While writing for my new book, it occurred to me that for some fun in the garden and a grand display of rich royal purple and deep pinks, what could be better than a royal bed of roses.
Large and small, pale or dark they are sumptuous roses to gladden the heart of any mere commoner. Common the roses are not, as they epitomise the full grandeur and splendour of a small section of a diverse rose species and give one a taste of the fine life or whet the appetite for more.
So if I were being fanciful in my new garden here is what I would plant in my right royal rosebed; Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies, Ducs and Duchesses and the occasional Comtesse to make you envious of lives gone by, but existing still to grace our gardens. There is not enough room to mention every royal so I will concentrate of those with rich colours as a contrast to the many soft pinks which pervade our gardens. And this chapter celebrates the men and chapter two will be some women which are not in my book ‘Women in my Rose Garden’.
Louis XIV the Sun King, 1638 -1715
I would have to start with Louis XIV the Sun King, 1638 -1715, the longest ruling monarch in French history, and most widely famed for his grandest creation, Versailles. This rose (1859) is a real beauty – a right royal example of the China family. Like its namesake it requires love and care, a warm climate and lots of sun. It will reward you handsomely with deep rich red many petalled blooms. It is richly fragrant with heavy blooms which nod gracefully in the sun. It is a little compact bush with sparse foliage. It is relatively thornless and one of the most rewarding of the family. One for the front of the border I think, along with the delectable Sophie’s Perpetual.
Comte de Chambord (1820-1883
Staying with the Bourbon royals there is the delightful Comte de Chambord (1820-1883), grandson of the last of the Bourbon Kings Charles X, and another French royal whose life was challenged but who survived the turmoil of the French revolution and its aftermath. Much like its namesake, this little rose is upright and prickly. It is a sturdy short rose suitable for the front of the border as the blooms are very beautiful and flower on and off throughout the season. Borne in small clusters the blooms are rich pink with lilac tones, buds high centred and scrolled with densely packed petals. The blooms open to display a lushness of form with reflexed petals at the edges, tightly packed petals moving from being cupped to flat in the course of its life. The bloom is sometimes quartered. The leaves are soft green and an added bonus is that it is intensely fragrant, ideal as a group or planted as a hedge. It is also sturdy and small enough to survive in a large pot. (pic from Teresa Byington)
Archiduc Charles (1771-1847)
Archiduc Charles (1771-1847) is an illustrious name, son of an Emperor, brother to another, and nephew of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette. Karl Ludwig Johann Joseph Lorenz of Austria was known as Archiduc Charles, Duke of Teschen. He was born in Florence, was a lonely nervous child, raised in Vienna under the care of his aunt Archduchess Marie Christine of Austria after his father died. He spent his youth in Tuscany and thence to the Netherlands as Governor. He was to become Napoléon’s greatest adversary. This pretty little rose (pre 1837) barely takes after its seed parent Parsons Pink China, one of the foundation roses of modern breeding. This is a much bigger rose, with chameleon overtones to its colour – sometime pink, sometimes crimson outer edges with pink which deepen with age. And then in full hot sun it can turn red! It is a full frilly bloom, cupped with small inner petals of pale pink or white. It grows tall and upright as any Archduc should, reaching 1.8 meters but unlike its namesake it has few prickles. To get a nice shaped garden bush it needs frequent discipline and pruning down to size otherwise it is a bit lanky. It has a slight scent of bananas.
Archduc Joseph (1833-1905)
Joseph Charles Louis von Habsburg, was the second son of the Imperial Family of Hungary/Austria. He was also an avid gardener with a particular interest in palms. His interest in botany resulted in him becoming the protector of the Hungarian National Gardening Association with its grand collection of roses at the park ‘Alcsút’ near Budapest. His rose has created one of the great debates in the rose kingdom, some people arguing it to be Mons Tillier and others arguing it as Archduc Joseph. I have written a length for the journal on it but here for completeness of this article is a brief snippet from that article – ‘Archiduc Joseph's flowers are fully double, cupped with reversed outer petals, and quartered centres; sometimes (in intense summer heat) they open reflexing in a star-shaped way, looking like a Cactus Dahlia. Colour is complex and varies from cerise red at the edges, to salmon pink with peachy and coppery overtones, sometimes coppery orange, in the centre. In fully open flowers, contrast between margins and centre can be stunning! One of the very best Teas in every way. Who am I to argue and does it matter now I am not selling this rose anymore? Not a bit. I still love it for its abundance of flowers, its health, its generosity of habit and its beautiful flowers. Whatever its true identity it is a plant to be treasured. I think on the evidence above Lloyd and I grow Archduc Joseph and so he shall remain.’
Duc de Cambridge (1774 – 1850)
No royal garden can be complete without Duc de Cambridge (1774 – 1850). Although the name of the rose is French, Prince Adolphus Fredrick, 1st Duke of Cambridge, was very much the English gentleman. The tenth child of George III and Queen Charlotte of the Royal House of Hanover, and as the seventh son, he had little chance of succession. This rose (pre 1841) is French and one of the stars of the garden. A Damask rose, atypical as it is a strong pink rather than the more subdued tones of the family, the Duc de Cambridge is a tall, sprawling shrub with a generosity of blooming. The flowers are, flat, fully double and spectacular. It is the darkest of all damasks and a must in any royal garden. It spills itself joyously over small box hedges, pathways and patios and is a rose to charm even the most diffident of gardeners. It is a shapely shrub tall and round growing to 1.8 meters tall and nearly as wide. With dark foliage, reddish when young, the leaves hide some pretty wicked thorns. Forgive it for them, as this Duc rewards with its fragrance and prolific blooms.
Cosimo Ridolphi (1794-1865)
A little known Marquis, Cosimo Ridolphi, recognises the Marquis of Florence, (1794-1865) who was a statesman, agronomist and patriot. His research into farming his own estate led him to establish the first Agricultural Institute in Italy but little more is known of him. His rose is also little known. The rose (1824) is described as a true Gallica, although not of a rich royal purple as most Gallicas are. It is sturdy, upright with a fat reddish bud opening to an old rose crimson which gently fades to a Parma violet shade. The blooms become flat as they open turning into a delightful double scented rose. It is a medium sized plant and some commentators describe the bloom as being spotted
Baron de l’Ain (1781 – 1847)
There were many Barons de l’Ain because the French system allows for the sons of a Baron to carry the title, so there is competition for the namesake of this rose. It was bred by a Frenchman Reverchon in 1897 and an Edouard Andre Marie Girod de l’Ain, a garden lover, was a contemporary of Reverchon. But the breeders of the period all recognised in some way Napoleon’s men, I suspect that Amédée Girod de l’Ain (1781 – 1847) may have had the honour. The eldest son of a Baron, Amédée was a survivor of political unrest during the French Revolution and its aftermath. He started his working life, at the age of 17, as a lawyer and quickly rose through the ranks to become the General Counsel to the Imperial Court in Paris. He defected in 1814 to the cause of Napoleon’s Empire but managed to retain favour with the House of Bourbon as they came in and out of power as Napoléon rose and fell. His rose is described as a novelty rose and deservedly popular. The blooms are double, bright crimson with a ragged edge which is trimmed with white. Blessed with fragrance, flowering all summer one can forgive it a touch of blackspot in hot weather. It makes for a striking addition to the garden. A stiffly upstanding rose as any baron should be, it is exceptionally handsome and certainly a dramatic courtly rose with the additional benefit of flowering all through summer.