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Cornucopia - Two neglected roses

Two neglected roses
Irene Feesey

It is a good thing that Peter Beales and David Austin can both supply two lovely old fashioned roses – 'Perle d’Or' and 'Rose d’Amour'. They can be very long-lived and this without losing any of their vigour and beauty of flowers. Also, they have a very long season, unusual in old roses. To take the first, 'Perle d’Or', an old China rose, going back to 1884, which, if allowed, can make a large and substantial bush. The flowers are small and very similar to those of 'Cecile Brünner', but different in colour. This is not easily described, being a soft apricot washed over with pale pink. It is definitely not yellow and it has a good scent.

My beloved plants have been here for just over half a century. They seem immune from black spot and greenfly avoid them, although I think you can say the same for many of the older roses. Flowering used to start at the end of May, but for the last three years the first blooms have come at the beginning and build up to a lovely crescendo of blossom. The next burst of flowering usually comes in mid-June for another long spell and then in Autumn and for many weeks and with even stronger scent, is the third flowering. Is it any wonder that I cannot understand the neglect of this rose. All that is needed to keep it happy is the removal of dead wood. It roots easily from cuttings and members are welcome to come and take some.

'Rose d’Amour' is different, although similar in having small flowers. It can be equally long lived. It is as romantic as its name and has been called the buttonhole rose because the flowers make a perfect buttonhole. In the past it went by other names – St. Mark’s Rose of Venice for it flowers on St. Mark’s day and Count d’Orsay’s Rose for the Victorian dandy wore it in his buttonhole, and also Rosa virginiana 'Plena', but the last is inaccurate for it is a hybrid, an American rose and a cross between R. virginiana and R. carolina.

Few seem to know when the cross was made. The correct name, which is in all the catalogues and in the Plant Finder is 'Rose d’Amour', but when it was given I have no idea. It is a real treasure and a great favourite with David Stone, head gardener of Mottisfont. He thinks it sadly neglected. It can be seen in the central rose garden. The small flowers are beautifully formed and I particularly like the stage when they are half open and the outer petals are reflexed to reveal the slowly opening deeper pink ‘bud’ in the middle. The long and delicately fern-like calyx lobes give it even greater allure, and make it a favourite with those who like buttonholes. The petals are wafer thin and rain can spoil them - otherwise no defects. There are few thorns. Flowering is on the late side - from mid-June onwards but for a considerable time. Peter Beales indicates that shade is tolerated but I find my plant blooms better in sun and certainly during hot summers. It was hopeless last summer (2008). The occasional mulch of manure all helps.

To return for a moment to 'Perle d’Or', growers often suggest quite drastic pruning to keep it small, perhaps because the flowers are on the small side. However, if given its head you are rewarded by literally hundreds of flowers.

First published in the Essex Group Newsletter, Snowdrop Time 2009
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 26.
© Copyright for this article: Irene Feesey

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2010. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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