It is presumed that the main source of medicine as well as rose oil in Europe prior to the introduction of Damask roses was 'Apothecary's Rose', also known as 'Red Damask'. Later, R. gallica officials was made the emblem of the Lancastrians.
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This rose was breed with others to produce the famous striped rose R. gallica versicolor, which is more popular as 'Rosa Mundi' - named, as it is believed, after 'Pair Rosamund', who was the mistress of King Henry II.
If this passionate legend is true - and it is apparently believable that a outstanding sport like this one may have created some sensation during that period - it can be dated back to the mid twelfth century. However, it is also possible that a crusading knight could have brought it with him to England as a novelty and this gives an impression that the rose may perhaps have an earlier origin.
The gallicas are most amenable in the form of garden flowers, as no cultivar of this variety of rose grows beyond a height of 4 feet. In fact, when gallicas are in bloom no other rose belonging to the old rose group is able to challenge the former as far as the quantity as well as quality of their blooms is concerned.
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Gallica roses bloom only once in a year and are exceptionally cold hardy shrubs that are capable of over wintering with no damage even when grown during the winter months of northern Europe. Since gallicas require winter chilling, they usually have a poor performance when grown in the warmer areas of the Southeast as well as the Southwest.
The blooms of gallica rose are tidy and densely packed rosettes. On an average, each flower of this rose variety measures anything between 2 ½ inches and 3 ½ inches (6.4 cm and 8.9 cm) in diameter. The bushes too are compact and they generally form dense shrubs that seldom grow beyond a height of 3 ½ feet (1.1 meters).
It is worth mentioning that aside from their beautiful flowers, the gallica roses are resistant to diseases as well as pests. Moreover, they are capable of adapting to various types of soils - while they have a preference for good soils, they can also thrive well in poor and arid soils.
In addition, these roses are also able to endure some amount of shade. However, the intensity of the color of the flowers decreases when grown in such conditions.
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Introduced - prior to 1829
'Belle de Crécy' is among the most popular gallica roses and it certainly deserves to be liked. The flowers of this rose are large, have the shape of flattened rosettes and a strong fragrance. When the flowers open their have a pink hue but soon their color changes to mauve-violet and they have a green button at the center.
This makes 'Belle de Crécy' an interesting rose at any particular time. One shrub of this rose may bear flowers of different shades – pink, mauve and deep violet – all at the same time. Moreover, the reverse side of the petals (in other words, the back of the petals) have a distinctly lighter pink hue compared to the fronts, giving the flowers an extremely delicate look.
The plants of this rose are vigorous growers and grow up to a modest height. These make Belle de Crécy' an excellent material for growing in the form of an informal hedge. However, the shrubs are also capable of holding their own in the form of specimen planting.
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Introduced - 1845
'Belle Isis' rose is a compact shrub bearing saucer-like flowers having loose little petals having a potent fragrance, while their coloration is delicate. Different from other gallica roses, whose blooms have a propensity towards passionate purplish red and pinks; this gallica rose bears pale pink hued blooms that appear to have been brushed with coral pink.
Moreover, they also have a tinge of lemon yellow. The shrub of this rose is near and its profile makes it an excellent selection for growing in smaller gardens. In addition, it also accommodates well in perennial borders without disturbing its neighbours in any way.
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Introduced - 1830
At the beginning of the 19th century it was a fashion to grow striped and spotted roses. As far as breeding this type of roses is concerned, French nurseryman J. P. Vibert was some kind of an expert. In fact, 'Camaieux' is one such interesting creation of Vibert.
This gallica rose has a wonderful appeal of cloisonné. Each petal of this rose has a potent fragrance. The flowers of 'Camaieux' are double and flattened round. It seems that they have been deliberately placed with a view to create a perfect shape.
When the flowers open, they are blush white having flush pink hued stripes and as they mature, their color fades to white with stripes of mauve-purple. The outstanding color coupled with the orderly and compact habit of the shrub makes this plant an exceptional specimen that deserves a prominent place in the garden.
Introduced - 1840
According to some rosarians, 'Cardinal de Richelieu' is not a pure gallica rose. In fact, they argue that this rose has traces of China rose in its smooth, glossy foliage. Nevertheless, it is certain that the flowers of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' are pure gallica.
Gallica roses have a dark purple hue which is not present in any other variety of rose. The blooms of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' are among the best examples of this kind of coloration. When grown in a garden bed or used as cut flowers, they make an unusual contrast.
The individual flowers of this rose makes a wonderful display against the dark green leaves of the shrub. Therefore, it is not surprising that the medium-sized shrub of 'Cardinal de Richelieu' is among the most commonly grown gallica roses worldwide.
The blooms of 'Charles de Mills' are cup-shaped, rounded and quartered. Each flower of this gallica rose measures about 4 ½ inches across and have packed petals that appear very similar to crepe paper. The flowers are deep red with overtones of purple, while the reverse of the petals have a silvery lavender hue.
The blooms of 'Charles de Mills' roses have a potent fragrance. The plants are bushy and they produce flowers only once in a year. The plants grow up to a height of anything between 4 feet and 5 feet and have very few thorns.
'Complicata' roses are in bloom only in the beginning of summer, but the display is certainly spectacular. Each flower is single and measures about 5 inches in diameter and they are borne along the whole length of each branch. The flowers have a deep pink hue with a white eye at the center.
The stamens are radiant yellow, while the leaves are large and have a pale green color. After the flowering season is over, the plants produce round, vivid orange hips in the fall. The plants are vigorous growers and you can grow them without much difficulty.
However, 'Complicata' roses need some space for proper growth. You may maintain this rose in the form of a shrub growing up to a height of 5 feet and spreading to anything between 6 feet and 8 feet - on account of their arching canes.
'Complicata' roses are very useful when grown as a hedge and, if permitted, they can grow up to a height of 10 feet. You may also train this rose to grow as a climber. These roses possess the ability to endure poor soils, heat and humidity of summer as well as the winter cold. In fact, the plants of 'complicata' roses may turn out to be out of control.
Introduced - early 19th century
The flowers of 'Hippolyte' roses are small, tidy and have a wine purple hue. The flowers have a delicate, old-fashioned precision and have a resemblance to zinnias. However, compared to zinnias, the fragrance of 'Hippolyte' roses is much sweeter.
When grown in semi-shaded sites, the color of 'Hippolyte' flowers is most intense. Different from most other gallicas, 'Hippolyte' produces long and flexible canes which can be trained to grow horizontally all along a fence or wound up around a pillar or post.
If the plants are left untrained, this shrub will not be a good selection for a formal design, but look wonderful if grown in a cottage-type planting where the arching canes of the plant is able to spill externally with all their natural elegance.
This rose has a namesake - Amazon Queen Hippolyta and both are equally strong and beautiful too. In fact, 'Hippolyte' rose is a survivor which is among the few roses that collectors may find thriving in deserted gardens.
Introduced - prior to 1581
'Rosa Mundi' (botanical name R gallica versicolor) is actually a sport of 'Apothecary's Rose (botanical name R. gallica officinalis). The flowers of this rose are semi-double, each measuring anything between 2 inches and 3 inches across. The blooms have wonderful stripes of pink, crimson and deep pink over blush white. They appear singly or are borne in small sprays.
The flowers are extremely fragrant and open as wide, flattened cups. You may come across an occasional branch of 'Rosa Mundi' that may bear deep pink hued flowers of its parent 'Apothecary's Rose'. Once the flowering season ends, the plants produce red hips in late summer. The leaves of this rose have a dark matte green color, while the stems are almost smooth.
The plants of this rose are bushy and have an upright habit. They are extremely hardy and capable of enduring summer heat as well as humidity. 'Rosa Mundi' roses are very effective when grown in garden beds or borders. The flowers of this rose can be used as potpourri and also for indoor arrangements. However, this rose is rather susceptible to mildew.
Introduced - prior to 1820
'Tuscany' rose bears semi-double, large flowers whose color varies from dark crimson to deep purple. The flowers have a velvety texture. The petals of this rose are flat and surround prominent yellow stamens, which creates a dramatic contrast.
While the flowers are highly fragrant, they are not as heavily perfumed as some other gallica roses. The flowers appear in profusion during spring but do not repeat bloom. The leaves of 'Tuscany' roses are small and have a dark green color.
The plants of 'Tuscany' rose are vigorous growers and have a neat and rounded form. They are ideal for growing in small gardens. When the plants are in bloom, the intense color of the flowers put up a spectacular display. This rose is winter hardy and also capable of enduring summer heat as well as humidity.