Amy Corwin

 Favorite Roses of the Regency

This article focuses more tightly on the favorite roses of the Regency and England. Technically, the Regency period is 1811 to 1820, but I'll include 1800 through 1820, simply because this seems to make sense.

Although the English relied very much on French growers for new varieties of roses, they were some excellent nurseries and growers in Britain as well. Probably the most famous, and rightly so, is Thomas Rivers. In addition, Wood, William Paul, and Lane all produced many fine varieties of roses, although the French cultivators pretty much led the way.

During the Regency period, there were fewer than 200 varieties of roses and colors ranged from white through pale pink, to pink, cool reds (that is reds that are purplish or bluish) to deep wine red and purple.

The Regency period was the heyday of the Gallica, or French, rose, as well as what we classify now as "old roses", that is Damask, Provence (Centifolia), Moss, White (Alba) and French (Gallica).

Regency folks often used the terms White, Provence and French, rather than Alba, Centifolia and Gallica, unless they were speaking in the middle of the 19th century rather than during the Regency period. Rose gardens themselves were rather formal affairs, as most gardeners were trying to duplicate the range of roses and arrangements used at the Chateau de la Malmaison. Favorite arrangements used low boxwood or other edging material to define geometrically shaped beds, with the most favored being arcs in a circular arrangement. Within the beds, the roses would be arranged with low roses in front--for example French roses. Medium tall roses would be behind, generally Moss or White, with the tallest roses behind, e.g. Damask and Provence.

It was commonplace to grow roses in large pots, which could be moved around. In addition, some of the China roses were grown in pots during the colder months, inside glass houses, and then in the spring, they would be removed from the pots and planted. China roses treated in this manner would remain smallish with very delicate, twig-like branches and butterfly-like flowers in glorious colors unknown in European roses, such as true warm crimson, buffy light yellow, and other warm shades. They also bloomed from June to October, which was truly prized. Unfortunately, breeding European roses to China roses was not successful until 1830.

Here are some of the roses which would be growing during these years. First, I'll detail a list taken from an 1808 gardening manual, with the instructions from the writer that: the following roses are those essential to every rose garden.

I will use Regency terminology first, and then try to explain which rose it is. Some are so generically labeled that it is difficult to guess which rose is referenced, but I'll do my best.

    Red Monthly White Monthly
    Double White Early Cinnamon
     Moss Provence Common Provence
    Double Velvet Single Velvet
    Dutch Hundred-leaved Blush Hundred-leaved
    Blush Belgick Red Belgick
    Marbled Large Royal
    York and Lancaster Red Damask
     Blush Damask White Damask
    Double Musk Royal Virgin
    Rosa Mundi Frankfort
    Cluster-blush Maiden-blush
    Virgin (or thornless) Common Red
    Rose of Meux Red Cluster
    Burgundy Rose Briar, double, red sweet
     Eglantine Briar Double Blush Briar
    The Apple Rose  

-----Guesses as to which of these roses is which:  This isn't easy because roses went by various names all through this period and growers often gave them new names when they included them in their catalogs.

Red Monthly: Most likely 'Slater's Crimson China' introduced in 1792. In China, it was known as 'Yue Yue Hong' or 'Monthly Crimson'. For a picture, go to:

Another possibility is the 'Bengal Rose' or 'China Rose' which reached England via India in the early 18th century. The rose itself is variable. It is a single rose (5 petals) and described as red to white, with colors changing variably.

White Monthly: This one would surely have been a white China and is mostly likely lost to us. I can find no other references to this, sadly.

Double White: Most likely 'Maxima', aka 'Great Double White', 'Jacobite Rose', or 'Cheshire Rose'. This is a HUGE shrub that can grow up to 7-8 feet in height and is good at the back of the border. The white flowers are informal doubles with muddled centers. When they open, they are a creamy-blush color that gradually fades to pure, creamy white.

Early Cinnamon: Most likely 'Plena' aka 'Rose de Mai', 'Rose du Saint-Sacrement', 'Rose des Paques', aka Rosa cimmonomea 'Plena'. The flowers have a dark lilac-pink color and are double. It is among the oldest of the double roses and the scent is suggestive of cinnamon. It is very early flowering and well mannered, staying about 4' by 3'. A Mrs. Gore stated in 1838 that "this sub-variety is a favourite in all gardens."

Moss Provence: Most likely 'Muscosa' aka 'Common Moss'. When the first Moss rose came from the Continent in 1727, it made quite a stir. This Moss rose is a sport from Rosa centifolia (the "standard" Provence Rose with no mossing on the sepals). Fine foliage of medium green with an elegantly long calyx. The blooms are double and are lovely clear pink which open flat with a button centre. They are very fragrant. Shrubs are approximately 4' tall. For a picture:

Common Provence: 'Rose des Peintres' aka 'Cabbage Rose' aka 'Rosa centifolia'. Clear-pink roses packed with numerous petals that made the rose retain a globe shape with a deep, open center. Intensely fragrant. Tall shrub, up to 5', with prickles of mixed sizes.

Double Velvet: Most likely 'Tuscany Superb' aka 'Surperb Tuscany'. A large Gallica, although not as intensely fragrant as the previous rose. Height ranges up to about 4'. The flowers are double, with flat petals in deep wine-red (almost purple, your characters might describe this as dark murrey-purple). This rose will sucker freely.

Single Velvet: Most likely 'Tuscany' aka 'The Old Velvet Rose'. A beautiful Gallica, although not as intensely fragrant as the other roses. Height ranges up to about 4'. The flowers are semi-double, with flat petals in deep wine-red (almost purple, your characters might describe this as dark murrey-purple). The stamens are brilliant yellow. This rose will sucker freely.

Dutch Hundred-leaved: May be 'Bullata' aka 'Lettuce-leaved Rose'. This rose has very large leaves and just a few thorns. The leaves are crinkly in appearance, like lettuce. Flowers are double, in a medium pink, with an excellent fragrance.

Blush Hundred-leaved: This would have been a blush-pink Centifolia, but alas, the name and perhaps the rose is no longer available.

Blush Belgick: May be 'Petite de Hollande'. A lovely rose for smaller gardens, up to 4' tall. Flowers tightly packed with petals in warm pink.

Red Belgick: This would have been a wine red Centifolia, but alas, the name and perhaps the rose itself is no longer available.

Marbled: aka 'Royale Marbree'. A Gallica which grows up to 5' tall. The flowers are double and quartered, reflexing back into a ball with rolled petals as they age. The flowers are a violet-red and then age to a deep pink spotted with lighter pink.

Large Royal: Probably either a Centifolia or Alba, but I have been unable to track down a specific variety.

York and Lancaster aka 'Rosa damascena versicolor' The flowers vary from blush-pink to white. Sometimes they are mottled, sometimes the two colors are on different flowers in the same cluster. The flowers are semi-double and scented.

Red Damask aka 'the Red Rose of Lancaster' aka Rosa gallica officinalis aka 'Splendens' aka 'Apothecary's Rose'. Height up to 3', suckers freely. Just a few prickles. Superb semi-double light crimson flowers with brilliant yellow stamens. Much cultivated in Surrey for druggists. Tends to bloom late in the season, but is an absolutely arresting sight as the flowers are held well above the foliage.

Blush Damask: Forms a large, twiggy bush up to 6' tall and covered in June with nodding blooms. The flowers are a deep lilac-pink and reflex back into a ball as they open, with pale lilac near the edges.

White Damask: May actually be Rosa phoenicea, one of the parents of the Summer Damasks. Small, single white flowers. Another possibility is 'Quatre Saisons Blanc Mousseux' aka "Rosa damascena semperflorens 'Albo-muscosa'" aka 'Perpetual White Moss' aka 'Rosier de Thionville' which is a white sport of 'Quatre Saisons' aka 'Rosa damascena semperflorens'. It is a white moss rose with brownish-green moss on the stems and buds. Excellent fragrance. Some authorities date this white Moss to 1835, which would make this ineligible for this rose, however, other authorities state the rose is much older.

Double Musk: The Musk Rose aka 'Rosa moschata', as remembered by Shakespeare...Clusters of creamy white flowers blooming during late summer. They can get rather large and be used for climbers. THIS IS THE ONLY ROSE WHICH CAN TRULY BE CALLED A CLIMBER IN THE EARLY DAYS OF GARDENING IN BRITAIN. They often flower in Sept/Oct.

Royal Virgin: Sadly unknown as to even the class.

Rosa Mundi: aka 'Versicolor' aka "Rosa gallica 'Verigata'". First recorded in early 17th century, this is one of the most popular roses. It is often paired with 'Maiden's Blush'. 'Rosa Mundi' is a vivid striped rose of crimson splashed with pale pink. Brilliant yellow stamens. This rose has always been popular--even to this day.

Frankfort: Most likely Rosa turbinata, aka 'Rosier de Francfort' aka 'Rosa francofurtana'. This shrub is nearly thornless with smooth, grey-green twigs. The flowers are rather papery in a lovely rose flushed with lilac and purple and veined with deeper rose. Not as fragrant as some of the others.

Cluster-blush: Sadly, I cannot entirely identify the rose to which this refers.

Maiden-blush: 'Great Maiden's Blush' aka 'La Royale' aka 'La Seduisante' aka 'Cuisse de Nymphe' aka 'La Virginale' aka 'Incarnata'. Very large shrub with greyish foliage. Flowers are a gorgeous, delicate pink that fade to creamy pink as they age. Informal shape, double. Dated back to 1797.

Virgin (or thornless): Sadly, I cannot entirely identify the rose to which this refers.

Common Red: It is difficult to state exactly to which rose this refers. Most probably a Gallica....

Rose of Meux: 'Rose de Meaux' aka "Rosa centifolia 'Pomponia'" Lovely small plant with shoots up to 3 or 4'. The flowers are shaped like pom-poms and open flat as they age. Medium pink. It flowers fairly early.

Red Cluster: Sadly, I cannot entirely identify the rose to which this refers.

Burgundy Rose: May be 'Pompon de Bourgogne' aka 'Burgundian Rose' aka 'Parvifolia' aka 'Rosa burgundica'. Pompom flowers of rosy-red to purple with a few flecks of pink. A lovely little rose for smaller gardens.

Briar, double, red sweet: aka 'La Belle Distinguee' aka 'The Double Scarlet Sweet Brier'. Grows up to about 4'. The leaves are not particularly fragrant and neither are the flowers. The flowers are very double, flat and dark cherry red.

Eglantine Briar: aka 'eglanteria' aka 'Rosa Rubiginosa' aka 'The Sweet Brier'. One of England's most treasured wild plants. The flowers are clear pink and deliciously fragrant--and so is the foliage! The shrubs arch gracefully and grow up to 8' tall or higher. A lot of wicked prickles. Has literally masses of oval hips (heps) in the autumn. Is often used (and trimmed) into a hedge. Best planted in the south, south-west exposures.

Double Blush Briar: May be 'Manning's Blush Sweet Brier'. Grows about 5' tall. Has lovely flowers an 1" across, fully double in blush-white with a blush of pink in the bud.

The Apple Rose: aka 'villosa' aka 'Rosa pomifera'. A HUGE rose, up to 7' tall and just as wide. Grey-green leaves are downy, and the single flowers are clear pink. In the fall, this rose has huge hips which turn from an orangey-red to deep maroon and covered with bristly hair.




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Amy Corwin

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