Gallicas - 'Roses Of Provins'

Before the introduction of the Damasks the major source of medicine and rose oil in Europe was presumably the 'Apothecary's Rose' or 'Red Damask', R. gallica officinalis, later to become the emblem of the Lancastrians. This was the rose which 'sported' to produce the legendary striped rose R. gallica versicolor, better known perhaps as 'Rosa Mundi', named, it is said, after 'Pair Rosamund', mistress of King Henry II. If this romantic legend has any validity -and it seems plausible that such a striking sport would have created quite a sensation at that time -this would date it from the mid twelfth century; but it could well have been brought back to England as a novelty by some crusading knight, implying an earlier origin. As garden flowers they are most amenable, with no cultivar exceeding 4' in height. When in flower in midsummer no other group of old roses can challenge them for quantity and, more often than not, for quality. Blooming just once a year, gallicas are extraordinarily cold hardy shrubs that could be relied on to overwinter without harm in a northern European winter. Because they require winter chilling, these roses perform poorly in the warmer regions of Southeast and Southwest.

The flowers of the gallica rose are neat, densely packed rosettes that average 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 in (6.4 to 8.9cm) across, and the bushes themselves are compact, usually forming dense shrubs no more than 3 1/2 ft (1.1m) tall.

Gallica roses are disease and pest resistant, and they adapt easily to a variety of soils, appreciating good soils but also growing well in poorish, dry ones. They also tolerate a moderate degree of shade, though the flowers lose the intensity of their hues in such situations.

'Belle de Crécy' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1829)
This is one of the most popular gallica roses, and deservedly so. The flowers of 'Belle de Crécy' are large, flattened rosettes with a potent perfume; they open pink but soon deepen in hue to a mauve-violet with a green button center. This gives 'Belle de Crécy' a special interest: at any given time, a single shrub may bear flowers in shades of pink, mauve, and deep violet. In addition, the backs of the petals (what rosarians call the reverse) are a distinctly paler pink than the fronts, which gives these flowers an added delicacy.
A vigorous, midsize shrub, this rose makes good material for an informal hedge but also can hold its own as a specimen planting.

'Belle Isis' Roses (Introduced - 1845)
This compact shrub bears loose little saucers of petals with a strong fragrance but a delicate coloration. In contrast to most other gallicas, whose flowers tend toward intense pinks and purplish reds, 'Belle Isis' has pale cream flowers that seem brushed with coral pink and even a hint of lemon yellow.
This shrub's tidy profile makes it a good choice for smaller gardens, and it fits into a perennial border without overwhelming its neighbors.

'Camaieux' Roses (Introduced - 1830)
In the early 19th century, there was a fashion for striped and spotted roses, and the French nurseryman J. P. Vibert was something of a specialist in that sort of flower. 'Camaieux' is one of his most interesting creations, a rose with the exquisite appeal of cloisonné. Every petal in the strongly fragrant, double flowers of 'Camaieux' seems deliberately placed to create a perfect, flattened round. The blossoms open blush white with even, deep pink stripes, then fade to white striped with mauve-purple. This striking coloring and the shrub's neat, compact habit make this an unusual specimen worthy of a place of prominence in the garden.

'Cardinal de Richelieu' Roses (Introduced - 1840)
Some rosarians argue that the "Cardinal" is not pure gallica. They see a trace of China in the smooth, shiny foliage. Certainly, though, this rose is pure gallica in its flowers. There is a dark purple hue among gallicas that is found in no other roses, and the flowers of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' are the finest examples of this coloration. They make a strong and unusual contrast in a garden bed or as cut flowers, and the individual blossoms show nicely against the shrub's dark green leaves. Small wonder that this tough, medium-size shrub is one of the most commonly planted of all gallica roses.

'Charles de Mills' Roses
Rounded, cup-shaped, quartered, 4 1/2 - inch blooms are packed with petals that look very much like crepe paper. Strongly perfumed flowers are deep red with purple overtones and a silvery lavender reverse. They bloom once a year on bushy; 4- to 5-foot, almost thornless plants.

'Complicata' Roses
Although this rose blooms only in early summer, the display is spectacular. The single flowers are 5 inches across and appear along the entire length of each branch. Blooms are deep pink with a white eye and bright yellow stamens. Leaves are large and light green. Round, bright orange hips are produced in the fall.
Vigorous and easy to grow, this rose requires a good bit of space. This rose can be maintained as a shrub with a height of 5 feet and a spread of 6 to 8 feet, thanks to its arching canes. 'Complicata' rose makes an effective hedge and, if allowed, will reach 10 feet in height. This rose can also be trained as a climber. Poor soils, summer heat and humidity, and winter cold are all tolerated. The plant can become rampant.

'Hippolyte' Roses (Introduced - early 19th century)
This rose's small, neat, wine purple flowers have an exquisite, antique precision; they look almost like zinnias but smell far too sweet. The blossom color is most intense when 'Hippolyte' is grown in a semi shaded spot. Unlike most gallicas, 'Hippolyte' produces long, flexible canes that can be trained horizontally along a fence or wound up around a post. Left untrained, this shrub is not a good choice for a formal design, but it is a star in a cottage-type planting where the arching canes can spill outward with all their natural grace.
The namesake of this rose is the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, and it is similarly sturdy as well as beautiful. It's a survivor -one of those roses that collectors find flourishing in abandoned gardens.

'Rosa Mundi' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1581)
'Rosa Mundi' (R. gallica versicolor) is a sport of 'Apothecary's Rose' (R. gallica officinalis). Its 2- to 3-inch semi-double flowers are spectacularly striped crimson, pink, and deep pink over blush white. Borne singly or in small sprays, the very fragrant flowers open to wide and flattened cups. An occasional branch will revert to the deep-pink-colored flowers of its parent. Red hips appear in late summer. Leaves are a dark matte green, and stems are nearly smooth.
This upright, bushy rose is very hardy and tolerates summer heat and humidity. This rose is useful in beds or borders, and its flowers can be used for indoor arrangements and potpourri. This rose is somewhat prone to mildew.

'Tuscany' Roses (Introduced - prior to 1820)
The large semi-double flowers of 'Tuscany' rose are dark crimson to deep purple with a velvety texture. Petals are flat and are arranged around prominent yellow stamens, creating a dramatic contrast. Although very fragrant, the flowers are not as heavily scented as some gallica roses. They appear in abundance in spring and do not repeat. Leaves are small and dark green.
The vigorous plants have a tidy, rounded form and are well suited to small gardens. The intense colors of the flowers make them spectacular in bloom. They are winter-hardy and tolerant of summer heat and humidity.


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