Heirloom Roses reports Graham Thomas is the world's favorite rose.

Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA
last month
last modified: last month

That may be so, but no one consulted me, or anyone else I know of.

If I was asked why I shovel pruned my Graham Thomas, I would have to report that it was because its flower scent to me was reminiscent of stale, rancid tea with base tones of over ripe sauerkraut.

Graham Thomas was the only rose I ever shovel pruned because it's scent was so offensive to me. I guess I have a peculiar nose!


Comments (33)

  • berrypie7

    I got the email too about Graham; maybe it is the worlds favorite yellow, it is questionable who the "World" is.

    My favorite yellow is Bathsheba, it's the only yellow I have in my world. When I get more yellows I can vote on it again.

    I do love Heirloom's tutorials they send me, and am waiting for the right roses to come back in stock so I can try a few of their own root . Madame Anisette is scarce as hens teeth.

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    My friend ordered this from ARE and I'm trying to get him to change his order. Did it BS for you, Moses?

  • Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA

    Yes, it did, Vaporvac. All the Austins I have tried were/are black spotters. Without spraying, about a 2/3 defoliation is what I experienced, but I do spray. The black spotting occurs when I drop the ball and slack off spraying, which usually occurs as the season's winding down. I just get dog tired of spraying by that time.

    The only Austin I still have is Scepter'd Isle. It's way back at the fence, back border of the bed, between the climbers Quick Silver and Pink Climbing Don Juan, a place where it's faults are not relevant, and all its assets shine.

    I kept it because it is tip hardy for me without winter protection. My current "no winter protection," test of the rose bed population, does not apply to it, along with my other dependable winter hardies, like Quietness.

    S'dI drops it's petals very quickly, but it's beauty and fragrance give it a pass. It has an inner glow few roses possess. Being gangly and tall, and not having an appealing stand alone bush form, this trait is hidden where it is growing at the back of the bed. There, just the nice, fragrant flowers are seen. Also, its blooms DO NOT NOD like so many Austins do.

    As soon as space allows, I plan to try one more Austin, Olivia Rose, at our Kristine's recommendation. She's the Johnny Appleseed of Olivia Rose, and her call to action, getting it, I cannot ignore!


  • BenT (8a Dallas, TX)

    Graham Thomas is one of about 17 roses that was named a ’World’s Favorite’ at the World Federation of Roses conference every couple years. Other winners include Peace, Double Delight, Iceberg, Elina, Fragrant Cloud, Papa Melland, New Dawn, Eden, Just Joey

    I certainly don’t care for it, I found it stingy, sickly and fleeting, and shoveled him years ago. It was the first of the big yellow Austins...I wonder if Golden Celebration or Teasing Georgia, which seem much stronger, would have won had they came first.

    The most recent winner is my least favorite rose of all time, Knock Out.

  • Magnus - England

    I feel the same about the scent of Desdemona, it's perfect in every other way but it's ghastly fragrance. It's too good to shovel prune so I keep it further away where I can enjoy it from a safe distance

  • K S 8b Seattle

    To me Graham Thomas' fragrance is light, sweet tea. I wasn't wowed by it but didn't dislike it. If this rose would have lasted in a vase I might have kept him, but I couldn't use him as a painting model because his blooms shattered in a vase too quickly for me, and on top of that he tried to absorb the sidewalk in front of my house. When in bloom he was spectacular. I've replaced him with Grandmother's Hat -- hopefully I can teach her not to grab pedestrians, unlike old Graham -- pruning and tethering did not keep him in check for long. If I ever live on a farm and want a 10+ foot tall rose hedge I'll think of him first.

  • Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA


    Sometimes a rose with a lousy scent will blend so well with a neighboring rose's scent, or the scents of several other rose varieties blooming nearby at the same time, that it's liability becomes an asset.

    I wasn't particularly fond of the scent of Marie Pavie I grew some years back, being like Rose Milk hand lotion, a cheap commercial hand lotion sold in the USA, but it blended very well with the clove scent of the numerous hybrid rugosa bushes blooming nearby.


  • palytoxinz5il

    Moses, it is interesting that you find GT’s scent so offensive. I consider my GT not winter hardy enough and BS too much, but the fragrance is certainly a plus, which is a very pleasant complex tea scent that feel sophisticated. I was reading that some people has the gene that make cilantro smells like soapy vomit to them, and I wonder if GT has some type of aldehydes in it’s scent that triggers different responses.


  • oursteelers 8B PNW

    Magnus, I am horrible at identifying scents so I was wondering if you were any better? I like the fragrance of Desdemona, what does it smell like to you?

  • joeywyomingz4b

    Different people definitely smell roses differently. I see enthusiastic reviews of Julia Child's fragrance but it is the only rose that I have ever refused to buy based on scent alone, I saw a beautiful bush at Home Depot but it reminded me strongly of a musty cellar. And all the reviews say that Iceberg has a poor, barely-there fragrance but I get a lovely strong scent of sweet green apples. So I think a lot of it is subjective.

  • Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA

    So true, many of us have noses that march to the beat of a different drummer, certainly I appear to. I detect barely a whiff of anything discernible from Julia Child, and Pretty Lady Rose has a strong scent to me.


  • K S 8b Seattle

    Very interesting! To me Julia Child smells of bananas.

  • seil zone 6b MI

    Graham is OK. I certainly wouldn't call him my favorite. He blooms well in the spring then black spots dramatically and only blooms sporadically after that. His fragrance is, eh, nothing to write home about. He gets a lot of octopus arms too. For me Golden Celebration is the better DA rose.

    I think Julia Child is a much better rose in my garden. Usually really healthy, blooms all the time and smells like licorice!

  • flowersaremusic z5 Eastern WA

    It looks like the roses that get chosen are just the most widely known, recognizable names.

    I tried to grow Graham Thomas in So. CA, and found it to fit Ben's description of 'stingy, sickly and fleeting', and I would add leggy.

  • Kenneth zone 7A - Southern Middle TN

    Now this is is something I have to agree . Im a rose lover in a sense that I look at a roses as “ART” the beauty is what captivates me... the fragrance is a plus. My graham Thomas is vigorous And disease free... blooms like crazy ... it’s 6 feet already (1st year in a obelisk ) and his blooms are show stopping and he’s far from greedy .

  • Kenneth zone 7A - Southern Middle TN

    Another thing. Im in a Facebook group for david Austin rose
    Lovers and among most of the member it’s a favorite and no one has nothing negavitive to say about him I was surprised to hear these comments on here .

  • nanadollZ7 SWIdaho

    I'd put my Golden Celebration up against any Graham Thomas out there--ha (beautiful photos, Kenneth). But my favorite yellow is still Julia Child, two of which I've grown since 2006, and a third, own root, grown for four years now. For continuous bloom and lovely, rounded growth habit, Julia can't be beat. No disease problems here, but I know that can make or break a rose for a lot of you. Diane

  • Kenneth zone 7A - Southern Middle TN

    I have julia so I know what you talking about lol

  • a1an

    Moses -

    1st year Rose Noobie here. I will say this. What led me to looking into planting roses was because I saw a beautiful GT climbing up a wall and this was what gave me the -push- to add roses to the garden, even though previously I felt they were thorny blackspotting beasts that weren't worth the effort or space to plant them

  • Magnus - England

    Oursteelers the fragrance of Desdemona for me ranges from dirty laundry to cheap air freshener. Those are the closest scents I can compare it to lol. In it's first year it was unbearable but it's "improved" more 2nd year onwards and is more consistantly fresh.

    It's nothing to write home about but the blooms are so stunning en masse. I really should take a picture this summer of it's first flush...

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    Wow! Moses, I just received notice of your reply above. Great info. I'm split on the DAs, but they are mainly hidden being grown as climbers so any missing foliage isn't noticeable. Heathcliff and Molineux are the best so long as I water them and Darcey Bussell is the worst. All are no spray, but I'm willing for a few. Scepter'd Isle is one of my faves as she does have an inner glow and lovely fragrance. I adore this sort of rose. Good to know she's narrow as I just stuck her any old place to get her in the ground. I'm hoping I like Pretty Jessica as much. I'll let you know how Jayne Austin and Teasing Georgia do once they are in the ground. Olivia is one I'm also eyeing up based on her rave reviews.

    Thanks for all the info on GT. I'm helping a friend with a rose garden and would hate to have him plant something that requires spraying. He currently has multiple Pink KOs, La Marnes, Carefree Beauties and 2x Darlow's Enigmas so he's used to very healthy roses.

  • Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA


    He's certainly in good hands with you advising him, and with the roses you named above he can add new bushes from a much wider range of disease resistant/proof newer roses than beginners could in the past.


  • Laura LaRosa (7b)

    Moses, how often do you spray yours for BS and what do you use? I’m getting nervous...;)

  • Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA

    I've been using Bayer Advanced Disease Control for Roses, Flowers, and Shrubs for years. Starting in spring when the new growth begins, a spray every two weeks works very well for me. If I drop the ball and let my schedule lag, and black spot appears, then weekly sprays are needed, usually for the next 3 weekly sprays, then back to spraying every two weeks when control is reestablished. I use the recommended rate of 1.5 tablespoon per gallon of water.

    Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer is added at 1 tablespoon per gallon per gallon along with the disease control. I have serious midge fly pressure here from Spring to Autumn. If not addressed, my flower output would trickle down to 10% by August. The insecticide also keeps the foliage clean from rose slugs. I have very little thrip, Japanese Beetle, or aphid pressure, thank God.

    Spider mites are controlled with a separate spray of Tetra San 5 at about the end of June or early July. Usually only one spray of this miticide at that one time is all that is needed a season.

    That's my entire spraying schedule from beginning to end.I


  • nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

    Well Moses, at least you GOT a bloom from Graham Thomas to dislike its scent. I've had one bush about 5 years in my protected zone 6 area and it gradually gets above knee high but I can't recall ever seeing it bloom. So much so that I bought another one, mistakenly thinking i didn't have it. I put GT#2 in a regular zone 5 spot and so far he has survived too but I'd put a capital "S" on Stingy in my zone. Great pictures though from warmer zones!

    I agree that Scepter'd Isle is a steady blooming keeper of an Austin and tip hardy for me, though I don't find the blooms individually exciting. I think you'll be pleased with Olivia Rose since she's both a good bloomer and a nice bloom form.


  • paint girl

    @Moses, Western PA., zone 5/6, USA Hi Moses, I am about to place an order with DA for the new season and I'd like to try Scepter'd Isle. Is she really pink as shown on DA's website or does she turn pale in the summer?

    I got Generous Gardener because I thought she was pink (at least according to DA's website), but she turned out to be always creamy white in my zone 6b. Thank you!

    Fragrance is really really important to me. second is color.

  • Nola z5aWI

    Kenneth, beautiful pictures! I won't be getting Graham Thomas though, he's gets too large for me and I have and really like Golden Celebration, I am surprised at the lack of enthusiasm for this rose. If I purchase another yellow rose, I am considering The Poet's Wife after reading all the comments of what a great rose it is.

    Vaporvac, I am looking forward to hearing about how you like Pretty Jessica and how she does for you, I keep coming back to her and there's just some reason why I haven't purchased her yet.

  • oursteelers 8B PNW

    Nola please let me know if you find Pretty Jessica available for purchase somewhere. I’ve been on the lookout for that one. Thanks!

  • kittymoonbeam

    Everybody's sense of smell is distinct. My sister loves loves that myrrh and I have come to like it in small combination with other scents. Jude has just a little in a fruity mix that i find nice. Early roses like Graham are too strong for me. Graham was a star in his day but i think he's been passed by other yellows. Growing papa M now for ten years I see what the fuss is. On a good day papa has the most beautiful scent of all my reds. I love Chrysler Imperial and Firefighter but when Papa is on, he is definitely the king!

  • jjpeace (zone 5b Canada)

    I love this rose. I tried to grow it twice but it just struggled in my garden. I haven given up trying to grow it. But it is a glorious rose indeed. I love the yellow colour, bright and sunny like the perfect summer days.

  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Given that the World Federation of Rose Societies awards a rose every three years and a rose is never chosen twice, you can see what an artificial construct this title is. For the record, a rose is chosen for their rose Hall of Fame and although it is chosen by popular vote, "World's Favorite Rose" is not the actual title. Also for the record, Graham Thomas was chosen in 2009. Knockout was chosen in 2018. So saying that Grahan Thomas is currently the World's Favorite Rose is at best, outdated. Cocktail was chosen in 2015, but I've never seen this rose in local gardens and it is not in the public rose garden (it does look beautiful in the photos and I would like to see it planted). In any case, like People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" designation, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Nola z5aWI

    Oursteelers - So far I haven't found Pretty Jessica, but please let me know if you hear anything and I'll do the same! :)

  • oursteelers 8B PNW

    Nola, I’m really hoping Palatine has it next year!

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