Sue Adams has lived in SW France for 15 years and loves to see roses in a French garden. Turning her garden into a veritable haven of produce, colour and scents, she knows how to create and maintain beautiful, productive gardens, regardless of the season.
Rose shown above: Gertrude Jekyll
A French Favourite
The rose has a longer history than most other garden plants, with primitive forms of the varieties we know today existing millions of years ago. Many centuries ago they became an essential part of important Chinese gardens, spreading westwards until they arrived in Europe in the middle ages. Here in France the person who is perhaps most credited with bringing the rose to general popularity was Napoléon’s wife.
In 1799 Empress Joséphine bought Château Malmaison, which still exists and is about 15 km to the west of central Paris. She started to collect plants from around the world and, fairly soon, her passion became focused on roses, with Napoléon’s generals bringing her examples from wherever they had been waging their campaigns. Sadly, her collection was never fully catalogued but, by the time she died, she had amassed around 250 different varieties. At the time this was the biggest collection in the world, but today there are thousands of varieties and cultivars.
After her death, France became the center for rose breeding with many of today’s “old’ roses originating there. These include such wonderful types as Bourbons, Moss roses and Centifolias and historic named varieties such as Souvenir de Malmaison, Louise Odier, Gloire de Dijon, Cuisse de Nymphe (Maiden’s Blush), and even one called Chapeau de Napoléon. Apart from Joséphine’s enthusiasm, the rose has succeeded here because the conditions, especially those found in SW France, suit it well with lots of sunshine, some rain and warmth.
(Pictured left to right)
Ideal roses in a French garden: Malmaison, Louise Odier, The Mayflower
From April to Autumn
The selective breeding of the French experts and later work by people such as David Austin means that we can now have roses in flower from April through to the autumn months, with additional autumn interest via the colourful hips and thorns of some varieties. However, to ensure a continuous, marvellous display in July and August you need to follow some rules.
A stunning display for most of the year
Old-fashioned roses in a French garden
So, as July rolls into August, lie back on the sunbed and inhale the magnificent fragrance of your roses and then pick up the plant catalogue. Now is the perfect time to choose and order the bare rooted roses you are going to plant this coming winter.
Sue Adams founded the website French Properties Direct. You can see more of her gardening advice at www.thelocalbuzzmag.com/meet-the-bloggers and in our articles section.
First published in the July and August 2020 issue of The Local Buzz