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Mme. Caroline Testout, bred by , 1890

'Mme Caroline Testout' is one of the true survivors of the early Hybrid Tea era, and justly so. This rose played an important role in the early breeding phase of the David Austin roses. 'Mme. Caroline Testout' is still very much worth growing, if only for its ability to grow and bloom under the most trying of conditions.

Bred by Pernet-Ducher in 1890 'Mme. Caroline Testout' was as popular and widely grown in its time as 'Peace' was in the mid to late 1900's. Many seasoned rose growers consider this to be one of the finest pink Hybrid Teas ever created and I'm inclined to agree. Shortly before World War One, the city of Portland, Oregon planted 10,000 bushes of 'Mme. Caroline Testout' along its streets, thus earning the city its nickname of “The City Of Roses”. Many of those plants survive in the city and you cannot travel far without spotting a fine specimen growing in someone's yard, no doubt grown from a cutting of one of the original bushes. It wants to survive, and to its breeder's credit, people want it to survive as well!
I came by my plant of 'Mme. Caroline Testout' by accident, finding it growing on my farm when I moved there eight years ago. It grew on the north side of a garage, in shade for most of the day. It was never watered or sprayed and yet it had clearly survived and done quite well for decades, maintaining an average size of 7 feet tall and not quite as wide. Certainly it would do better if it got regular waterings and protection from disease, but in spite of such harsh conditions, it blooms on. It only ever gets a bit of Rust some years, never Blackspot. Remarkable, I say. Since then I have budded a new plant onto R. multiflora and placed it out in the rest of the garden where it gets considerably better treatment, performing much better as a result.
'Mme. Caroline Testout' is a lovely thing, but a rose whose subtle beauty can only truly be appreciated when one lives with the rose for a time. It is a soft pink unsullied by any other hue, often described as a “silvery pink” color. It is always a bright and cheerful pink, contrasted beautifully by its slightly bluish-green, matte foliage. The merits of this rose are to be found in the effect of the entire shrub; its graceful growth, beautiful healthy foliage topped off by those voluptuous globes of gently scrolled clear pink petals. The fragrance is light and of the phenolic Tea variety. Bloom is generous in both quantity and regularity; an unfailing delight. Wilhelm Kordes was quite smitten by this rose, which was, in his opinion, the best rose in the world. His wish was to breed from it a deep red with all the same qualities, but the Madame never obliged. However, in 1969 David Austin introduced 'The Wife of Bath', which used 'Mme. Caroline Testout' as the seed parent, thus contributing significantly to Austin's pink breeding line. No less than twelve of Mr. Austin's roses are descended directly from 'The Wife of Bath' and there is no doubt in my mind that 'Mme. Caroline Testout' made a significant contribution to this line of breeding. 'Mme. Caroline Testout' belongs in any serious collection of Hybrid Teas, especially if one wishes to gather together a representative group of historically important Hybrid Teas.

See my article on Older Hybrid Teas for more about this and other Hybrid Teas I value.

ARS merit rating: 7.9
Personal merit rating: 8.0.
Hardiness: Likely USDA zones 6 to 10, zone 5 with considerable protection.
Shrub size: 5 feet tall X 3 feet wide.
Fragrance: 2.0, slight, fresh scent.

Black Tea Mrs. Sam McGredy
Dainty Bess Nigrette
Gray Pearl September Morn
Harry Wheatcroft Smoky
Helen Traubel Soleil d'Or
Hinrich Gaede Tantarra
It's Showtime Tiffany
Julia's Rose Verschuren
La France Vesuvius
Mme. Caroline Testout  

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