.com.