'Charles de Mills', breeder and date of introduction unknown.
For some strange reason, the history of this magnificent rose has slipped completely into obscurity.....despite the hard work of several rose historians, nothing concrete has been discovered regarding its origin! It seems likely at this point, that 'Charles de Mills' was once known by a different name which has become blurred by generations of distortion.
It is strange that there is no surviving information about the origin of this most beautiful rose, although Suzanne Verrier has come to believe that 'Charles de Mills' may have originated in Germany as a rose named 'Charles Wills', and was subsequently renamed 'Charles de Mills' upon arrival in France. It was not uncommon for a rose to have many different names in it's lifetime, sometimes a different name for every country in which it was sold. Nurserymen did not consider that 100 years later rose historians would be madly trying to identify and sort out these survivors, only to discover that the same rose was often traded under more than one name. Problems of identity can be difficult to sort out, as these roses can be quite variable depending on soil and cultural conditions, so the same cultivar grown under different conditions can appear to be a different rose entirely. It is sometimes listed as 'Bizarre Triomphant' also, but I doubt this is the same rose. (Dickerson, in The Old Rose Adventurer, has found no information to link these two roses in any way.)
'Charles de Mills' is somewhat variable in appearance depending on growing conditions, at least in my experience. I have grown cuttings of this rose in pots of different soil mix, and found the colour of the blooms to vary quite a bit, as does the bloom size. (Often blooms are up to 5.5 inches across!) However, this is a consistent shrub under most conditions, and will not disappoint. It does have some fragrance for me, but I have often heard it described as having none, or very little. For me, the scent is "moderate", and very pleasant. I sometimes wonder if cultural conditions plays a part in this rose's ability to produce scent, or whether it is simply that some people can smell it, and other's cannot.
'Charles de Mills' is a fairly tidy, structured shrub, but like many of it's class, it can be weighed down to the ground by the multitude of heavy blooms it produces. Sometimes I give in to the urge to stake it so that I don't miss seeing a single bloom of this wonderful rose. It can grow to a height of about 5 feet, and will sucker freely when grown on it's own roots. I consider this a plus. More of this rose is a welcome thing, at least until it starts to invade other sections of the garden, which I have been told it will eventually do. For now, I will be happy to dig up suckers and share them with other willing recipients.
The colour of 'Charles de Mills' is a typical gallica crimson, which I have found can shift and deepen to a purple tone with slate hues, or to a deep pink hue, depending on growing conditions. It flowers over a period of several weeks in early summer, as do all members of this class. The individual blooms are quite long lasting. I find the buds to be fascinating as they unfurl, revealing many petals crammed in tight. They are quartered upon opening. If ever I had to choose but one rose to have in my garden, this may very well be the one! Click here to see another, larger photo of 'Charles de Mills'
Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 2006, All Rights Reserved.