December 2, 2011

by Beth Ellis, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Texas Master Gardeners
Gardeners' Dirt
Editor's note:  This is Part III of a three-part series on old roses in Texas.
Part I ~ Part II ~
The Mermaid species is a massive climber that reblooms large, fragrant, pale yellow blossoms single in form. Like the Cherokee, it is quite thorny and often used for barrier plantings where security is a concern.
LEFT:  The LaMarque Noisette variety is an old favorite that has white roses with yellow center clusters. It can reach 8 to 10 feet and works well as a climber on arbors and trellises.
RIGHT:  This Zephirine Droughin' bourbon rose is virtually thornless and can reach 15 feet as a climber. After getting established, it can bloom in the autumn.
The Cherokee is a species rose bush that can grow 12- to 20-feet tall and produces single white blooms. It works well as a barrier plant because of its numerous thorns.
As mentioned in last week's column, heirloom China, tea and polyantha roses tend to be the best choices for Texas gardeners. However, there are old roses belonging to other classes that were also some of our grandmother's favorites - and they should be ours, too.


Noisettes were developed in the United States in the early 1800s. They are not as cold hardy or disease resistant as China and tea roses. Noisettes bloom in spring, but generally put on their best show in fall. Flowers are small and bloom in very fragrant clusters. Noisettes are excellent trained on trellises and arbors because the blooms face downward - which allows passersby to appreciate both their beauty and delicious scent.

"Champney's Pink Cluster" (1811) - The very first noisette, developed in South Carolina by John Champney, grows 4 to 8 feet and produces highly fragrant, light pink bloom clusters. It can be trained on a pillar or as a short climber.

"LaMarque" (1830) - This old favorite grows 8 to 10 feet, and produces fragrant, white blooms with yellow centers. It has few thorns, which makes it relatively easy to train.

"Celine Forestier" (1858) - Another popular climber, it grows 10 to 15 feet. Lovely creamy-yellow blooms emit a deliciously spicy scent, and are flat, quartered and full of petals.


This class is thought to have originated on the French island of Bourbon. Flowers tend to be large, fragrant and cupped or quartered. Not all bourbons rebloom in fall, although the ones mentioned below do so. Bourbons are more susceptible to disease than Chinas or teas, but they are still a great addition to southern gardens.

"Souvenir de la Malmaison" (1843)
- Named after Empress Josephine's home, this rose grows 3 to 4 feet. The light pink blooms are large, flat and quartered. Fragrance is excellent.

"Zephirine Droughin" (1868)
- This climber grows 6 to 15 feet. It is easily trained because the canes are virtually thornless. Semi-double, deep pink blooms are fragrant. It has moderate disease resistance, and will eventually bloom in autumn after becoming established.


Found roses are old roses collected from old gardens, cemeteries and abandoned homesteads, but which have not been positively identified in historical records. Until then, such roses are given study names that usually reflect the collection location or the name of the person in whose garden they were found.

"Maggie" - Dr. William Welch found this rose growing in the garden of his wife Diane's grandmother. It can be grown as a shrub or a short climber. Full, fragrant, magenta blooms appear regularly. While it can experience black spot, "Maggie" shrugs it off fairly easily.

"Natchitoches Noisette" - This shrub grows 4 to 6 feet, has small, semi-double, lightly-fragrant pink flowers that bloom in clusters. It is relatively healthy with good disease resistance.

"McClinton Tea"- This large shrub grows 6 to 8 feet, is extremely fragrant, and has good disease resistance. Blooms are bright pink and semi-double.


Species roses are fragrant spring bloomers found in the wild.

"Lady Banks" - This rose grows 12 to 20 feet, and comes in two forms - white and yellow. Small, violet-scented blooms are borne profusely on lush foliage. Lady Banks is lovely grown as a cascading shrub, as a climber, or along a retaining wall where the canes can drape downward toward sitting areas, walkways or water features.

"Cherokee rose" - This 12- to 20-foot rose produces fragrant, single white blooms. Often confused with McCartney's rose, this one is not invasive but can get quite large. Because of numerous thorns, Cherokee is a good choice for barrier plantings.

"Mermaid (1918) - This McCartney rose x hybrid tea cross takes after its wild parent in impressive size and vigor, growing 15 to 20 feet, but is not invasive. This massive climber reblooms, producing large, fragrant, pale yellow blossoms that are single in form. It is quite thorny and, like Cherokee, is often used for barrier plantings where security is a concern.

Planting and Giving Season Here

I hope my tips on selecting the right type and variety of rose for your intended purpose are helpful. With the planting and giving season upon us, why not consider giving that special someone a rose bush this holiday season? Besides the initial gift, the new rose bush will give a gift of beautiful blooms for many years to come.

Last, but not least, do as our foremothers did - surround your antique roses with annuals, perennials, bulbs, herbs and even a vegetable or two. Give them a couple of years to become fully established, and then - just as when grandmothers grew these very same beauties - the rest will be history.
This found noisette rose shrub blooms in double, light pink, fragrant clusters. It grows to 4 to 6 feet and is relatively disease resistant.

Plant roses in raised beds or a raised area getting 8 to 10 hours of sunlight starting in the morning.

Space plants far apart to increase air flow, minimizing disease.

Dig a $10 hole for a $5 plant (wide is preferred vs. deep)  Plant the root crown slightly above the soil line.

Add compost and mulch annually;  water as needed.

Fertilize if needed in spring and fall although compost may provide sufficient nutrients.

Minimal pruning is needed on old-type roses.  Prune off weak canes and shape as needed removing the top 1/3 of rose bushes in February.

Prune climbers after their spring bloom removing weak, dead or old canes or those not conforming to training.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.