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  • Lynn Hunt

Queen of Flowers - Make Mine Bourbon (Rose That Is)

This article is from Roses & You, March 2019

I ordered my first bourbon rose several years ago after visiting Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, England. It was quite an intoxicating experience.

As many of you know, the Mottisfont rose garden (designed by Graham Stuart Thomas in 1972) features more than 300 varieties from all over the world, including some so ancient they are prehistoric.

I had only read about most of these roses, so it was an enlightening experience to see (and smell them) in person. Although I could wax lyrical about dozens of beauties I saw, I was particularly taken by two bourbon roses, ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ and ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’.

'Zépherine Drouhin'

Bourbon roses are named for the Île Bourbon (now called Reunion) in the Indian Ocean where legends tell us they originated as the happy result of a natural cross between two native hedge bushes. The influence of the damask parent gave the blooms a delectable fragrance while the China ancestor contributed the tendency to rebloom.

Bourbons are among the most fragrant and versatile bushes in rosedom. Favorites include ‘Reine Victoria’, ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’, and ‘Honorine de Brabant’. Varieties like ‘Louise Odier’ are excellent choices for climbers, fences and pegging.

'Souvenir de la Malmaison'

In my Maryland garden, 'Zéphirine Drouhin' cascaded over an umbrella trellis while Souvenir soared 12’ up the side of my cottage. 'Zéphirine Drouhin' can tolerate partial shade and can be trained to “climb” up a tree.

A chilly wet rain often ruins many of 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'’s double-quartered blooms and 'Zéphirine Drouhin' can fall prey to blackspot. But I don’t let these drawbacks get me down, because I can’t imagine spring without either of them.

Which is why I say three cheers to the bourbons!

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