Category: Hybrid Perpetual

Five Purple Roses – Old Garden Roses

Red is the new purple, purple the old red. At least as far as western rose breeding goes, this is the way it went. Maybe red was always a desirable color, but among the old garden roses of Europe, true red wasn’t one of the options. There was white, light pink, dark pink, and even darker pink – but not red, not quite. The closest the breeders could come is by selecting darker shades of pink until they ended up with a select few roses that were dark crimson/pink to purple, fading through mauve.

One of the highest rated roses of all time is a gallica bred in this fashion, ‘Charles de Mills’:

Can you even believe the depth of color on this bloom? The form of the bloom is quartered, with loads of petals and quite a flat surface. The blooms are quite large in diameter, particularly for an old garden rose. The scent is strong & classic old rose. It’s a low, suckering shrub – once-blooming in early to mid-spring.

Another gallica rose in the same shade is ‘Tuscany Superb’ – which has blooms nearly the same diameter, but with a more open bloom form:

‘Tuscany Superb’ has a smaller-flowered “twin” in the same form, called ‘La Belle Sultane’. It’s also a gallica rose, but despite having smaller flowers, it’s actually a somewhat larger, more vigorous shrub than either ‘Tuscany’ or ‘Charles’. Here’s a picture:

I have two other purple-blooming roses in different classes, both in bloom around this same time in the garden: ‘Robert le Diable’, a centifolia, and ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ a china/damask. Here’s ‘Robert le Diable’:

Here’s ‘Cardinal’:

Here’s a quick video I made featuring the above five roses:

These are by no means the only deeply colored “purple” roses, but they are among the finest (in my oh so biased opinion). Some modern roses have tried to capture the charm of these wanna-be red roses. Here’s ‘William Shakespeare 2000’, a modern shrub with a great color and a similar bloom form to ‘Charles de Mills’:

One more worth mentioning is ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ a very old climbing rose with a depth of color to rival any of these.

Baron Girod de l’Ain

Sometimes it’s just about the flower. It’s pics like the one below that convinced me to try this rose, and I haven’t regretted it – although I have to admit that it’s taken time and pampering to get Baron Girod de l’Ain to perform well. My first mistake was to keep it in the pot too long. I tend to do that when I buy a new rose: I keep it in the greenhouse to make it easy to take cuttings and to keep an eye on how it’s doing.

Some roses actually do better in a pot in my greenhouse. For Baron Girod de l’Ain, it was the opposite. I took cuttings fine, but one by one, both my parent plant and each one propagated from it suffered from mildew and just general unhappiness.

At least in my growing situation, the solution was to get the rose into the garden. As soon as I did that, the rose perked up, and is now showing some of the vigour I read about. It still isn’t completely free of foliar troubles, but it’s healthy enough to throw some of those blooms I was looking for. And what blooms they are:

It’s hard to think that there could be a more perfect bloom . The color and form and beautiful, but it’s the wavy white edges that make this flower stand out. The rose is also nicely scented.

As mentioned, this rose has not done very well for me in pots. I’ll try a few things – bigger pots, different soil, more water, less water, different fertilizer – but I suspect that this is just a rose that’s happier in the ground, preferably with some light afternoon shade. Not everyone will want to coax Baron Girod de l’Ain to happiness and good health, but for me the flower is worth every bit of effort.

Commandant Beaurepaire

This rose was bred at a time (the 1870’s) when the hybrid perpetual class was giving way to modern roses, the closely related hybrid tea that still dominates in rose gardens. ‘Commandant Beaurepaire’ was bred from a hybrid perpetual, but because the breeder wasn’t convinced the rose would bloom after the initial flush of lowers, it was classed as a gallica. This stunningly striped rose would be every bit worth a place in the garden (perhaps as an absolutely stunning hedge rose) even without reblooming, but when ‘Commandant’ was established in the trade, it was observed to be a (stingy) rebloomer, so the breeder reclassified it as a hybrid perpetual. He also renamed it, but I bought it as ‘Commandant Beaurepaire’, and I’ll keep it with that name.

Commandant BeaurepaireThis rose has large flowers, and they have a nice strong old rose fragrance to them. ‘Commandant Beaurepaire’ grows to a dense shrub to about 4 feet tall and wide. It sometimes takes on some powdery mildew, but doesn’t seem to mind it much.

Something about striped flowers can look a bit gaudy, but this rose combines a lighter and darker pink together, with some darker (purplish) and lighter (whitish) splashes… and it works beautifully. When in bloom, it’s one rose I always get comments about. We grow ‘Commandant Beaurepaire’ in 1 gallon and 2 gallon sizes for $10 and $20 respectively.