Portland Roses

Towards the end of the eighteenth century a rose of much significance appeared in France. Its origins were obscure, as is so often the case, but its habit of flowering almost continuously throughout the season won it instant favor. It arrived there by way of England with the name R. portlandica but later became known as 'Duchess of Portland', after the 3rd Duchess of Portland, who is reputed to have brought it to England from Italy. It is said to have originated from a cross between a Damask x Gallica seedling and an unknown China rose, probably 'Slater's Crimson', a mating which is thought to have established, at least in part, the invaluable remontancy habit of many of our present-day roses.

This is a small class of roses that probably never included more than 100 cultivars, even in its 19-th century heyday. Currently, there are fewer than a dozen Portland roses still available. The Portland roses were greatly admired in the early 19th century because they are not only hardy but also reblooming. After producing a heavy crop of flowers in early summer, they flower again occasionally throughout the summer and into the fall.

Though the Portland rose blossoms are large - 3-4 in (7.6 - 10.2 cm) in diameter - and usually very fragrant, for the most part this class has been replaced by showier, freer-flowing roses. Well adapted to the Northeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountain West, and milder regions of Canada, these roses suffer where summers are hot and humid.

'Comte de Chambord' Roses (Introduced - 1860)
This popular Portland rose bears very full blossoms with as many as 200 petals. Large, fragrant, and quartered, with button-eye centers, the flowers of this rose open in shades of pink, mauve, and violet. 'Comte de Chambord' reblooms unusually freely for a Portland rose, and in good soil and full sun it may remain in flower almost continuously. This, together with its compact size, makes it an excellent candidate for smaller gardens. 'Comte de Chambord' has an old-world charm that makes it ideal for a cottage garden. It also lends a special air of elegance to a perennial border.

'Jacques Cartier' Roses (Portland, Introduced - 1868)
Pearly rose flowers with darker pink, button like centers are very full, highly fragrant, and often quartered. The 3-inch blooms appear all summer on 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-foot plants with closely spaced, light green leaves. This rare variety is one of the few Portland roses that are still available. Some old-rose enthusiasts believe this rose is in fact an older variety correctly known as 'Marquise Boccella'.

'Rose du Roi' Roses (Introduced - 1815)
The double flowers of 'Rose du Roi' are bright red mottled with violet and purple. Each loosely arranged bloom is 2 1/2 inches across and is rich in fragrance. Flowers appear abundantly in midseason and repeat well. Foliage is pointed, small, and dark green.
Plants are short and spreading with a somewhat straggly form. They provide a long season of heavily perfumed blooms in beds and borders, and are particularly well suited to smaller gardens. 'Rose du Roi' is disease resistant and winter-hardy.

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