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old bourbons

On 25, May 2016 | No Comments | In plants, roses | By All Year Garden

The quintessence of romantic imagery, the Bourbon rose!

There is an unspoken consensus among rosarians that roses are the crowning glory of botanical creation. No other plant was capable of achieving this status and no one ever will, even though many classic perennials, such as peonies, clematis and chrysanthemums have their fair share of fans.

You don’t understand the roses’ charisma until all of a sudden the light hits them just the right way or their multitude of velvety petals unfolds shyly under the raindrops. This one hypnotic image changes your appreciation for just another pretty flower to a devotion that spans a lifetime.

They are magical, the roses, especially the old ones, going back to the nineteenth century, the ones with one hundred petals or more and a pure heavenly scent. Among them, Bourbons are some of the precious few that bloom in flushes all throughout summer, with the delicacy and high maintenance of a Victorian lady. They originated on a small island in the Indian Ocean, Ile Bourbon (now Reunion), as a natural hybrid of China and Damask roses, from whom they inherited the best of qualities: the repeat blooming of their China ancestor and the exquisite flowers and arching growth of the Damasks.

I couldn’t list the newer varieties, which are too many to count, but will remind you of the original Bourbons that still hold the standard for rose perfection: Souvenir de la Malmaison, Zephirine Drouhin, Louise Odier, Madame Isaac Pereire, Honorine de Brabant, Boule de Neige.

Their care is not for the faint of heart, since they are susceptible to black spot and generally difficult. If you manage to keep them happy they will grace an arbor or a fence with the most surreal flush of color and perfume you can get in this world.