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Review of Remontant and Non-Remontant Old Garden Roses
by Paul Barden
years ago I wrote an article about my favorite Old Garden Roses (OGR's).
Since then I have often thought that I should rewrite this document
and create a new favorites list for both remontant and non-remontant
cultivars. Therefore I have written a new list of my top twelve remontant
OGR's and twelve favorite non-remontant OGR's, adding two more plants
to each list than my previous list. When there are so many excellent
roses to choose from it seemed arbitrary to limit the list to ten. At
a later date, I will also include a list of my favorite older Hybrid
Teas, most of which are pre-1950 cultivars. I am especially fond of
the older HT's for their unique character, twiggier growth and more
rounded bush form. (Parts two and three will appear in the next few
This list was the most difficult to edit down to 12 varieties. Why?
Because contrary to the popular mythology that Old Roses are ostensibly
once-bloomers, there is a wealth of excellent remontant roses to choose
from within this section. The trick, however, is to select varieties
that are appropriate for your climate. I had to refrain from including
several other superb Teas (not Hybrid Teas, you will note, which are
a different class of rose altogether) on this list because they are
generally not Winter hardy in climates colder than USDA Zone 7. Some
are even tender in Zone 8, and so the true Teas are most useful in southern
Texas, California and Florida climates, or must be kept in greenhouses
where they will be exposed to only limited cold.
I also refrained from including several of the very beautiful Hybrid
Perpetuals (although two superior varieties still appear in the list),
which in my experience are more susceptible to Blackspot than many other
roses. In a garden that is regularly treated with fungicide sprays,
you may want to include some of the Hybrid Perpetuals, for many of them
are superb large shrubs with big, luscious blooms and wonderful fragrances.
Other excellent varieties you could consider are 'Mrs. John Laing' (light/medium
pink), 'Arrillaga' (light pink), 'General Jacqueminot' (crimson), 'Yolande
d'Aragon' (medium pink) and 'Eugene Furst' (crimson/purple).
Once upon a time this lovely little Damask Perpetual received high praise
from me; it could do no wrong. However, the years have dulled my appreciation
for this rose some. Yes, its still makes an appearance on my favorites
list since I do believe it has some excellent qualities and is an excellent
choice for those who are venturing into the Old Roses for the first
time. What, exactly, does 'Rose de Rescht' have to offer the modern
garden? It is ideal for the smaller garden, for rarely does it exceed
3 feet wide and 4 feet tall. In colder climates it may even remain under
2.5 feet. It is perfectly Winter hardy to at least Zone 5 while still
performing admirably in much hotter climes. The 2.5 inch blooms are
variable in color from the deepest Fuchsia-purple hue, lighter in hot
weather when they often appear a deep pink color. The fragrance is unsurpassed:
the richest pure Damask scent that will conjure dreamscapes in your
mind's eye. It is fairly care-free in the pruning department; one can
leave this tidy shrub un-pruned for years and still obtain excellent
results. Some writers have recommended cutting it back hard every five
years or so to improve its remontancy but I have not found this to be
absolutely necessary. An annual removal of some of the older wood keeps
the shrub performing well. If it could be said that 'Rose de Rescht'
has any flaws it would be a proneness to Blackspot and sometimes Rust.
However, I find that a well-established specimen can hold its own very
well in a no-spray garden.
I once thought this pink rose was a bit ordinary, but you have to know
a rose for several years before you can really know its soul. Some roses
shout for attention and others seduce you slowly and with subtle charms,
and its the slow charmers that make a permanent home for themselves
in the gardener's heart. 'Paul Neyron' is precisely such a rose. Make
no mistake, it has always received its share of attention from rose
writers, and now I feel it is my turn to sing its praise. It produces
some of the largest blossoms of any rose in existence; I have seen the
occasional solitary bloom that exceeded seven inches in diameter! The
plant itself is large and sturdy as well and doesn't hesitate to give
several flushes of high quality blooms through the year. A dozen blooms
of 'Paul Neyron' requires both arms to carry into the house, providing
a vase-full of Victorian splendor the likes of which can inspire jealousy
among the most devoted Hybrid Tea growers. Alas, like most all of its
kin this rose may require fungicidal sprayings to keep healthy foliage
through the entire year. Climate will affect disease pressure and so
your results may be better than in other regions.
Ahh, how I have come to adore this exquisite Tea rose over the past
few years. I now grow 'Mons. Tillier' in my breeding greenhouse in a
very large container and my specimen grows beautifully in these conditions.
The three-inch blooms are cupped for much of their lives, unfolding
from small tight buds to reveal a bowl crammed full of convoluted petals
in the soft colors of tropical fruits; oranges, peaches, pinks, yellow
tints, all with a deepening overlay of carmine red that intensifies
as the bloom ages. The fragrance is typical Tea, often described as
“phenolic”, which to my nose has a hint of camphor blended
with rose and fruit fragrances. This is a very bushy rose that builds
up from year to year, eventually attaining a size of up to 8 or 10 feet
in the warmest climates. This is a rose that is most at home in places
like Southern California, where it thrives in the heat. Blooms are almost
continuous from early Summer till late Fall. I have used this rose in
breeding and obtained some spectacular results. Teas like this should
not be pruned hard like a modern rose, for if you do it will tend to
ruin its natural grace and sometimes the plant sulks and dies. The Teas
are best just dead-headed, with the occasional removal of very old wood
if it has become unproductive.
This is another of the Oriental roses that is most at home in a warm
climate, like its relatives, the Teas. 'Mutabilis', also known as 'Tipo
Ideale', is a China rose, thought to have originated in China and is
presumed to be well over 100 years old, of not centuries. It is a remarkable
rose, with its five-petaled orange blooms that first pale to peach and
then start to darken with lacquer-red that finishes a dark muted ruddy
red hue. To have a mature shrub covered in hundreds of blooms in every
stage of the color shift is truly a remarkable sight. Nobody encounters
a specimen of 'Mutabilis' and forgets what they have seen! In Zones
9 and 10, it will grow as a very large shrub or can be trained as a
climber up to 20 feet tall. It can be grown in colder areas to Zone
7a with some luck, but it will die back in hard freezes and never achieve
the size that it does in warmer gardens. Still, a five foot shrub is
a marvelous thing and blooms just as freely as a larger specimen. This
is a good rose for those who do not wish to spend a lot of time on annual
prunings, for it can do very well with little attention from the secateurs.
'Eugene de Beauharnais'
I almost left this “China” hybrid off the list, because
I wish to compile a list of roses that the average rosarian with a few
years experience can have great success with. 'Eugene de Beauharnais'
isn't a difficult rose to grow, but it does require some patience to
grow well. It is never going to be a large shrub; it rarely
exceeds 2.5 feet tall. It also has the unfortunate habit of flowering
at the expense of making strong growth. Therefore it is suggested that
a new plant not be allowed to flower much (or at all!) during its first
year's growth. In the second year, limit the plant to ½ of its
blooms, pinching off the other ½ of the buds before they get
bigger than a pea. This may seem like unusual treatment, but by year
three you will be rewarded with a nice specimen that pumps out flush
after flush of some of the most beautiful Amaranth-crimson, richly scented
blooms you have ever seen or smelled. The perfect bloom of 'Eugene de
Beauharnais' will justify in a heartbeat every moment you suffered and
slaved over the plant. This is a good rose for a container, since it
will always remain small. Depending on your climate and cultural conditions,
this rose may need some protection from Blackspot.
Could this be the perfect “no fuss” pink OGR? The popular
belief suggests that this is a hybrid between a remontant Damask, perhaps
R. damascena bifera, and some form of R. spinosissima. At a glance its
not hard to believe that this is a hybrid between these two roses. 'Stanwell
Perpetual' forms a dense shrub about 7 X 7 feet at maturity, under good
conditions. Dark purplish-green fern-like leaves clothe the shrub well
and rarely exhibit any disease problems. As the name suggests, there
is an unending display of bloom throughout the season as long as the
plant receives water during hot, dry spells. The flowers are not large,
rarely more than 3 inches across. Each double, cupped bloom is a soft
blush pink when fresh, fading to white and exuding a high-quality Damask
perfume of good intensity. Because the plant is very twiggy, building
new growth upon old year after year, few blooms come on stems long enough
to make a cut flower, but its real usefulness is as a landscape rose.
It is particularly useful in a cottage garden setting, where its species-like
charm is most appreciated. The plant is not quick to mature in my experience;
it requires a good five years to really come into its own. However,
it is a very long-lived rose that is nearly care free and offers much,
requiring little. A superb rose in every way.
Here is a rose that I expect will always be high on my list of favorites,
for when it offers a dozen perfect blooms of dusty grape-mauve, no other
rose can touch it. This is a unique Hybrid Perpetual in several ways.
For one, the peculiar grayish-green canes are nearly thornless. It also
tends to be one of the most generous with rebloom, especially during
the middle of Summer when many other HP's have shut down in the heat.
It is also a more twiggy shrub and is easier to manipulate into a rounded,
attractive bush, something that is sorely lacking in many other HP's.
I find that the most richly colored blooms of 'Reine des Violettes'
generally come in the first flush of Spring and the last big flush of
Fall when, in both cases, the weather is cooler. It seems the colder
temperatures bring our the deeper purple hues. When the blossoms are
well colored they are quite remarkable, with hues of the richest Concord
grape, deep crimson, smoky mauve and as the bloom ages, even haunting
grays are blended in. Some growers have discovered that bloom color
can be improved by the application of chelated Iron to the soil a few
times a year. I find the fragrance to be somewhat elusive, sometimes
quite rich and other times it is mild, although I can always detect
some scent. As is the case with all of the HP's, 'Reine des Violettes'
has some proneness to Blackspot, but much less so than many of its brethren.
Fungicides applied during the wetter part of Spring will easily keep
this rose clean and healthy, and the effort, I assure you, is well worth
I had a hard time choosing between 'Reine des Violettes' and the Damask
Perpetual 'Indigo', both of which I love. I would suggest that either
of these are excellent choices for a remontant purple OGR, the biggest
different being the plant habit of the two. 'Indigo' is very much like
a Gallica in foliage and overall bush stature, and is smaller and twiggier.
Its blooms are generally less double as well, and often more consistently
deep purple. I find it a bit more disease resistant also. Both are excellent
plants, but if space is limited, 'Indigo' will be the better choice.
A correspondent once told me a story about his Father, who loved this
rose above all others and was often moved to tears when gazing upon
it in full flush. Now, that is a sentiment I can relate to. I once spent
a pleasant Summer morning counting the blooms and opening buds on my
plant of 'Gloire de Dijon' when it's first flush was at its peak, and
I lost count somewhere around 850. Most of those were open blooms, with
more to come. I know of few other remontant climbers of any class that
can perform like this. Remember, too, that each glorious peachy-buff
bloom is about 3.5 inches across and is packed with well over 100 petals.
No wonder it has had a reputation for unsurpassed beauty for nearly
150 years. Now, as magnificent as it is, it is not without its flaws
as well. I have grown it as both own-root and grafted on R. multiflora,
and it has been a very poor grower on its own roots. I would recommend
that you seek out grafted plants only unless you are in warmer parts
of California. It can Blackspot badly in climates where disease is prevalent.
Neither is it very Winter hardy; I would hesitate to recommend it for
climates colder than Zone 7a. (It is one of the Tea-Noisettes, and as
such it has inherited some of the tenderness from its Tea ancestors)
Still, if you have a conducive climate and are willing to keep the foliage
disease free, you can have one of the most exquisite remontant climbers
the world has ever known, offering armloads of softly colored, well-scented
blooms in several flushes each Summer. I have often cut 30 or so blooms
of this rose alone, and arranged them in a bowl or vase and the effect
is spellbinding. At times, I too am moved to tears by the beauty of
The Damask Perpetuals are a wonderful group of roses, and sadly there
are so few of them left. Perhaps there never were very many of them,
or perhaps they came into being just as the Hybrid Perpetuals were becoming
vogue and quickly overshadowed them. Fortunately the survivors are,
for the most part, excellent roses. 'Marbrée' is very high on
my list of favorites, not just for its unusual medium pink blooms covered
in pale spots, but because it is a sturdy shrub, always shapely, vigorous
and generous with bloom. Contrary to some writers reports, I find it
has a very good fragrance as well. 'Marbrée' is one of the larger
Damask Perpetuals, building to a mature size of nearly 5 X 5 feet in
many climates. The foliage is handsome and clothes the bush well, exhibiting
very good disease resistance for most who grow it. Blooms are 4”
in diameter, cupped, with about 40 petals each. They open fully to show
stamens, and have that peculiar pale pink spotting and marbling as an
added feature. I find it repeats very well, with at least 3 flushes
a season, sometimes more, with the occasional few blooms here and there
between. As with most DP's, 'Marbrée' is Winter hardy to at least
Zone 5. An all-too-often overlooked OGR of great virtue.
'Roseraie de l'Hay'
Recognizing the need to include a remontant OGR for colder climates
and no-spray gardens, I chose this beautiful Rugosa. Its breeding is
not known but is thought to be a double sport of Rosa rugosa 'Rosea',
which many dispute. Introduced in 1901 by the French firm of Cochet-Cochet,
and still one of the very best of the double Rugosas. Large (4.5 inch)
blooms of 40 or more petals unfold from unusually elongated buds. The
color is a very deep purple-crimson hue and to my eyes is a richer color
than Rugosas like 'Hansa'. (which I also grow and adore) It is very
vigorous and will quickly mature to a shrub of 8 to 12 feet, depending
on climate. It remains shapely enough on its own that pruning is rarely
necessary to keep it manicured. In fact, removal of spent blooms isn't
required either, as 'Roseraie de l'Hay' rarely forms hips. (which is
actually a shame, since many of this group set large, colorful hips
that are very attractive in the Fall) This rose is not troubled by Blackspot
or Mildew and will thrive with little more than the occasional watering.
It makes an excellent rose to grow as a hedge and is perfectly Winter
hardy to Zone 4 or even colder. Top all that off with one of the richest
Clove-like fragrances you are likely to encounter and you have a nearly
perfect rose, especially for the gardener that has little time for fussier
It seems almost everyone I know has some memory of a Grandmother growing
one of the Mosses in her garden, and I do indeed recall one of the Moss
Roses at my own Grandmother's cottage house, growing just outside her
kitchen door when I was a child. The sticky, perfumed buds with their
peculiar mossing was very memorable to me and undoubtedly explains my
fascination with Mosses as an adult and a hybridizer. With the rise
of the Damask Perpetuals in the mid-1800's, hybridizers yearned to introduce
remontancy into their Moss hybrids. Roses like 'Salet' (1854) and 'René
d'Anjou' (1853) are the results of that goal. Although neither of these
cultivars is by any means a perfect rose, both have some of the best
features to offer within their class. Both are medium to light pinks,
very double in traditional OGR form and have a very good fragrance and
moderately mossy buds. Both 'Salet' and 'René d'Anjou' are similar
shrubs in growth and stature, forming well-rounded bushes about 3 to
4 feet in height and width. Both offer at least 3 flushes of bloom a
year and both have good Winter-hardiness in most climates. Both also
have some susceptibility to Blackspot however, but in some climates,
I have heard reports of these being nearly disease free. Even if you
discover that they do need spraying to keep clean, they are both excellent
introductions to the Mossy Remontant class.
Hillingdon'/'Mlle. Franziska Kreuger'/'Clementina Carbonieri'
I believe that any list of favorite remontant OGR's must include at
least one Tea rose. Mind you, I mean Tea rose, not Hybrid Tea. There
is a huge difference between the two! (True Teas predate the Hybrid
Tea, and Hybrid Teas resulted from crosses between Hybrid Perpetuals
and Teas) The true Teas are a race of roses that originated in China,
arriving in Europe in the late 1700's as a horticultural bonus of Tea
importation. As these roses are adapted to the Chinese climate, they
are sensitive to cold and are best in the southern states where frosts
are rare events. Some of the Teas will tolerate some freezing, but not
without some damage.
already listed one other Tea, but it is more in the peachy-red color
range. I also wanted to recommend one of the many excellent yellow-orange
varieties. Most OGR fans are well acquainted with 'Lady Hillingdon'
of 1909, with its rich yolk-yellow blooms. It is truly a beautiful plant
when it likes its environment, but really needs heat to prosper. 'Mlle.
Franziska Kreuger' is a similar shrub, with very double nodding blooms
packed full of crumpled orange-buff petals. But it will remain under
4 feet whereas 'Lady Hillingdon' can easily reach 8 or more. 'Clementina
Carbonieri' is another excellent Tea with fully double globular blossoms
in a luscious fruit-colored orange-red-buff combination. These roses
do not generally have the strong fragrances of their Damask cousins,
but they do have a distinctive scent. To my nose, many of them have
a pleasant fruity fragrance with strong camphor-like tones as well.
To some it is an acquired taste, but a fragrance that most growers come
to like a great deal.
de la Malmaison'/'Duchesse du Rohan'
Once upon a time I would have said that my top ten list would always
have 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' on it somewhere. Although I still love
this rose when it is performing well, it isn't always generous with
its perfect blooms, nor is it always a trouble-free plant. In the wetness
of late Spring the heavily double blossoms are easily ruined before
they can open properly. I prefer to grow 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'
in the greenhouse now, where I can control the climate conditions. It
seems to benefit from the additional heat buildup under plastic, encouraging
the somewhat thin petals to unfold well. In warm, dry climates, 'Souvenir
de la Malmaison' can be astonishingly beautiful with a nearly endless
display of the finest highly fragrant blooms that justify its alternate
name, 'Queen of Beauty and Fragrance'. Under ideal conditions this Bourbon
rose will build up to about 3 by 3 feet, although I have seen it gradually
build to as much as 7 feet tall. In colder climates it is quite tender
and will freeze to the snowline, but even so it will make a tidy shrub
of about 2.5 feet each year.
a better rose for the zones below 7 is the excellent 'Duchesse de Rohan'.
Depending on which authority you consult, this rose is classed as either
a Centifolia, a Hybrid Perpetual or a Damask Perpetual (Portland Damask).
Although I have previously listed it as a Centifolia, following Peter
Beales suggestion, I now think it is more properly thought of as a Hybrid
Perpetual of sorts, although it is curiously unlike the rest of the
class, with its smaller, twiggier stature and more compact growth. Regardless
of its proper classification, it has become one of my favorite remontant
pink OGR's over the past five years. It has not exceeded 4 by 4 feet,
remaining a rounded shrub with foliage right down to the base, giving
at least three flushes of bloom per year. The medium pink blossoms are
very full, about 4 inches across each and although they generally appear
in clusters of three or so, the stronger new growths can bear clusters
of up to 10 blooms. There must be at least 100 petals to each bloom
and the fragrance ranks among the top five of all the roses I grow:
pure Damask of the highest quality and intensity. 'Duchesse de Rohan'
has been hardy to the very tips every year in my experience and I expect
it would perform admirably to at least zones 5 without any fuss. It
does get some Blackspot during wet weather episodes, but is far more
disease resistant than the average Hybrid Tea.
Two, a discussion of my favorite non-remontant OGR's will appear in
the April edition.
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