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
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
- '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,
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.