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'Sombreuil', a climbing tea. Introduced by Robert, France, 1850.

This tea is one of the great underappreciated climbers of the Old Garden Roses, in my opinion. I have rarely seen it in gardens anywhere, even though it is a strong, healthy shrub that repeats as well as any modern climber, and is winter hardy too! There are plants of it growing in the Avery Park OGR section in Corvallis, Oregon, and they were wonderful all summer long, while the plants of climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison were bloomless and covered in mildew. (I love the shrub version, but the climbing form is much less floriferous!)

Sombreuil will form a climbing plant of up to 8 feet in most climates, (taller in the western coastal states and Texas) or a large freestanding shrub if given the room. I have a plant of it placed in a large open space that will be allowed to form a shrub as it pleases.

The plant itself is well foliated with deep green, healthy foliage. The blooms are large; up to 5" across, and quite fragrant with a modern tea sort of scent, more acrid than sweet, but pleasant enough. It is one of the most fully double roses you could ask for, as you can see here. I have not counted the petals, but I imagine there could easily be 150 there! It opens a warm cream-white and pales slightly to near white.  It should be hardy to at least USDA zone 5, if not colder, given the right location. 
All in all, this is a handsome shrub that can compete with the best of both old and modern roses. I consider this to be a much better climber than many more popular ones used today.

Note: There is great debate over the true identity of this rose, as it is clearly not the same 'Sombreuil' as was originally introduced in commerce. Some have suggested that it may in fact be the more modern 'Colonial White', possibly from the 1950's. We will likely never know its true identity but that doesn't matter much; the rose is superb. Definitely not a Tea, but superb nonetheless.

ARS merit rating: 8.8
Personal merit rating: 9.0
Hardiness: Likely USDA zones 6 to 10, zone 5 in a protected location.
Shrub size: 8 to 12 feet tall, depending on climate
Fragrance: 3.0, Fairly strong Tea scent.

Bon Silène Homere
Devoniensis Lady Hillingdon
Fortune's Double Yellow Mons. Tillier
Gloire de Dijon (Rise 'N' Shine X Gloire de Dijon) #1
Gloire de Dijon X Abraham Darby Sombreuil

Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 2005, All Rights Reserved.