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Souvenir de la Malmaison, introduced in 1843 by Béluze of France.

Breeding:  Mme Desprez X a tea rose (possibly Devoniensis)

Souvenir de la Malmaison, is considered to be one of the very best of the surviving Bourbon roses we have.  Depending on the climate in which it is grown, it can get to be as tall as 7 feet, but will most likely stay under 4 feet tall. There is a climbing sport which can get to be quite a bit larger, but is identical in every other way. (Except that it often seems to have a long period of bloomlessness at the height of the summer) The shrub is quite modern in appearance, being a bourbon-tea hybrid, and in foliage it looks more like a hybrid tea. It is not a very vigorous rose, but is reasonably sturdy, and will take a couple of years to get properly established. Once it does, it can be a magnificent rose. The blooms are unlike anything else! They are huge, very well quartered deep cups, possessing a strange and distinct spicy/fruity scent.
It has, however, one real drawback; the flowers often fail to open properly, if at all, in wet weather. They are prone to spotting and will even rot if it is very wet and cool. This is a feature that does not ruin it's charm for me though. I rarely get that many spoiled blooms to be disconcerting. As I say, most of the time this is an astonishingly beautiful rose. 

As it is part tea rose in breeding ( Mme Desprez X an unknown Tea ), it is also a bit tender, and will definitely require winter protection in cold climates. No more tender, though, than many modern hybrid teas. Don't let this discourage you from giving it a try. As you may have noticed on the main page, this rose is the pollen parent of my own hybrid, Joyce Barden. I use it frequently in my breeding program, as have many people before me.

As an amusing footnote to its history, I quote a passage from Brent Dickerson's Old Rose Advisor* discussing the introduction of Souvenir de la Malmaison:

"The blossoms ... were taken to the markets of Lyon, whence they were quickly borne off, and Beluze was not of a mind to release this wonderful variety [wanting to maintain his 'monopoly' on its appearance in the florist trade] ... Beluze was so happy in the possession of this jewel that, whenever someone would enter his yard, he would place that person under the strictest surveillance, believing that otherwise the person would take many cuttings. The story also goes on to say that Mme Beluze would stand, watching, in one of the windows of the house. As for Beluze himself, he would be lost in watching the visitor from head to toe."

Hmmmm...I daresay I might have kept such a close watch on visitors myself for the same reason!


ARS merit rating: 8.7
Personal merit rating: 9.0
Hardiness: USDA zones 6 to 8, possibly zone 5 in a protected location.
Shrub size: 2 to 5 feet tall X 2 to 4 feet wide

Fragrance: 4.5 (out of a possible 5)

*Originally quoted from the Journal des Roses 1877-1914, edited by Cochet and Bernardin.

Charles Lawson Souvenir de President Lincoln
Gruss an Teplitz Souvenir de la Malmaison
Honorine de Brabant Variegata di Bologna

Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2003