I thought I would continue writing a few blogs about one of my favorite plants: roses. Some of you may have already noted this obsession of mine, considering some of my books such as Smuggled Rose or A Rose Before Dying so this blog shouldn't really be a surprise. I do love roses and history.
So here you are...a short article about Alba roses.
Alba roses are classed with the Old Garden Roses (OGR), which are generally considered to be roses hybridized or introduced prior to 1900. The 1900’s marked the beginning of the era of the Hybrid Teas, which are the most popular roses today. OGR’s have been around this long simply because they are worth growing and are survivors. The majority are intensely fragrant and extremely attractive when in full bloom, and the Alba roses are no exception.
Alba roses are extremely ancient and during medieval times, the white roses were often associated with the Virgin Mary. Many rose historians speculate that the Alba rose class arose from crosses between wild Dog roses and ancient Damasks (which will be covered in the third article).
The Alba class of roses are fairly large shrubs with bluish gray leaves and white or pale pink flowers. Albas bloom once, generally in summer, and are wonderfully fragrant. The entire bush can be covered with blossoms during the flowering period and will fill the air with their heady perfume.
They do not need to be sprayed and do not suffer from blackspot. They are, in fact, one of the toughest and easiest of all the roses to grow. They are extremely tolerant of imperfect growing conditions including: bad soil, light shade, and insufficient water. However, if you live in the hot and humid South, Albas do struggle in that climate and seem to prefer cooler climes.
The most common characteristics of the class are:
- Thorny stems.
- Soft, bluish gray leaves.
- Buds are long and graceful, with long sepals.
- The bushes are generally quite large (average 7’ tall).
- Somewhat shade tolerant.
- Colors range from white through light pink.
- They require no pruning and will flower well, year after year, by only removing the dead wood.
A few Alba roses include:
‘Great Maiden’s Blush’ ancient. This is one of my favorite roses and is a gorgeous soft pink. The shrub can reach almost 8 feet and will sucker if grown on its own roots. The glorious flowers are very double with pale pink outside petals with a deeper pink in the center. The flower will gradually fade to white as it ages. Very rich fragrance.
Rosa alba ‘Semiplena’ ancient. ‘Semiplena’ is another large shrub, known to grow up to 8 feet tall. It has pure white flowers, semi-double, with a rich scent. It has been grown frequently in place of Damask roses, to produce Attar of Roses. It will grow even in partial shade.
‘Jacobite Rose’ (aka Rosa alba ‘Maxima’) – ancient origin. Rosa alba ‘Maxima’ can grow up to 7 feet tall, with graceful, arching branches. The flowers are pure white and some may have a touch of pink in the center. Good fragrance
‘Céleste’ late 18th century. It reaches 7’ tall and sports semi-double flowers in rose pink color with gold stamens. The roses are particularly delicate in appearance and have an interesting elongated, slender bud. The flowers are exceptionally fragrant.
‘Félicité Parmentier’ known since 1834. This Alba is one of the shorter, and therefore more useful shrubs that reaches 4’. It has double flowers in pale pink set off by a green button eye. Good fragrance.
‘Mme Plantier’ Plantier, 1835. ‘Mme Plantier’ is another tall shrub which can even be trained as a small climber (approx. 8-9’). It has lovely double flowers in creamy white. The buds are red-tinted prior to opening. As with the other Albas, this one has a good scent.
These are just a few varieties. All the Alba roses are well worth the garden space and require minimal to perform exceptionally well. They aren't that easy to find, but Pickering Nursery is a good source for these and many other OGR.
And speaking of gardening...Oriana Archer in the first of the Regency series of books about the adventures of the Archer family is also a fanatical gardener. (Hmmm, wonder how that happened?) If you want to find out more about her and the cursed family necklace she discovers, check out The Necklace.