* Gerard (1597): "... long leaves, smooth and shining, made up of leaves set upon a middle rib, like the other Roses."
Rosa moschata Herrm. This is the Musk rose Graham Thomas rescued from oblivion. It has been growing in England since the early 18th century, but its place of origin is unknown. There was another autumnal Musk rose, similar in all details except that it had glossy green leaves, that was cultivated in England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.* That one, sadly, seems to be extinct or at least lost to cultivation. It is not clear which form was parent to the Noisettes. Pliny the Elder wrote of a similar variety in the 1st century that was used for crowns. And legend has it that Lady Niniane (Lady of the Lake) brought a bouquet of roses to her adopted son, Sir Lancelot of the Lake, every day throughout the summer. He shared them with his cousins so they had floral crowns. A form of R. moschata is a plausible source for those roses.
This one is fine! It starts blooming about the time the Gallicas are finishing, then continues as long as the weather is warm. In San Jose it is still blooming in December, with a delicious clove scent. On cool, cloudy days the flowers open pale yellow, but the color soon burns off as it is converted to perfume. Most of the fragrance is released by the stamens.
The rough, glaucous leaves resist mildew and aphids. It has been reported that the single-flowered variety will sport to the double form once the plant is well established and has had a chance to build. I haven't seen it happen on the specimen at the Heritage Rose Garden in San Jose, but I keep watching.
This, or a related form, is the original Damaschine or Moschette rose described by Mattiolus in the 16th century. DNA testing has confirmed that R. moschata was the seed parent of the pink-flowered Damasks.
Our Heritage of Old Roses pp. 20-21 (1987)
Judyth A. McLeod
E.H. Wilson, a noted botanist, plant collector and gardener, whose opinion is therefore to be respected, wrote, 'The original Musk Rose, R. moschata, appears to have been a native of the Pyrenees, but has long been lost to cultivation, and its name applied to a vigorous climbing Rose (R. Brunonii)'.
For some reason, then, the original fragrant autumn Musk rose lost favour by the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was gradually supplanted by the much larger summer flowering R. brunonii which is easily recognised by its long drooping downy leaves. This latter is the Musk rose of Miss Willmott and of Bean.
Which all leads us to that most charming of English garden writers, the great E.A. Bowles who, in My Garden in Summer says, 'The true and rare old Musk Rose exists here, but in a juvenile state at present, for it is not many years since I brought it as cuttings from the splendid old specimen on the Grange at Bitton and I must not expect its deliciously scented, late in the season flowers before it has scrambled up its wall space'.
G.S. Thomas, who unravelled the mystery of the old Musk rose with all the detective skills needed to prove he would have been a decided asset to New Scotland Yard, went to E.A. Bowles home, Myddelton House, in late August, 1963 and 'there on a cold north-west facing wall of the house was a rose just coming into flower. It was without doubt the Old Musk Rose. I had walked straight to it'. From this specimen G.S. Thomas took both cuttings and material for budding. The budded material flowered in their first season and, as G.S. Thomas explained, were to his amazement double flowered forms which exactly resembled the portrait by Redoute. Bowles' rose was a single so that, in one go, G.S. Thomas was rewarded with the spontaneously sported double form of the rose (apparently a common event in the past) as well as the single form. This material has since been disseminated by Graham Thomas. Our own shrub bears both single and double flowers in profusion.
June 21, 2009 - SJH
June 21, 2009 - SJH
September 8, 2007 - SJH
July 8, 2007 - SJH
October 26, 2002 - SJH
October 26, 2005 - SJH
September 26, 2000 - SJH