Hybrid musk roses

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Please allow me to introduce you to Rosa 'Penelope'. You may have met her before or, if not her, then possibly one of her equally gorgeous sisters.

Rosa 'Penelope' in flowerPlease allow me to introduce you to Rosa 'Penelope'. You may have met her before or, if not her, then possibly one of her equally gorgeous sisters. They are all varieties of hybrid musk rose, most of which were bred by a remarkable fellow called Rev. Joseph Pemberton in the early 1900s. He was vicar of the splendidly named Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, where he lived with his sister and helper, Florence.

Clergymen were responsible for much plant breeding and research around that time, as they were usually clever and had a fair bit of time on their hands (rattling off a pithy sermon, visiting the odd parishioner and pitching up for matins and evensong on a Sunday were not particularly onerous tasks). Pemberton and his sister grew about 4,000 roses and were inspired by their grandmother’s remarkable collection.

I tell you all this because you should really be thinking about ordering bare-root roses for planting out in the winter. If you're wondering what to plant, and you favour old-fashioned varieties, then hybrid musk roses are hard to beat. In support of this I draw your attention to the photograph at the top of this blog. It was taken today and my, does it not look fabulous? A blustery September day and she is flowering like a good ‘un.

Hybrid musk roses flower first in June and then produce orange hips. You then have the choice to leave the hips on the bush and enjoy them in the winter, or to deadhead the whole thing and hang on for a few weeks until it flowers again.

Alternatively, you can do what I try to remember to do and deadhead about 75% and leave some of the hips, thereby getting the best of both worlds. These are quite big shrubs, which grow to approximately 1.5m height and spread; the foliage is glossy (slightly bronzed when young) and the plants are pretty disease resistant. They all smell delightful.

In the unlikely event that you don’t fancy ‘Penelope’ much, then try 'Moonlight' , 'Felicia' , 'Cornelia'  or 'Buff Beauty'.

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Gardeners' World Web User 14/09/2011 at 14:15

I just love roses, I have quite a few in my garden. There isn't anything better than the smell of a rose. Those delicate blooms are just a joy to look at. I have a lovely pink one from David Austin Roses and the perfume from that is so strong, you can smell it before you even see it. If my garden was bigger I would have a few more.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/09/2011 at 07:37

I delight in usually being able tp pick roses from my garden right up to Xmas but my ramblers are over by July so these hybrid musk roses seem to fill a gap with the added bonus of their perfume. But the price! perhaps next year when I've paid for my potager build.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/09/2011 at 11:58

I have a number of hybrid musk roses in my mixed borders - they associate so well with perennials because of their informal growth habit, which is loose, but not untidy.My favorite by far, is the well named "Moonlight", which has off white flowers, which stand out well against the darker foliage. They shine out against the darkness - just like moonlight.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/09/2011 at 23:22

I only have one 'inherited' rose in the garden but have been considering some near to a seating area at the bottom of the garden. If these varieties are scented they may just fit in nicely here. My only concern with roses is that they are prickly and having a young child they can be a little hazardous. Are there any scented thornless varieties worth considering?? http://higgysgardenproject.blogspot.com/ Higgy

Gardeners' World Web User 19/09/2011 at 10:40

Plantlord:Moonlight is marvellous. All musk roses also work well as short climbers if trained against a wall. Higgy50: You choice is very limited. Children tend to realise pretty quickly that thorns hurt. Roses cannot do that much damage: although it would be a bad idea to plant them in your children's play area.

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