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'Old Blush', introduced to European growers circa 1752.

From Brent Dickerson:
'Parsons' Pink China' (China/Parsons, 1793). Synonyms: 'Common China', 'Diversifolia', 'Old Blush', 'Rose Semi-Double', 'Rosier a Feuilles Variables', etc. The attribution to Parsons is the traditional one; claims are also made for Peter Osbeck of Sweden, Capt. Ekeberg of the same fine land in 1763, and one diversely-named Mr. Kerr/Keer/Ker of England about 1780 or 1789--but of course always as having taken the rose to Europe from China. It had arrived in France, via England, by 1798, and we find an early description in the 1806 *Bon Jardinier*: "This pretty bush has only been known a short while; but already it is no longer rare as it deserves being grown due to its merit of always being in leaf and in bloom. Its leaves, constructed like those of other roses, vary in the number of leaflets (3 or 5), which are pointed and of a delicate green lightly edged with pink. This bush, which is of a very elegant look, grows to about 3 or 4 feet. From each of its axils comes a branch bearing at its tip between one and four long buds [*contemporaries were used to the globular buds of the Centifolias, etc.*] which subsequently become lightly fragrant blossoms of great freshness, of a shade of pink nearly as intense as that of the Centifolia from Bordeaux [*'Rosier des Dames'*], though less double. To have flowers all year long, all you need to do is to cut them as they fade; they then regrow, even in Winter..." The varying nature of the leaves may be noted in Redoute's plate of it (as "Rosa indica vulgaris") in his and Thory's *Les Roses*.

Roger Mann makes the observation that a rose very similar to 'Old Blush' is depicted in Chinese paintings from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1169 A.D.). The rose we grow as 'Old Blush' may in fact be that same variety, or certainly something closely related. The origin of this hybrid is a marvellous mystery that we will never likely unravel, and we can only speculate what series of events led to the creation of one of the worlds oldest repeat blooming roses.

While this rose is often referred to as one of the "Four Stud Chinas", there were in fact other China roses extant in those early times. 'Old Blush' is one of the first though, brought to Europe from the Occident during the Tea Trade. It is this rose that is considered to be the single most influential hybrid (yes, it is a hybrid and not a species) in the creation of our modern repeat blooming rose. Our modern garden roses have inherited their repeat bloom genes from this and likely other China hybrids. An interesting side note: some hybridizers are still using 'Old Blush' in their work to this day, including Ralph Moore. Two of his Modern Miniatures are a direct result of using this rose as a parent: 'Mr. Bluebird' and 'Pink Poodle'.

As for care and culture, 'Old Blush' will thrive under average conditions and general good care. It is a very consistent repeat bloomer and is quite resistant to foliar diseases. It can be considered quite hardy to at least zone 6, but will appreciate some protection in colder climates. China roses as a rule resent hard pruning, so remove only dead and damaged wood and shape the shrub to a pleasing shape as necessary. If you prune it like a modern Hybrid Tea, it will be inclined to sulk and its performance will suffer. If in doubt as to how to deal with pruning this (or any) rose, remove only spent blooms and dead wood.

ARS merit rating: 8.7
Personal merit rating: 8.5
Hardiness: Likely USDA zones 6 to 10, zone 5 in a protected location.
Shrub size: 2.0 to 3.5 feet tall X 3 feet wide

Fragrance: 2.0, light scent like Violets.

Eugène de Beauharnais Mutabilis
the Green Rose Old Blush
Hermosa Perle d'Or
Irene Watts Reversion Sport of Green Rose
Martha Gonzales Slater’s Crimson China

Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2003