Plant of the Month: July 2021

Old Shrub Roses

by Ruth Baumberg

Now it is the turn of the shrub roses. I am not writing a book on them (it is a huge subject) so I will confine myself to those that I grow in my garden. In general I prefer the old shrub roses to David Austin’s modern hybrids, so I will start with the oldest which are the albas, of which some date back to Roman times.

Rosa ‘Maiden’s Blush’

They have beautiful blue-green foliage, and I grow both ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (white and pale pink, pre-fifteenth century), and ‘Königin von Dänemark’ (pink and not so double, more semi-double). Both of these have a wonderful scent.

The next to be developed were the gallicas, which were mostly French-bred and here I grow ‘Tuscany Superb’ (1826), a wonderful velvety maroon with golden anthers, and ‘Charles de Mills’ (1790), which is deep red and very full.  Both these sucker and run, so if you want a bit, just let me know and I will dig up a bit for you and pot it up.

Again these roses have a wonderful scent and, in fact, I don’t much care for roses that aren’t scented.

On the front of my house, over the dining room window, there is an eye-catching deep pink climbing rose, ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ (1868). I haven’t gone close so I am not sure about its scent but it makes a beautiful sight when the front gate is opened. It is supposed to be repeat flowering though I don’t recall a late flower so I cannot swear that this is what it is.

Rosa ‘Felicité Perpetué’

My second climbing rose is ‘Felicité Perpetué’ (1827), which is a wonderful rambler in July, once-flowering, getting 20 feet up a silver birch tree and has tiny, white double roses with a pink tinge in a huge mass. It is easy to take cuttings and I have a second large shrub, not climbing, that is seven foot by seven foot, from a cutting.

In the back row of the garden viewed from the kitchen window are a row of three Hybrid Musks, ‘Buff Beauty’, which is a wonderful soft buff-apricot and carries an enormous amount of bloom, ‘Felicia’, another silver-pink, very prolific, shrub rose  and lastly ‘Penelope’, which isn’t so prolific but it is in deep shade. Hybrid Musks were bred by Rev Joseph Pemberton in 1929.

Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’ and Clematis ‘My Angel’

Elsewhere in the garden I have ‘Veilchenblau’ (1909), which is a purple or mauve rambler with single flowers and Rosa spinosissima, in a white double form (pre 1808), which has pretty blue-grey leaves. Coming up here and there is Rosa glauca with its blue leaves, purple stems and single deep pink flowers and lovely hips. This is another self seeder and gets removed where it is not wanted.

Rosa × odorata ‘Mutabilis’, an old China rose, is a prey to blackspot some years, but blooms from June to December and has wonderful yellow, deep pink and orange single flowers. There are odd roses not on this list but I don’t remember where they came from and just enjoy their flowers when they appear.

Ruth Baumberg

Pictures courtesy of Ruth Baumberg