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
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.