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Some Old Roses


By AndrewR


After visiting Mottisfont Abbey many years ago, which holds a collection of old roses, I decided to plant some of them in one area of my own garden. These ancient varieties do not have the disease resistance of modern ones and most only flower once but there is a grace and beauty to the flowers that is often missing from the newer ones.

‘Great Maiden’s Blush’ belongs to the group known as the Alba roses. These are extremely hardy, grow well even in the most difficult situations and generally have white, highly scented flowers, This one has an upright habit, reaching seven feet or more, and the weight of the flowers can make some of the branches splay outwards. It is the last into flower with me, normally starting the second week of June.

‘Cardinal de Richelieu’, on the other hand, is often one of the first into bloom. It is a gallica, a very old part of the rose family, possibly originating in Asia Minor. This gets about four feet high and wide and has one of the darkest flowers of all the old roses.

Moss Roses are so-called because of the moss-like growth on the flower stems and calyces. They are a sport from rosa centifolia and caused a sensation in the horticultural world when they first appeared over 300 years ago. ‘Gloire des Mousseux’ is a moss rose, reaching three feet with very large flowers, almost too big for the bush to my mind.

Next we come to ‘Tuscany Superb’, one of my favourites. Fairly upright growth habit to just over three feet although not very strong-growing for me. It is another gallica rose. ‘Tuscany’ is similar but the flowers and foliage are slightly smaller.

Rosa centifolia ‘Muscosa’ is also known as the Common Moss Rose. New growth is wispy and although it should reach five feet, my bush has never got going and is barely half that.

Rosa x alba ‘Semi-plena’ is an historic rose, known as the ‘White Rose of York’. It is another alba rose so has an upright habit and fragrant flowers. It can reach eight feet in height and carries a good crop of orange hips in autumn.

Bourbon roses originated from France and contain the gene for perpetual flowering. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ grows three to four feet with quite a tidy habit and strong wood although I find it reluctant to bloom after the first flush,

‘William Lobb’ is another moss rose, also known as ‘Old Velvet Moss’ on account of the deep red flowers. It makes strong, upright growth to seven feet or more on very thorny stems.

Although it has pink flowers, ‘Koenigen von Danemarck’ is another alba. The blooms fade as they age and the bush reaches five feet on quite an open plant.

Damask roses also have the ability to repeat flower. ‘Madame Hardy’ is another prickly lady, growing to six feet with a graceful habit. Some claim this is the most exquisite white rose ever raised.

Hybrid musks are definitely repeat flowering and many are scented. ‘Buff Beauty’ is a later variety, introduced in 1939 and is a strong grower (more than the stated five feet for me) and very floriferous. The flowers open apricot but fade as they age.

I like the rugosa roses – they are tough, disease-free, very thorny and carry huge hips after the flowers. Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ is the first of my roses to flower, often starting in late April in mild springs, and continuing intermittently all summer. It has not made the round bush described in my books; rather it suckers, throwing up stems to four feet which sometimes bend over rather than standing upright.

‘Tour de Malakoff’ is a centifolia, growing to six feet in favourable conditions. I have it in a shady corner on heavy clay and it still makes a reasonable display although the growth is angular rather than elegant.

‘Penelope’ is another hybrid musk and I’m not sue whether I like her or not. She seems to grow branches at strange angles and the flowers never seem very robust. At least she is pretty disease-free and should reach five feet.

‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’ is another rugosa, upright and trouble-free. Again, not as tall or shapely as my books suggest but that may be a shady situation inhibiting the growth.

Finally, my favourite from the collection, ‘Rosa Mundi’ (or rosa gallica ‘Versicolor’). The flowers start later than most, and contain red, pink and white with no two flowers being the same. It has reached three feet in dry shade with competition from tree roots but would grow bigger in a better situation.

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Beautiful blog and roses

4 Jul, 2011


I agree with I love all the old roses, want to collect as many.... :))))

4 Jul, 2011


My fav is the same as yours .. Rosa Mundi ... lovely colour variations .. :o)

4 Jul, 2011


fabulous roses , we only have one type and I not sure what they are ..they look like the white rose of York , but pink ..

However we are going to have to chop the lot down a they are riddled in disease...shame really , because they cover one side of the wall.

You have got some amazing roses , well done


4 Jul, 2011


I love all of them but have no room to grow them. I
am sure Michaella can grow them as she has a big garden I believe.

4 Jul, 2011


love them all .............. so many to choise .......... added to faves 4 furture ref , thanks

4 Jul, 2011


Wonderful! Just how roses ought to be! I sometimes wonder about the interference with plants - good or bad? Only time will tell, but it seems to me that plants always want to return to their 'roots' (excuse the pun!). Your garden must look really lovely with all this beauty!

5 Jul, 2011


Love the Moss Roses, Andrew, I remember seeing some for the very first time in a private garden, which is surrounded by Sussex flint walls, a real frost-free area with some beautiful Roses. Lovely blog. : o )

6 Jul, 2011


wow..what a splendid they must look in your garden..‘Muscosa’ as to be my favourite..would just love to see these in quantity in mine..

excellent blog thank you for sharing

7 Jul, 2011


My favourite is still Cardinal de Richelieu and I still havent bought one! Maybe later this year. Until then its my Souvenir du Dr Jamain!

13 Sep, 2011

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