CLIMBING ROSE SPREADS ITS SCENT FOR 150 YEARS
GRUMBLING about growing roses is usually down to those thorny stems – some wickedly so. Very few varieties are totally prickle-free and a small number are semi-barbed, with a scattering of thorns along the shoots.
But there is one A-lister, smooth-stemmed climber that’s been a popular choice since 1868 . . . yes, eighteen-sixty-eight, when a French breeder called Bizot first introduced it to the public domain.
And that means it celebrates its 150th birthday this year.
Its name: Zéphirine Drouhin, a bourbon climber in a coat of almost iridescent cerise-pink, semi-double flowers that are among the most deliciously scented of any.
It also enjoys prolific flower production – a torrent of them from early summer to autumn, and often later, on a frame that will reach a modest 8ft-10ft.
The oldest horticultural book in my personal collection, Present Day Gardening, published in 1911, hails Zéphirine Drouhin as “one of the most fragrant and charming of garden roses in existence; one, too, which has the great merit of being able to set at naught (sic) the old proverb ‘Every rose has its thorn’.”
⏩⏩➡»It’s on the label: A cluster of beautiful pink blooms of Zéphirine Drouhin, a veteran from 150 years ago.
Well, you can’t argue with that level of praise. Old Zéphirine has gone on and on through the decades and is still listed by virtually all nurseries and viewed, pot-grown, in every garden centre.
Indeed, I would rate is as renowned as Peace from 1942, though – for reasons which baffle me – this golden oldie doesn’t trip off the tongue and is on fewer must-have lists compared with the lakes of Peace, Iceberg, Compassion and many others. Maybe it’s all about that name!
Still, if this deadpan colour bothers you, there’s always its sport, Kathleen Harrop, to consider. This shell-pink mutation didn’t make its commercial bow until 1919, courtesy of Dicksons of Northern Ireland.
It is slightly less vigorous than its parent, but also boasts a thorn-free livery and a constant flow of highly fragrant flowers.
Zéphirine Drouhin, especially, will make a fine informal hedge, as well as being an excellent choice for a north-facing wall. There is no bush version of this enduring climber.
■ Visit your local garden centre for pot-grown Zéphirine Drouhin or Kathleen Harrop. For a cheaper option choose a bare-rooted plant for positioning any time up to March. Handley Rose Nurseries, near Sheffield (www.handleyrosenurseries.co.uk/01246 432921) stocks Zéphirine at an attractive £7.50. You can order this variety at £14.75, as well as Kathleen Harrop (£14.75) and another, lesser-known sport Martha that’s pink with yellow base (£15.50) from Peter Beales of Norfolk (http://www.classicroses.co.uk/0195s3 454707).