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Review of Remontant and Non-Remontant Old Garden Roses,
by Paul Barden
on from last month, this is the second of three articles on my updated
list of favorite OGR's, the third section being a review of older Hybrid
Teas. This month is the non-remontant OGR's.
After having grown this beautiful Gallica for over 15 years it is still
one of my all-time favorite roses. No other rose comes close to its
glowing velvet purples with shimmering blackish shadows. I will never
forget the first time I set eyes on a plant of this in full flush one
bright May day. Those rich blackish-purple blooms absolutely took my
breath away. This rose was a millions miles away from the 'Peace' I
had grown up with so many years ago; from that moment on the Gallicas
had captured my heart and to this day my fascination with these roses
continues, refreshed every Spring with renewed enthusiasm.
'Tuscany Superb' is one of the darkest of this class, and undoubtedly
one of the darkest purple roses ever bred. Blooms are 4 inches across
and open flat to show off the bright yellow stamens. It flowers in clusters
of three to seven and remains in bloom for four to six weeks in early
Summer. Some say it has no fragrance but I detect a moderate scent that
is more “earthy/spicy” than traditional sweet rose. The
shrub is Winter hardy to Zone 4 without protection and the foliage is
rarely troubled by the diseases that disfigure many modern roses. The
Gallicas are thicket-forming roses, sending out suckers from the base
to make wide masses of thin canes. (If you wish to avoid this behavior,
buy a grafted plant, not an own-root) Most of this class grows to about
4 feet tall, sometimes a bit more and 'Tuscany Superb' is no exception.
Some growers prefer to shorten the new shoots that appear in late June
through August to half their height, which makes the shrub more compact
My first knowledge of 'Charles de Mills' was finding a description of
it in a German gardener's book on roses. I was astonished by the photo
of the blooms; perfectly rounded cups of rich crimson petals arranged
in swirled perfection. I longed to hold one of those blooms in my hands.
It wasn't until two years after that moment that I first obtained a
plant of 'Charles de Mills' and was worth the wait. Every bloom is a
work of art, with its hundred plus swirling petals in a shallow cup.
It looks like something that could not possibly be created by such a
shrub as this, it possesses such elegance. Now, although many writers
state that 'Charles de Mills' has no fragrance, I find that it does
offer a modest fragrance that is quite unlike the traditional sweet
Damask rose fragrance, but something more earthy, spicy. More of an
aroma than a fragrance, if you know what I mean. No matter how you care
to describe it, it does have some scent. The blooms can reach 4.5 inches
across, which is likely the largest of the Gallicas. The color is variable
but often a deep “beetroot” crimson with purple tones with
age. The plant is, in my experience, always mannerly as long as you
do at least one annual pruning to shape the bush, preferably in late
Summer. This rose has never failed to mesmerize me, and it has in every
way lived up to the expectations I conjured when I first saw that photo
in a rose book so many years ago. If I had to choose one Gallica to
grow, this would be the one. (Although several others come a close second!)
If there is a species roses to be included on this list, it has to be
R. sericea ptericantha, popularly known as 'The Winghtorn Rose'. This
is a particular form of the species, R. sericea having significantly
less dramatic thorns. Surely there is no more spectacular species than
this, with its exaggerated flame-red thorns on its young canes, lit
up like stained glass in the early morning and late afternoon light.
This is a rose that people grow for its thorn features rather than its
blooms, however it is quite a display when at the peak of its short
(3 week) bloom period. It blooms at most every node along the canes,
with thousands of pure white blooms that are mostly four-petaled, rather
than the usual five that most species have. The plant is very upright
with a V-shaped outline if left unpruned. Although many growers suggest
a hard annual pruning to encourage lots of new growth, which supplies
new bright red thorns also, but I have left mine unpruned for years
and find that it produces many new shoots of its own accord. I like
the mature plant with its natural form and wouldn't want to ruin it
by hard pruning. However, since it easily reaches 6 feet across and
10 feet tall, I can appreciate that some may need to restrain its size.
Unfortunately this is a very difficult species to propagate from cuttings,
so don't be surprised if bud grafted plants are all you can find. (Mine
is grafted and does very well)
In this case I list two roses of similar overall style, both of which
are superb roses that are interchangeable in most every way. Both 'Mme.
Hardy' and 'Botzaris' are white Damasks with very full, extremely well-shaped
blooms with excellent fragrances. The one major difference between these
two is the mature size of the shrub. 'Mme. Hardy' easily grows to an
eight foot bush in a mild climate, while 'Botzaris' rarely exceeds five
feet and is noticeably more bushy. 'Mme. Hardy' has often been referred
to by various Rosarians as the ultimate white OGR, a sentiment I share,
even after growing this rose for 10 plus years. It has never failed
to delight me with its exquisitely formed white quartered blooms with
the little green pip at the centers. However, it is not without its
downfalls. In some regions it does Blackspot rather badly if not sprayed
during the wet Spring weather, and some have reported that the shrub
can look rather shabby for the rest of the year of Blackspot is allowed
to wreak havoc on it. I have always found that a few judicious sprayings
in the Spring will prevent most of the problems with disease and the
shrub breezes through the Summer with clean, handsome foliage and new
shoots. Keep it happy and you will be able to literally pick arm loads
of magnificent white 3” blooms for several weeks in early Summer.
Make a mixed bouquet of 'Mme. Hardy' and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' and
you will have one of the most striking color combinations possible.
'Botzaris' is, as I say, a very similar Damask in most ways, but it
will remain a more compact shrub with a bit fuller bush outline. The
pure white, highly fragrant blooms are also very double, about 3”
across, but more deeply cupped than 'Mme. Hardy'. Either of these roses
is an excellent choice to represent the Damask class.
As most people who have read my account of 'Desirée Parmentier'
on my web site knows, this was acquired as a “found” rose
many years ago. This too is a Gallica hybrid, but judging by its larger
stature and arching growth habit, I would imagine there is some Centifolia
or Damask genes in its makeup. A tall grower, I have seen it trained
as a climber in rich soils, reaching 8 feet or more with ease. I grow
it as a freestanding shrub to show off its naturally graceful arching
form, which displays the blooms to perfection, in my opinion. Clusters
of up to 10 blooms (more often 3 and 5) last over a period of about
5 or 6 weeks in early Summer. Each bloom can be up to 4” across
and is packed with over 100 petals, many of which are creased down the
center in a curious way. The fragrance is both of the highest Damask
quality and is especially intense; one of the best roses I grow for
scent. Because 'Desirée Parmentier' is a very graceful grower,
I suggest going very lightly when pruning it: allow it to grow at least
3 years before doing anything other than dead-heading and shortening
the previous year's laterals to a few inches long. After that, simply
remove older unproductive wood and shorten the laterals in late Winter.
I find this a very easy rose to grow, requiring very little other than
the occasional watering through dry periods. In fact, I have one specimen
planted outside of the drip irrigation area and so it receives no supplemental
water through the Summer, and yet it continues to grow and bloom with
abandon. This makes a great rose for big bouquets of Victorian excess,
although you must pick very fresh blooms, for mature flowers shatter
easily when picked. A rose to grow if for no other reason than to enjoy
a superior fragrance.
Anyone who knows me and the work I do with roses knows that I love the
Gallicas most of all. It could be said that the color range of this
group is limited in comparison to modern roses, but many subtle and
startling hues can be found in this class. Pale pinks and whites are
the rarest of all colors in the Gallicas, and 'Duchesse de Montebello'
is absolutely one of the finest of these softer hues. The blooms are
smallish rounded cups of delicate blush pink, packed with exquisite
folded petals of the greatest delicacy. The Duchesse has a very fine
perfume to accompany its visual perfection, sweeter than most Gallicas,
and more intense. The bloom period is quite long, often lasting well
over a month. The plant is somewhat floppy in habit, easily corrected
by training it into a support like a large Peony hoop, or by applying
a couple of mis-Summer prunings to prevent any of the new season's canes
from becoming more than three or four feet long. (It can fire up 7 foot
canes once established, which bow easily with the weight of bloom) I
find disease resistance to be very good; rarely do I find Blackspot
on this plant, even though it is in a no-spray part of my garden. Although
this rose is often found on many favorites list, I must include it on
mine as well, for it is truly a superior rose.
I have used 'Duchesse de Montebello' in my breeding work on occasion,
often with spectacular results. In 2004 one of my hybrids 'Allegra'
was released into commerce, the result of a cross between 'Duchesse
de Montebello' and 'St. Swithun', a beautiful pink David Austin rose.
'Allegra' is everything I could have hoped for in such a cross, merging
the best traits of both parents: large OGR style blooms of soft pink,
fully double quartered form, and superior disease resistance. The only
thing it did not get was the remontancy of its English parent, but it
does have an excellent perfume. I continue to work with 'Duchesse de
Montebello' in my breeding program with the hopes that one day I will
get some remontant offspring from it, as some other breeders have done.
Belle Sultane'/'James Mason'
Again I have selected one of the Gallicas for my favorites list. I have
grown 'La Belle Sultane' for a decade now and find myself more in love
with it every passing year. It is considered to be a single bloom, with
about 8 or 10 petals to each 4.5 inch bloom. The deep purple and mauve
blend blooms are borne in clusters of up to 10, covering the bush with
masses of rich color for several weeks in early Summer. I find every
aspect of this rose to be a treasure: the bright new foliage is scented
of balsam and pepper, the buds have extended frilly sepals which suggest
some Damask blood in its pedigree, and the shrub itself is larger than
most Gallicas, growing to as much as 8 X 8 feet in time, and always
maintaining an excellent full bush. (I prune 'La Belle Sultane' once
in the Summer with hedge shears, just enough to round it off a bit,
and again in late Winter to create a nice round outline for bloom presentation)
This Gallica is particularly generous with bloom, likely because it
doesn't have to generate as many petals as some of the fully double
varieties. Grow this with a root barrier in place, or as a grafted plant
if you wish to avoid rather vigorous suckering.
Of similar style, but with a more modern color and appearance is Peter
Beales' magnificent 'James Mason', a cross of 'Tuscany Superb' and the
Kordes hybrid 'Scharlachglut'. (aka: 'Scarlet Glow') I compare it to
'La Belle Sultane' because both are single-flowered Gallicas of rich
coloring, 'James Mason' being more of a modern red-crimson color that
darkens with more purple tones as it ages. 'James Mason' is one of those
roses that must be seen in person to truly appreciate. When people see
it in full bloom in my garden they rush to it, exclaiming “What
is this?!” This Gallica is larger in growth than many, building
to at least 6 X 6 feet, with graceful arching growth and masses of 4
to 5 inch single, pleasantly scented blooms. Peter Beales has created
a truly remarkable rose in 'James Mason' and it deserves greater attention
than it has received. I expect my garden will always have a specimen
of this beauty.
Ville de Bruxelles'
Here is another of the world's finest Damasks, often appearing on collectors
lists and in OGR books as a superior cultivar worthy of attention. Is
it everything the mythology suggests it is? YES! Imagine six and seven
foot arching canes loaded with the most perfectly formed, mid-rose pink
blooms bearing the most heart-heartbreakingly exquisite pure rose fragrance
imaginable. Each bloom is superb, with quartered form comparable to
the perfection of 'Charles de Mills' and 'Mme. Hardy'. Each bloom is
quite large, sometimes reaching almost 5 inches in diameter, and blossoms
come in clusters of 3 to 9. While 'La Ville de Bruxelles' makes a very
handsome free-standing shrub of arching grace, it may benefit from some
support, or perhaps it could be trained as a small climber. Whatever
you do, don't shorten the large canes by pruning, or you will ruin the
natural grace of the plant, which I feel is best left to grow as it
pleases. (mind you, every few years the older canes should be thinned
to encourage new growth from the base) One word of caution about this
rose: in some climates it may Blackspot moderately unless protected
with fungicidal sprays. I find that a few carefully timed sprays in
the Spring will get the shrub though to the dry part of the Summer in
Few roses have captured my imagination as this one has. Everything that
has been said about this beautiful Gallica is true; it is a unique beauty,
its color has no peer. Luscious deep Concord grape purple with a paler
mauve reverse, colors aging from royal purple to a deeper maroon with
slatey grey-purple hues. A friend of mine once remarked that a well-aged
bloom of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' was a color resembling that of “day
old liver left in the sun”, an unflattering comparison, but a
somewhat truthful one! It is as the bloom comes close to dropping its
petals that it takes on some of its most fascinating colors; the greyish
purples of a most remarkable value. The petal reverse at this point
is nearly white, presenting a dramatic contrast. Even as the petals
fall, each one is a marvel; purple hearts with white tips of great delicacy
and unparalleled color. Ah, but what about the shrub itself? 'Cardinal
de Richelieu' is precisely what one would expect from a Gallica-China
hybrid: a suckering shrub with many thin canes to about 5 feet, few
prickles to the canes and beautiful matte foliage. Winter hardiness
to zone 5 is to be expected, probably to zone 4 in a sheltered location.
Blooms are not large; no more than 3” each, but the China influence
has influenced the rose, granting it the ability to flower in clusters
of up to 9 blooms per inflorescence. There is a fragrance, but it is
not intense, nor is it particularly sweet as the Damasks are, but it
is a pleasant herbal scent, reminding me somewhat of the scent of Cedar
wood. In all, this is a marvelous beauty unlike any other and should
be included in any collection of once-blooming OGR's. A bouquet of 'Cardinal
de Richelieu' mixed with any pure white rose is indeed a remarkable
John Ingram'/'Nuits de Young'/'Violacée'.
The once-blooming Mosses are magical shrubs, offering not only blooms
of classic OGR style in rich pinks, purples and the occasional white,
but elaborating on the classic image in true Victorian style by adding
the exquisite detailing of moss-covered sepals. A favorite in my collection
a decade now is the lovely 'Nuits de Young', a small Moss of a very
dark purple hue and dark, dense mossing. Blooms are small, no more than
3” across, semi-double, opening fully to show stamens clearly.
The color is a deep Royal purple which deepens with age to take on dark
slate tones, greying considerably. There is a fragrance, but it is not
a sweet scent like the Damasks, but something of a more herbal scent;
smoky and aromatic. All Moss shrubs are quite thorny and this one is
no exception, with canes thickly covered in dark brown prickles. The
foliage is quite dark and petite and has good resistance to Blackspot.
'Nuits de Young is one of the more compact Mosses, rarely exceeding
4 X 4 feet even in the richest of soils. It is also quite reliably Winter
hardy to at least Zone 5.
I also mention two other Mosses of a similar style; 'Violacée'
and 'Capitaine John Ingram', both deep purples with fully double bloom
form. In most ways these three roses are similar enough to be almost
interchangeable, but there are minor differences. 'Capitaine John Ingram'
bears blooms of fuller, flatter form with a distinct button eye. Its
color is also more of a burgundy hue then the other two. It remains
quite compact like 'Nuits de Young' but is more of a V-shaped shrub,
wider than it is tall. The other, 'Violacée' is the tallest of
the three, attaining a mature size of maybe 5 or 6 feet in height and
a more upright grower. It is also a rich purple color, with a paler
mauve reverse to the petals, very double and rather flat in form, often
showing a button eye. To me, this one has the sweeter fragrance of the
All 3 of these purple Mosses are available in commerce, although my
impression is that 'Nuits de Young' is far more readily available then
the other two.
de Napoleon' (aka R. centifolia cristata)
Born out of mystery and one of the most unique “foundlings”
ever seen in the genus Rosa, R. centifolia cristata is a miraculous
shrub with no peers. The story of its discovery tells us that it was
found growing up against a convent wall in Switzerland circa 1820 and
brought into commerce by J. P. Vibert, one of the most prolific and
influential rose hybridizers of the time in France. Whether the tale
is fact or just fanciful myth, the rose has remained in commerce with
a committed fan club for nearly 200 years now, and with just cause.
Not only is this one of the most perfect 3.5 inch silvery-pink, cupped
blooms, packed with petals and loaded with the most exquisite perfume,
but it has another striking feature that earned it its common name.
The sepals on the buds are made up of wildly exaggerated frilled growths
that resemble greyish-green Parsley! If you have never seen these magnificent
buds in person before, you are in for a real surprise. Many people who
come to my garden are astonished when examining this rose, hypnotized
by the bizarre fractal sepals.
The rest of the rose ain't bad either. In typical Centifolia shrub style,
'Chapeau de Napoleon' is a somewhat lax shrub, with fairly long arching
canes that tend to become weighed down with the heaviness of the blooms,
which are plentiful. Some people have had great success by building
a support for the bush, something in the manner of a large Peony hoop,
preferably made of something sturdy, like wood. In my garden with its
heavy clay soil, my specimen (growing on its own roots) has remained
fairly compact, to about 5 x 5 feet and has been quite self-supporting.
I find it does best if left unpruned except to remove spent blooms and
occasionally thin and remove the oldest, unproductive wood. It will
get some Blackspot, but rarely badly enough to disfigure the plant.
R. centifolia cristata is Winter hardy to at least Zone 5, and probably
Zone 4 in a sheltered location. One of its other common names is 'Crested
Moss', which is a misnomer, as it has no relationship to the other Mosses
except that it is a Centifolia sport exhibiting a deviation in the normal
Selecting just one cultivar from the Alba class was very difficult indeed.
The 20 or so members of this group are almost all exceptional roses,
bearing beautiful white, blush or pink blooms with wonderful fragrances,
exhibiting superb Winter hardiness to Zone 4 (most of them) and having
very graceful shrub form. Instead of 'Great Maiden's Blush' I could
easily have selected 'Konigen von Danemark', or 'Felicité Parmentier',
'Armide' or 'Alba Semi-plena', but because I feel it is an exceptionally
care-free rose of modest size suitable for a back yard garden, I chose
'Great Maiden's Blush'. As a landscape shrub, it has much to offer;
graceful bushy form, gradually building to about 6 x 6 feet, and beautiful
greyish-green foliage that is disease free and handsome when the plant
is out of flower. The blooms are fairly large, averaging 4 inches across
and are loosely double, cupped and a light pink hue. As can be expected
of all the Albas, 'Great Maiden's Blush' is highly fragrant, with a
very sweet note inherited from its R. canina ancestry. This rose is
truly flawless among the European once-blooming roses and deserves the
praise it always seems to receive from writers on the subject of Old
Roses. It is especially true of the Albas as a whole that these shrubs
are best left unpruned until they reach near-mature size. (Which is
not to say that you shouldn't dead-head them if you wish, but varieties
like 'Alba Semi-plena' produce vast quantities of red hips in the Fall
and should be kept for display purposes) Albas have a very graceful,
arching shrub form that is easily ruined by thoughtless pruning, so
resist, resist, resist! Save your pruning energy for modern roses that
require such treatment.
3; Early Hybrid Teas, coming soon.
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