Damask Roses

Fragrance is the outstanding characteristic of these roses. This quality is gratifying for the gardener, but it has also made the flowers an important commercial crop; they are the source of attar of roses, the basis of many perfumes and cosmetics. If the fragrance of damask roses is intense, the colors of flowers are typically delicate, ranging in hue from creamy whites through soft pinks, with just an occasional red. The size of the damask roses is also modest. The blossoms may measure no more than 1 3/4 in (3.4cm) across in the cultivars with the smallest blossoms, though 2 1/2 to 3 in (6.4 to 7.6cm) is the average.

Legend has it that returning Crusaders brought home the first of this class of roses from the Syrian city of Damascus. The damask roses perform particularly well in the drier climates of the western United States. They are reliably hardy and make thorny, rangy shrubs. The damask roses fit easily into the sunny edge of a woodland, where their tolerance for poorer soils and for partial shade allows them to flourish.

'Autumn Damask' Roses (Introduced - ancient)
This very old rose produces abundant, richly fragrant blossoms in spring followed by scattered blooms throughout summer and fall. Flowers are 3 1/2 inches across, clear pink with deeper centers, and double. This rose is also known as 'Quatre Saisons' and has been used in breeding both the bourbons and the hybrid perpetuals. Foliage is light gray-green.
Plants are vigorous, of medium height, with a spreading habit. They are quite hardy and tolerate pruning better than most damask roses. The long flowering season makes a valuable contribution to beds or borders, and the powerful wine fragrance of the blooms is useful for making potpourri.

'Celsiana' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1750)
This antique was supposed to be Dutch in origin and to have been introduced into France (then the rose capital of the world) in the mid-18th century by a Parisian nurseryman, Monsieur Cels. Whatever its background, this damask is an unusually elegant rose that bears semi double, light pink flowers with silky, ruffled petals, pretty golden stamens, and a wonderful damask fragrance. The contrast of the flowers with the cool, gray-green foliage is particularly pleasing. Like most of the damasks, this rose makes a tall shrub with arching canes. One of the damasks that performs well in the upper part of the Southeast, 'Celsiana' needs encouragement -good soil and a sunny, airy spot -if it is to remain healthy through the summer there.

'Ispahan' Roses (Introduced - 1832)
The very fragrant, double blooms of 'Ispahan' (also called 'Pompon des Princes') appear in profusion over a 2- month period in early and midseason, but they do not repeat. Borne in clusters, the bright clear pink flowers are 2 1/2 to 3 inches across, cup shaped, and loosely reflexing. They are long-lasting, holding both their shape and their color well. Foliage is small with a blue-green cast.
This rose is bushy and upright. With a flowering season that is remarkably long for a damask, this rose is valued both as a garden shrub and for cut flowers. The plant is vigorous, disease resistant, and quite hardy.

'Leda' Roses (Introduced - 1827)
Flowers of 'Leda' (also called 'Painted Damask') are double, 2 1/2 to 4 inches across, and very fragrant. The buds are reddish brown, opening to reveal milky white to blush pink petals with crimson markings on their edges. The petals reflex to form a ball-shaped bloom. A pink sport of 'Leda' is also available. Leaves of both roses are round, downy, and gray-green.
This is a compact, rounded shrub. This rose has a neat habit, making it useful in beds and borders. A hardy plant, this rose prefers cooler climates and languishes where summers are very hot.

'Madame Hardy' Roses (Introduced - 1832)
In a particularly mild southern California winter, this rose may not experience enough chilling to produce any flowers the next spring.
This popular damask bears clusters of large, very double, fragrant white flowers, each with a green eye at its center. Aside from its flowering, this rose is remarkable for its adaptability. This rose grows well in the Southeast, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and is one of the shrubs you'll find flourishing in abandonment in the ghost towns of the California gold country.

'Marie Louise' Roses (Introduced - 1813)
The huge, very double blossoms of 'Marie Louise' rose are so heavy they weigh down the ends of the branches. Flowers are a brilliant mauve-pink with reflexed petals that quarter around a green button eye, and their rich scent hints of lemon. When fully opened, the blooms are somewhat flattened. Foliage is dense, and canes have few prickles.
Plants are bushy and compact, making this a useful shrub for beds, borders, and small gardens. This rose has a graceful, arching form. Like other damask roses, this rose is quite hardy.

'Rose de Rescht' Roses (Introduced - 1940)
Unlike its once-blooming relatives, this damask not only bears a large flush of flowers in late spring or early summer but also repeats with another surge of intensely perfumed flowers in fall. Opening fuchsia-crimson, the blossoms fade as they age to a soft lilac. The reblooming habit, combined with the compact size of the shrub and the old-fashioned charm of the flowers, makes 'Rose de Rescht' an unusual and useful rose. It's easy to tuck into tight corners to lend some old-rose charm to a small garden, and it furnishes a distinctive and appealing planting for a container, too.

'York and Lancaster' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1629)
Loosely double 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-inch flowers have white and light pink petals, sometimes all one color or the other, and sometimes mixed in variegated splotches. Blooms appear once a year in clusters. Leaves are light gray-green, on arching plants that grow 5 or more feet high. This rose, which has been confused with 'Rosa Mundi', was named to commemorate the end of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485), although it is not the same rose whose discovery supposedly inspired the truce.


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