'Tuscany', also known as the Velvet Rose. Possibly pre-1596.
'Tuscany' is likely one of the oldest surviving Gallicas. It is hard to say for certain, because there are few definitive written records to mark this rose' history. It is generally accepted that the description of the "Old Velvet Rose" in Gerard's The Herball or General Historie of Plantes is referring to Tuscany. This document dates to 1596. Therefore, we can be fairly certain that Tuscany dates to at least that date, very likely much further. Gerard's description refers to "branches covered with a certain hairy or prickley matter, fine as hairs..." which is certainly a definitive Gallica trait. Gallicas have no thorns to speak of, rather, they have fine prickles. He goes on to say that the blooms are "a deep and black red color, resembling red crimson velvet, whereupon some have called it the Velvet rose." Can this be any other than 'Tuscany', as none other by that color was described until the 1800's?
'Tuscany' is still one of the finest Gallicas we have today. It is a tidy spreading shrub of about 4 feet tall, and it is nearly indestructible. It is not at all susceptible to blackspot, and will only rarely mildew. (It has never done so in my gardens) It will sucker readily if grown on its own roots, so some of you may prefer to obtain grafted plants to avoid this. 'Tuscany' is very winter hardy, likely to beyond zone 4, and on its own roots it will likely survive for decades in relative neglect. I have seen old plants of 'Tuscany' growing in the Pacific Northwest that have been in place for at least 50 years, and they thrive in spite of poor conditions and lack of watering during the parching coastal summers. This rose is a survivor, and it is also very beautiful. There is almost no other (except perhaps its offfspring, 'Tuscany Superb') that offers the same extraordinary blackish crimson color. Click here or on the image at right to see a larger photo.
merit rating: 8.6
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