Friday, May 13, 2011

Old Garden Roses: Albas

I would like to continue with my posts on antique roses, and write about albas, beautiful old roses that have been in cultivation since the times of the Romans (or maybe even before), but that, unfortunately, are not often seen in gardens today.

Mme Légras de St. Germain (unknown origin)
Albas are some of the oldest garden roses which originated as a cross between two species, rosa canina (the dog rose) and rosa gallica (or maybe rosa damascena). Alba Semi-plena, one of the oldest albas, is believed to be the White Rose of York.

Alba Semi-Plena, White Rose of York (unknown origin)

Botticelli's Birth of Venus is perhaps one of the best known paintings to feature what are believed to be alba roses.

Sandro Botticelli. The Birth of Venus (image taken from Wikimedia)
The word "alba" is a derivative of "albus", which means "white" in Latin. Throughout much of their history, alba roses have ranged in color from white...

Aennchen von Tharau (Geschwind,  1886)
... to medium pink.

Blush Hip (unknown origin)
A distinguishing characteristic of albas is beautiful bluish-green foliage...

Blanche de Bélgique (unknown Belgian breeder)
... and strong fragrance, sometimes described as that of "fresh face powder".

Pompon Blanc Parfait (Verdier, 1876)
Like other old garden roses which originated in Europe, albas bloom only once a year.

Jeanne d'Arc (Vibert, 1818)
However, albas form tall and graceful fountain-like plants making them worthy additions to a garden.

Blush Hip (unknown origin)
And if their delicate but limited color palette is a bit boring, that has changed. With the advent of reblooming roses, and especially hybrid teas, albas were forgotten for much of the twentieth century, until Rolf Sievers, a German hybridizer, released his Blush series of modern albas.


Summer Blush (Sievers, 1974)

The Blush albas are crosses between Maiden's Blush, an old alba, and modern roses. 

Morning Blush (Sievers, 1974)
They are still once-blooming roses (as first-generation crosses are), but the range of colors has been increased considerably.

Red Blush (Sievers, 1974)
Albas need little maintenance provided they are given enough room. As they bloom only once, they do not need continuous heavy feedings.

Princesse de Lamballe (Miellez, 1830)
Deadheading is not necessary either, and you will most likely be rewarded by a beautiful crop of hips persisting into the winter. I have heard that they do well with humidity too. Given all this and their rich history, they certainly do not deserve being overlooked.

Chloris (Descemet, 1813)
All these pictures were taken at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden.

34 comments:

  1. oh I so love old fashioned pink roses....wish I could grow them here...how far from San Fran is the Heritage Rose Garden?

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  2. Wow,you are so lucky to have such a rose garden close to you...Love the Blush albas !

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  3. Sigh. I've never grown roses before, but your post sure makes me want to try! Your photos are absolutely stunning! Just gorgeous.

    I'm especially enamored with 'Jeanne d'Arc,' 'Mme Légras de St. Germain,' and 'Pompon Blanc Parfait.'

    I just moved to an apartment with a yard last summer...there is a climbing rose there, left by the previous tenants. It's about 5 feet tall and seems to be growing! I have no idea what kind it is or what color it is or anything, so it will be exciting to see what happens in the next month or so.

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  4. Thank you, Donna. It is about 45 minutes away from San Francisco.

    Thank you, Dani, I like them too, especially Summer Blush, such a deep glowing color.

    Thank you, redgardenclogs. It is so exciting to grow a mystery rose. I hope you like its blooms. Have fun researching the identity :).

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  5. I was just reading last night about albas - almost had me convinced to give one a try! Your photos are beautiful. Love that White Rose of York. Almost looks like a gardenia. I can imagine it smells as wonderful, too.

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  6. HolleyGarden, yes, they have a wonderful fragrance. They are not small roses though - 6' to 8' is common here.

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  7. I am usually pretty content with what I have but you are challenging me!! I just melt at the pictures of your amazing roses. They are unbelievable.

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  8. Thank you, Jeannie, I am glad I am :)!

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  9. What beautiful roses the Albas are.

    FlowerLady

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  10. Thank you, FlowerLady! I agree with you there.

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  11. Gosh, Masha, you should charge people to come visit your gardens! It's like you're maintaining your very own botanical garden. Your Roses are breathtakingly beautiful!

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  12. Just beautiful... Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I love old-fashioned roses; they are so roTantic. I actually prefer the pale colors. Nothing boring about them to me. they like humidity? My climate would be a true test!

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  14. Thank you, Beth. These roses really are beautiful, I wish I could grow more.

    Thank you, Lois. I am glad you liked them.

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  15. Thank you, Deb. I actually like pale colors too. However, a row of Summer Blush interspersed with old white Albas is truly spectacular.

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  16. Every time I visit your blog I want to plant more roses!! I have two fragrant ones that will be blooming soon. Hooray!!!

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  17. Thank you, Casa Mariposa, I am looking forward to seeing their pictures on your blog.

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  18. I think it depends on how hot it gets and whether they get some shade... I think the best is 6-8 weeks. Here if it gets hot, they get fried in maybe two weeks, but we have been having a cool spring so far...

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  19. Your photos are great ! I've got problems to shoot white roses. How do you manage ?

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  20. Merci, Isabelle. Unlike dark-colored roses, white ones look much better for me if shot in the sun - otherwise they come out grey (yuck!).

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  21. I find them gorgeous! I like them much more than actual hybrids.

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  22. Breathtaking! They have a purity to them, don't they?

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  23. Able was I ere I saw (your) Albas. Dazzling!

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  24. Dear Masha, I love white roses, so I love this posting! I appreciate the tip about photographing them, too, as I have a few. P. x

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  25. Grazie, Dona. I like them a lot too.

    Thank you, Hoover Boo, you are right, they do have a purity and innocence to them.

    Thank you, TGB. I am glad you liked it.

    Thibaud, thank you for commenting.

    Pam, I am glad you found it helpful.

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  26. Ah I love Albas. They look and smell so sweet and are so romantic-looking. Thank you for this beautiful post.

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  27. Those Blush albas are something new for me ! Beautiful, Masha ! You are so lucky to see San Jose Heritage Rose Garden.

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  28. Thank you, Sweetbay, and your description of albas is very accurate. They look romantic to me too.

    Thank you, Dani, I am glad I posted the Blush Alba pictures for you!

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  29. Absolutely beautiful roses! Thanks for dropping by! That 2nd photo you inquired about is of my Clematis without its petals. (A purple 'Daniel Deronda'). A belated Happy GBBD!

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  30. Thank you, Jo, and that was a great photo - I was thinking maybe ornamental grass...

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  31. I have a medium pink alba, that seemed to match very well with a "Blush Hip" found on the David Austin heirloom roses. They mentioned it was from "1840 and very rare" -though there were a few other matching
    blossoms of other bushes. Mine is a fast growing prickly plant, with a very fragrant blossom, and a sweet slightly spicy scent. Very enjoyable, hardy plant :) Thanks for sharing your pictures, Tests.

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I am so glad you have stopped by!