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Old Roses

Among my gardening interests I count orchids (mostly in the Cattleya and Phaelanopsis groups), bonsai (which I gave up on because I kept killing them), herbs (I have an extensive herb garden), and roses. From time to time I've had some modern varieties, most notably 'Evangeline Bruce', 'Fragrant Cloud', and 'Don Juan'. But my biggest interest has been in Old Roses.

I can't stand roses that lack scent, or which have faint tea fragrance. With maybe one exception, all my varieties are scented, some of them overwhelmingly so at times. I've gotten all my old roses, with the exception of 'Louise Odier', from Nicholas Weber, a name that will be familiar to readers of Henry Mitchell. There are also a bunch of different old rose growers with web pages.

Here are the varieties I'm growing at present:
 

Rosa rugosa 'rubra' Your basic rugosa rose: single, powerful clove fragrance, fiercely armed. This one has deep rose flowers, not so purple as 'Hansa'. For me it is not especially vigorous, but I attribute that to it having to fight with some honeysuckle that I never seem to be rid of, and being shaded partly by a walnut tree.
Rosa eglanteria The Eglantine Rose, not to be confused with the English rose 'Eglantine'. This one is distinctive for its green apple scented foliage; the flowers, which are small, single, and light pink, are nicely scented too. For me it produces a bumper crop of olive pit sized hips.
'Constance Spry' This is the original English rose, and the only one which doesn't rebloom. Mine have flowered for the first time this year, and has met every expectation. The flowers are perfect pink cups; the scent is very intense and unique. It is interesting to compare it to genuinely old roses, particularly on the basis of size. While the flower form is much like 'Louise Odier', the flowers are much bigger, and the bush can get to be a big plant (a typical Austin trait here in the USA).
'Skyrocket' This is supposed to be a hybrid musk. It has red-purple flowers which are fairly loose. Not a lot of scent but puts up with a lot of neglect.
'Leda' The Painted Damask. It has small knotted double flowers, almost white but with very dark splotches on the petal tips. Strong damask scent, of course. Ours is not very free blooming, but it has to keep fighting off the Eglantine.
'Zepherine Drouhin' A big Bourbon, with big, loose, bright pink flowers. Nicely scented, and almost thornless. It reblooms in fits and starts. For anyone who is interested in old roses and has the space, I would recommend this first.
'Prosperity' This is my favorite. It is a hybrid musk with a very strong scent. The foliage is lovely, small, glossy and tinged with red. The flowers are borne in great clusters, white with a pink tinge when still in bud. (The buds are very pretty too.) It's my best rebloomer, with a second burst of bloom in the fall and sometimes even into December. Those of you who've seen 'Iceberg' will find this quite familiar, as they differ seemingly only in the pink blush on 'Prosperity' and in the color of the foliage. Yet 'Iceberg' is a florabunda, 'Prosperity' a hybrid musk. Go figure.
Rosa gallica officinalis The Apothecary Rose. Big bright pink semi-double flowers with a lot of fragrance. It's very invasive and is being moved back to a remote part of yard.
Rosa gallica versicolor Rosa Mundi. Just like the above, except varegated. It has similarly been exiled.
'Louise Odier' Another Bourbon, this one has little pink cups and is not as big. The scent is extremely good, though. I have tremendous problems with the flowers rotting before they open properly, and the bugs like it a lot; it seems to be much more weather sensitive than the others and there is a lot of variation from year to year. In 2000 this was in its top form ever, and it was excellent in 2001 too.
'Climbing Crimson Glory' Technically this is not an old rose; it's a hybrid tea from the '30s or '40s. It is a really big plant, with gigantic globular red flowers the size of tennis balls. The scent is ravishing.
'Long John Silver' If 'Zepherine Drouhin' is big, this is gargantuan. Keeping this one under control is very difficult, as I often find canes sneaking twelve feet or more out into the yard. The flowers are these dead-white things that open up from marble-shaped buds; they are nicely scented. Often they don't open properly.
'Don Juan' A stunning deep red climber, with scores of perfect red hybrid tea flowers, though flat-faced by modern standards. The fragrance is good too. For me this does not repeat bloom, as it is in a rather dark location. Once suffices, though.
'Evelyn' An English rose with rather flat, apricot blossoms. Medium stature for an English.
'Gertrude Jekyl' Similar to 'Evelyn' except the color is a light rose pink (about a shade lighter than Zepherine), and like many Austins, it is much bigger than it is supposed to be. The scent of this one is extremely powerful, easily the most strongly scented rose I have.
'Frederic Mistral' Meilland jumps on the Austin bandwagon. This is one of their 'Romantica' series (or at least it was when I bought it- this year they seems to be marketing it as a hybrid tea), this is simply wonderful. The shape is more modern than any Austin, but the scent is wonderful and the color a beautiful shell pink.
'Yves Piaget' I got this one by accident when I was looking for Frederic Mistral. (Hey, they were half price anyway.) Proof that this 'Romantica' thing is just a marketing tool, this is about the same stature as 'Frederic' and close in color (a little lighter), but the flowers are nothing at all alike. 'Yves' has decidedly shaggy flowers that put one in the mind of an African Marigold more than anything else.  Nice scent.
'L. D. Braithwaite' A rather short Austin with a dark red, very congested flower tending toward purple. The outer petals tend to turn pink. As thorny as a rugosa.
'Intrigue' If Austin and Meilland can do it, why not J&P? This is about medium stature, with intensely purple petals with a white fleck at the base. Very nice scent. The flower shape is similar to 'Frederic Mistral', but even a little less modern and more informal. (I notice that in 2001 this is now being marketed as a floribunda.) This seems to be blackspot-prone and may not last.
'Chrysler Imperial' What can I say? Everyone needs one classic red rose, and I've never liked nor had good luck with Mr. Lincoln. Shy of flowering in its present spot, which is a bit dark.
'Paul's Lemon Pillar' "Lemon" is a bit of a misnomer; the color is indeed yellow, but very soft and shading off into white. The flowers look modern but it doesn't repeat bloom, and the habit is old. This is also a huge plant, with a pleasant scent.
'Joyce Barden' One of the first commercially available products of Paul Barden's breeding, I ordered this the day it was offered for sale. And while it is still tiny, it is showing great promise. Mine do not show much in the way of shading, and tend to a uniform light yellow. The scent is most intriguing and shifts between a floral and a citrus scent as the flowers age.
'Dolly Parton' I'd thought about getting this one for some time. I'd rather misremembered the color, a bricky red similar to its parent, 'Fragrant Cloud', but once the flowers really get opening, there is no mistaking it. 'Buxom' is the only word to describe 'Dolly's' huge flowers (and indeed, that's why it got its name). The scent is just like that of 'Fragrant Cloud' and nearly as powerful.

 

I'm sorry I don't have any photos. Frankly, I'm disappointed with most rose photography, especially when it comes to color.

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