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Welcome to the April 2005 edition of my web site! The roses I write about are the Old Garden Roses and select shrub and miniature roses of the 20th century. For tips on rose culture, pruning, propagation and history, see the "Site Resources Guide" box in the navigation panel at left. To return to this page, click on the "thorn icon" in the margin at left. Articles from the previous months are archived and can be viewed by clicking on the listings in the left margin. Oh, and please don't write to me for a catalog or pricelist.....this is an information site only, not a commercial nursery. If you wish to buy roses, see my sponsor, The Uncommon Rose.

A Review of Remontant and Non-Remontant Old Garden Roses, Part 2.
by Paul Barden

Continuing on from last month, this is the second of three articles on my updated list of favorite OGR's, the third section being a review of older Hybrid Teas. This month is the non-remontant OGR's.

'Tuscany Superb'
After having grown this beautiful Gallica for over 15 years it is still one of my all-time favorite roses. No other rose comes close to its glowing velvet purples with shimmering blackish shadows. I will never forget the first time I set eyes on a plant of this in full flush one bright May day. Those rich blackish-purple blooms absolutely took my breath away. This rose was a millions miles away from the 'Peace' I had grown up with so many years ago; from that moment on the Gallicas had captured my heart and to this day my fascination with these roses continues, refreshed every Spring with renewed enthusiasm.
'Tuscany Superb' is one of the darkest of this class, and undoubtedly one of the darkest purple roses ever bred. Blooms are 4 inches across and open flat to show off the bright yellow stamens. It flowers in clusters of three to seven and remains in bloom for four to six weeks in early Summer. Some say it has no fragrance but I detect a moderate scent that is more “earthy/spicy” than traditional sweet rose. The shrub is Winter hardy to Zone 4 without protection and the foliage is rarely troubled by the diseases that disfigure many modern roses. The Gallicas are thicket-forming roses, sending out suckers from the base to make wide masses of thin canes. (If you wish to avoid this behavior, buy a grafted plant, not an own-root) Most of this class grows to about 4 feet tall, sometimes a bit more and 'Tuscany Superb' is no exception. Some growers prefer to shorten the new shoots that appear in late June through August to half their height, which makes the shrub more compact and self-supporting.

'Charles de Mills'
My first knowledge of 'Charles de Mills' was finding a description of it in a German gardener's book on roses. I was astonished by the photo of the blooms; perfectly rounded cups of rich crimson petals arranged in swirled perfection. I longed to hold one of those blooms in my hands. It wasn't until two years after that moment that I first obtained a plant of 'Charles de Mills' and was worth the wait. Every bloom is a work of art, with its hundred plus swirling petals in a shallow cup. It looks like something that could not possibly be created by such a shrub as this, it possesses such elegance. Now, although many writers state that 'Charles de Mills' has no fragrance, I find that it does offer a modest fragrance that is quite unlike the traditional sweet Damask rose fragrance, but something more earthy, spicy. More of an aroma than a fragrance, if you know what I mean. No matter how you care to describe it, it does have some scent. The blooms can reach 4.5 inches across, which is likely the largest of the Gallicas. The color is variable but often a deep “beetroot” crimson with purple tones with age. The plant is, in my experience, always mannerly as long as you do at least one annual pruning to shape the bush, preferably in late Summer. This rose has never failed to mesmerize me, and it has in every way lived up to the expectations I conjured when I first saw that photo in a rose book so many years ago. If I had to choose one Gallica to grow, this would be the one. (Although several others come a close second!)

Rosa sericea ptericantha
If there is a species roses to be included on this list, it has to be R. sericea ptericantha, popularly known as 'The Winghtorn Rose'. This is a particular form of the species, R. sericea having significantly less dramatic thorns. Surely there is no more spectacular species than this, with its exaggerated flame-red thorns on its young canes, lit up like stained glass in the early morning and late afternoon light. This is a rose that people grow for its thorn features rather than its blooms, however it is quite a display when at the peak of its short (3 week) bloom period. It blooms at most every node along the canes, with thousands of pure white blooms that are mostly four-petaled, rather than the usual five that most species have. The plant is very upright with a V-shaped outline if left unpruned. Although many growers suggest a hard annual pruning to encourage lots of new growth, which supplies new bright red thorns also, but I have left mine unpruned for years and find that it produces many new shoots of its own accord. I like the mature plant with its natural form and wouldn't want to ruin it by hard pruning. However, since it easily reaches 6 feet across and 10 feet tall, I can appreciate that some may need to restrain its size. Unfortunately this is a very difficult species to propagate from cuttings, so don't be surprised if bud grafted plants are all you can find. (Mine is grafted and does very well)

'Mme. Hardy'/'Botzaris'
In this case I list two roses of similar overall style, both of which are superb roses that are interchangeable in most every way. Both 'Mme. Hardy' and 'Botzaris' are white Damasks with very full, extremely well-shaped blooms with excellent fragrances. The one major difference between these two is the mature size of the shrub. 'Mme. Hardy' easily grows to an eight foot bush in a mild climate, while 'Botzaris' rarely exceeds five feet and is noticeably more bushy. 'Mme. Hardy' has often been referred to by various Rosarians as the ultimate white OGR, a sentiment I share, even after growing this rose for 10 plus years. It has never failed to delight me with its exquisitely formed white quartered blooms with the little green pip at the centers. However, it is not without its downfalls. In some regions it does Blackspot rather badly if not sprayed during the wet Spring weather, and some have reported that the shrub can look rather shabby for the rest of the year of Blackspot is allowed to wreak havoc on it. I have always found that a few judicious sprayings in the Spring will prevent most of the problems with disease and the shrub breezes through the Summer with clean, handsome foliage and new shoots. Keep it happy and you will be able to literally pick arm loads of magnificent white 3” blooms for several weeks in early Summer. Make a mixed bouquet of 'Mme. Hardy' and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' and you will have one of the most striking color combinations possible.
'Botzaris' is, as I say, a very similar Damask in most ways, but it will remain a more compact shrub with a bit fuller bush outline. The pure white, highly fragrant blooms are also very double, about 3” across, but more deeply cupped than 'Mme. Hardy'. Either of these roses is an excellent choice to represent the Damask class.

'Desirée Parmentier'
As most people who have read my account of 'Desirée Parmentier' on my web site knows, this was acquired as a “found” rose many years ago. This too is a Gallica hybrid, but judging by its larger stature and arching growth habit, I would imagine there is some Centifolia or Damask genes in its makeup. A tall grower, I have seen it trained as a climber in rich soils, reaching 8 feet or more with ease. I grow it as a freestanding shrub to show off its naturally graceful arching form, which displays the blooms to perfection, in my opinion. Clusters of up to 10 blooms (more often 3 and 5) last over a period of about 5 or 6 weeks in early Summer. Each bloom can be up to 4” across and is packed with over 100 petals, many of which are creased down the center in a curious way. The fragrance is both of the highest Damask quality and is especially intense; one of the best roses I grow for scent. Because 'Desirée Parmentier' is a very graceful grower, I suggest going very lightly when pruning it: allow it to grow at least 3 years before doing anything other than dead-heading and shortening the previous year's laterals to a few inches long. After that, simply remove older unproductive wood and shorten the laterals in late Winter. I find this a very easy rose to grow, requiring very little other than the occasional watering through dry periods. In fact, I have one specimen planted outside of the drip irrigation area and so it receives no supplemental water through the Summer, and yet it continues to grow and bloom with abandon. This makes a great rose for big bouquets of Victorian excess, although you must pick very fresh blooms, for mature flowers shatter easily when picked. A rose to grow if for no other reason than to enjoy a superior fragrance.

'Duchesse de Montebello'/'Allegra'
Anyone who knows me and the work I do with roses knows that I love the Gallicas most of all. It could be said that the color range of this group is limited in comparison to modern roses, but many subtle and startling hues can be found in this class. Pale pinks and whites are the rarest of all colors in the Gallicas, and 'Duchesse de Montebello' is absolutely one of the finest of these softer hues. The blooms are smallish rounded cups of delicate blush pink, packed with exquisite folded petals of the greatest delicacy. The Duchesse has a very fine perfume to accompany its visual perfection, sweeter than most Gallicas, and more intense. The bloom period is quite long, often lasting well over a month. The plant is somewhat floppy in habit, easily corrected by training it into a support like a large Peony hoop, or by applying a couple of mis-Summer prunings to prevent any of the new season's canes from becoming more than three or four feet long. (It can fire up 7 foot canes once established, which bow easily with the weight of bloom) I find disease resistance to be very good; rarely do I find Blackspot on this plant, even though it is in a no-spray part of my garden. Although this rose is often found on many favorites list, I must include it on mine as well, for it is truly a superior rose.
I have used 'Duchesse de Montebello' in my breeding work on occasion, often with spectacular results. In 2004 one of my hybrids 'Allegra' was released into commerce, the result of a cross between 'Duchesse de Montebello' and 'St. Swithun', a beautiful pink David Austin rose. 'Allegra' is everything I could have hoped for in such a cross, merging the best traits of both parents: large OGR style blooms of soft pink, fully double quartered form, and superior disease resistance. The only thing it did not get was the remontancy of its English parent, but it does have an excellent perfume. I continue to work with 'Duchesse de Montebello' in my breeding program with the hopes that one day I will get some remontant offspring from it, as some other breeders have done.

'La Belle Sultane'/'James Mason'
Again I have selected one of the Gallicas for my favorites list. I have grown 'La Belle Sultane' for a decade now and find myself more in love with it every passing year. It is considered to be a single bloom, with about 8 or 10 petals to each 4.5 inch bloom. The deep purple and mauve blend blooms are borne in clusters of up to 10, covering the bush with masses of rich color for several weeks in early Summer. I find every aspect of this rose to be a treasure: the bright new foliage is scented of balsam and pepper, the buds have extended frilly sepals which suggest some Damask blood in its pedigree, and the shrub itself is larger than most Gallicas, growing to as much as 8 X 8 feet in time, and always maintaining an excellent full bush. (I prune 'La Belle Sultane' once in the Summer with hedge shears, just enough to round it off a bit, and again in late Winter to create a nice round outline for bloom presentation) This Gallica is particularly generous with bloom, likely because it doesn't have to generate as many petals as some of the fully double varieties. Grow this with a root barrier in place, or as a grafted plant if you wish to avoid rather vigorous suckering.
Of similar style, but with a more modern color and appearance is Peter Beales' magnificent 'James Mason', a cross of 'Tuscany Superb' and the Kordes hybrid 'Scharlachglut'. (aka: 'Scarlet Glow') I compare it to 'La Belle Sultane' because both are single-flowered Gallicas of rich coloring, 'James Mason' being more of a modern red-crimson color that darkens with more purple tones as it ages. 'James Mason' is one of those roses that must be seen in person to truly appreciate. When people see it in full bloom in my garden they rush to it, exclaiming “What is this?!” This Gallica is larger in growth than many, building to at least 6 X 6 feet, with graceful arching growth and masses of 4 to 5 inch single, pleasantly scented blooms. Peter Beales has created a truly remarkable rose in 'James Mason' and it deserves greater attention than it has received. I expect my garden will always have a specimen of this beauty.

'La Ville de Bruxelles'
Here is another of the world's finest Damasks, often appearing on collectors lists and in OGR books as a superior cultivar worthy of attention. Is it everything the mythology suggests it is? YES! Imagine six and seven foot arching canes loaded with the most perfectly formed, mid-rose pink blooms bearing the most heart-heartbreakingly exquisite pure rose fragrance imaginable. Each bloom is superb, with quartered form comparable to the perfection of 'Charles de Mills' and 'Mme. Hardy'. Each bloom is quite large, sometimes reaching almost 5 inches in diameter, and blossoms come in clusters of 3 to 9. While 'La Ville de Bruxelles' makes a very handsome free-standing shrub of arching grace, it may benefit from some support, or perhaps it could be trained as a small climber. Whatever you do, don't shorten the large canes by pruning, or you will ruin the natural grace of the plant, which I feel is best left to grow as it pleases. (mind you, every few years the older canes should be thinned to encourage new growth from the base) One word of caution about this rose: in some climates it may Blackspot moderately unless protected with fungicidal sprays. I find that a few carefully timed sprays in the Spring will get the shrub though to the dry part of the Summer in excellent health.

'Cardinal de Richelieu'
Few roses have captured my imagination as this one has. Everything that has been said about this beautiful Gallica is true; it is a unique beauty, its color has no peer. Luscious deep Concord grape purple with a paler mauve reverse, colors aging from royal purple to a deeper maroon with slatey grey-purple hues. A friend of mine once remarked that a well-aged bloom of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' was a color resembling that of “day old liver left in the sun”, an unflattering comparison, but a somewhat truthful one! It is as the bloom comes close to dropping its petals that it takes on some of its most fascinating colors; the greyish purples of a most remarkable value. The petal reverse at this point is nearly white, presenting a dramatic contrast. Even as the petals fall, each one is a marvel; purple hearts with white tips of great delicacy and unparalleled color. Ah, but what about the shrub itself? 'Cardinal de Richelieu' is precisely what one would expect from a Gallica-China hybrid: a suckering shrub with many thin canes to about 5 feet, few prickles to the canes and beautiful matte foliage. Winter hardiness to zone 5 is to be expected, probably to zone 4 in a sheltered location. Blooms are not large; no more than 3” each, but the China influence has influenced the rose, granting it the ability to flower in clusters of up to 9 blooms per inflorescence. There is a fragrance, but it is not intense, nor is it particularly sweet as the Damasks are, but it is a pleasant herbal scent, reminding me somewhat of the scent of Cedar wood. In all, this is a marvelous beauty unlike any other and should be included in any collection of once-blooming OGR's. A bouquet of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' mixed with any pure white rose is indeed a remarkable vision.

'Capitaine John Ingram'/'Nuits de Young'/'Violacée'.
The once-blooming Mosses are magical shrubs, offering not only blooms of classic OGR style in rich pinks, purples and the occasional white, but elaborating on the classic image in true Victorian style by adding the exquisite detailing of moss-covered sepals. A favorite in my collection for o
ver a decade now is the lovely 'Nuits de Young', a small Moss of a very dark purple hue and dark, dense mossing. Blooms are small, no more than 3” across, semi-double, opening fully to show stamens clearly. The color is a deep Royal purple which deepens with age to take on dark slate tones, greying considerably. There is a fragrance, but it is not a sweet scent like the Damasks, but something of a more herbal scent; smoky and aromatic. All Moss shrubs are quite thorny and this one is no exception, with canes thickly covered in dark brown prickles. The foliage is quite dark and petite and has good resistance to Blackspot. 'Nuits de Young is one of the more compact Mosses, rarely exceeding 4 X 4 feet even in the richest of soils. It is also quite reliably Winter hardy to at least Zone 5.
I also mention two other Mosses of a similar style; 'Violacée' and 'Capitaine John Ingram', both deep purples with fully double bloom form. In most ways these three roses are similar enough to be almost interchangeable, but there are minor differences. 'Capitaine John Ingram' bears blooms of fuller, flatter form with a distinct button eye. Its color is also more of a burgundy hue then the other two. It remains quite compact like 'Nuits de Young' but is more of a V-shaped shrub, wider than it is tall. The other, 'Violacée' is the tallest of the three, attaining a mature size of maybe 5 or 6 feet in height and a more upright grower. It is also a rich purple color, with a paler mauve reverse to the petals, very double and rather flat in form, often showing a button eye. To me, this one has the sweeter fragrance of the three.
All 3 of these purple Mosses are available in commerce, although my impression is that 'Nuits de Young' is far more readily available then the other two.

'Chapeau de Napoleon' (aka R. centifolia cristata)
Born out of mystery and one of the most unique “foundlings” ever seen in the genus Rosa, R. centifolia cristata is a miraculous shrub with no peers. The story of its discovery tells us that it was found growing up against a convent wall in Switzerland circa 1820 and brought into commerce by J. P. Vibert, one of the most prolific and influential rose hybridizers of the time in France. Whether the tale is fact or just fanciful myth, the rose has remained in commerce with a committed fan club for nearly 200 years now, and with just cause. Not only is this one of the most perfect 3.5 inch silvery-pink, cupped blooms, packed with petals and loaded with the most exquisite perfume, but it has another striking feature that earned it its common name. The sepals on the buds are made up of wildly exaggerated frilled growths that resemble greyish-green Parsley! If you have never seen these magnificent buds in person before, you are in for a real surprise. Many people who come to my garden are astonished when examining this rose, hypnotized by the bizarre fractal sepals.
The rest of the rose ain't bad either. In typical Centifolia shrub style, 'Chapeau de Napoleon' is a somewhat lax shrub, with fairly long arching canes that tend to become weighed down with the heaviness of the blooms, which are plentiful. Some people have had great success by building a support for the bush, something in the manner of a large Peony hoop, preferably made of something sturdy, like wood. In my garden with its heavy clay soil, my specimen (growing on its own roots) has remained fairly compact, to about 5 x 5 feet and has been quite self-supporting. I find it does best if left unpruned except to remove spent blooms and occasionally thin and remove the oldest, unproductive wood. It will get some Blackspot, but rarely badly enough to disfigure the plant. R. centifolia cristata is Winter hardy to at least Zone 5, and probably Zone 4 in a sheltered location. One of its other common names is 'Crested Moss', which is a misnomer, as it has no relationship to the other Mosses except that it is a Centifolia sport exhibiting a deviation in the normal sepal formation.

'Great Maiden's Blush'
Selecting just one cultivar from the Alba class was very difficult indeed. The 20 or so members of this group are almost all exceptional roses, bearing beautiful white, blush or pink blooms with wonderful fragrances, exhibiting superb Winter hardiness to Zone 4 (most of them) and having very graceful shrub form. Instead of 'Great Maiden's Blush' I could easily have selected 'Konigen von Danemark', or 'Felicité Parmentier', 'Armide' or 'Alba Semi-plena', but because I feel it is an exceptionally care-free rose of modest size suitable for a back yard garden, I chose 'Great Maiden's Blush'. As a landscape shrub, it has much to offer; graceful bushy form, gradually building to about 6 x 6 feet, and beautiful greyish-green foliage that is disease free and handsome when the plant is out of flower. The blooms are fairly large, averaging 4 inches across and are loosely double, cupped and a light pink hue. As can be expected of all the Albas, 'Great Maiden's Blush' is highly fragrant, with a very sweet note inherited from its R. canina ancestry. This rose is truly flawless among the European once-blooming roses and deserves the praise it always seems to receive from writers on the subject of Old Roses. It is especially true of the Albas as a whole that these shrubs are best left unpruned until they reach near-mature size. (Which is not to say that you shouldn't dead-head them if you wish, but varieties like 'Alba Semi-plena' produce vast quantities of red hips in the Fall and should be kept for display purposes) Albas have a very graceful, arching shrub form that is easily ruined by thoughtless pruning, so resist, resist, resist! Save your pruning energy for modern roses that require such treatment.

Part 3; Early Hybrid Teas, coming soon.

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