Old-Fashioned Roses (Part XIV) –Hybrid Musks
By Paul Banish
The ancient musk rose (Rosa moschata) is only distantly related to the Hybrid Musk roses. Briefly, the German hybridizer Peter Lambert introduced a rose called Trier in 1904. Trier, in turn, was the result of a cross between another Lambert rose, Aglaia, and a Hybrid Perpetual. Aglaia was introduced in 1896 from a cross between Rosa multiflora and Reve d’Or, a Noisette. While the Hybrid Musks do have a rather distant relation to the musk rose, they are more closely related to Rosa multiflora. Around ten years after the introduction of Trier, an English clergyman, Rev. Joseph Pemberton, began using Trier crossed with a variety of other roses, and the bulk of the Hybrid Musk roses have come from Rev. Pemberton’s breeding program, which his assistants, John and Ann Bentall, carried on after his death, and they continued to introduce roses into the 1930s. So, as you can see, the Hybrid Musks are not Old Garden Roses, since they originated well after 1867. For exhibition in rose shows, the Hybrid Musks are grouped by the American Rose Society under the Classic Shrubs.
Since the Hybrid Musks do have Noisettes in their ancestry, and Noisette roses are not reliably hardy in Michigan, the Hybrid Musks are not iron hardy, but they are reasonably so, certainly more than the average Hybrid Tea. They really do have a number of very good qualities as a whole. Many of the best have beautiful large and lustrous foliage which is quite disease resistant. They bloom in often huge clusters and have a pleasant fragrance, which can sometimes be apparent in the air, because so many blooms open at once. If you want lots of bloom, you can hardly do better than the Hybrid Musks. Most repeat bloom abundantly and rapidly. Additionally, since they are largely of English origin, they usually have pleasant names that are easy to pronounce. Finally, the Hybrid Musks tolerate partial shade better than most roses.
So, on the plus side, we have profuse and fragrant bloom with disease resistant foliage. How about the negatives? They generally do make quite large shrubs, anywhere from four to eight feet tall and wide, and modern gardeners find it difficult to accommodate such large shrubs. While there are some varieties available with deeper and brighter colors, the best of them are primarily limited to soft pastel shades of pink, yellow, and white. If you are looking for large individual blooms, look elsewhere. The individual blooms are rarely larger than two inches across. Sometimes the heads of bloom can be so huge that the plant is unable to support them, and they collapse to the ground. (That’s kind of a nice negative to have, isn’t it?) I have often wondered why the Hybrid Musk roses are not better known and more widely grown.
If you have the space, give one or more a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
If you would like to try the Hybrid Musks, consider choosing from the following suggestions:
-Penelope: Large trusses of fragrant peach colored blossoms that fade to nearly white. The blooms open to show centers of golden stamens. Somewhat sprawling and rangy habit. You should deadhead the spent blooms to encourage more bloom, but, if you don’t, Penelope produces hips in kind of a coral color.
-Cornelia: Small pink and peach blooms in clusters with a moderate fragrance. Four to six feet wide and high.
-Prosperity: Again, large clusters of blooms, this time in ivory white. Can be used as a climber.
-Belinda: This and the following rose are the most prolifically blooming roses that I can think of. This is one of the later hybrids introduced by the Bentalls in 1936. Small pink blooms in enormous heads that almost resemble hydrangeas.
-Ballerina: Another of the later hybrids introduced by the Bentalls in 1937. The blooms are single pink with white centers and gold stamens. I have seen plants almost cover themselves in blooms.
-Kathleen: Small single pale pink blooms reminiscent of apple blossoms.
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