All roses are subject to fashion. This article chronicles a family of roses developed in the twentieth century that enjoyed huge popularity, but then fell from favour, for no other reason than the arrival of a new rose fashion, the floribunda.
Many of us grow Buff Beauty, some recognise Ballerina and Penelope, but few appreciate the breadth and beauty of this hardy healthy family of shrub roses. Fear not, by the time you've finished, you'll better understand the enduring beauty of a family of roses that deserves your attention.
The Heritage Rose police will doubtless take me to task for applauding roses from this century. Nonsense ! Age does not confer greatness, nor are all modern roses to be sneered at. Equally we should resist the temptation to eulogise David Austin's expanding family at the expense of all other interesting roses.
The name is confusing. We know the Musk rose which descends from R. Moschata as a huge summer-flowering family coming from the Middle-East several centuries ago. Vigorous climbers, mostly with wicked thorns, the Musk Hybrids we know today include The Garland, Paul's Himalayan Musk, Moschata floribunda and the Persian Musk Rose, Moschata nastarana.
Hybrid Musks should not be confused with these monsters.
The family is the product of an Englishman Rev. Pemberton who devoted twelve years of his retirement to the breeding and growing of roses. His early interest, encouraged by his sister, was growing and showing roses. He was one of the early members of the National Rose Society. Jack Harkness writes 'He served the rose and the National Rose Society with unusual flair and vigour'. His book Roses, their History, Development and Cultivation' published early this century, before his retirement became a standard work. When he died in 1926, his gardeners, the Bentalls carried on his work, releasing further examples of the family. Ballerina & Buff Beauty were their most important introductions. They undoubtedly owed much to Pemberton's work. In 1932, Ann Bentall released The Fairy, which remains popular today. Mention should also be made of Kordes in Germany, Thomas in California and latterly Beales in England for the production of further derivatives.
Many early Hybrid Musks have Trier as a parent, an interesting shrub produced by Lambert in 1901. Named after the German town, it was a seedling of the Multiflora/Noisette hybrid Aglaia, and was the first recurrent shrub rose. Trier is a tallish shrub bearing clusters of small dainty creamy-apricot blooms, with good fragrance and repeat-flowering. Pemberton must have seen something desirable in Trier, using it for his early releases. It occupies a special place in our garden, both for its style and class, as well as its historical significance. Its style exemplifies much of the Hybrid Musk family.
Some say that its fragrance is of musk, which would have been inherited from the links to Moschata via Noisette and Multiflora parentage. Certainly many Hybrid Musks have relatively thornless wood that is reminiscent of these families. Equally certainly, the links to moschata are tenuous.
Today there are over 30 Hybrid Musks commercially available in New Zealand, with new members occasionally extending the family. We grow 28 and like obsessive collectors, we seek to complete the collection. Where to put them becomes a problem in a garden approaching its limits.
Hybrid Musks produce blooms in very large clusters, are fragrant and recurrent. It is said that dead-heading will stimulate remontancy, but left alone you can still expect them to flower from spring to autumn. Many produce hips, generally quite dainty. Some will climb if given the chance, most will grow to 1.5 metres if you let them.
They are not out of place anywhere in the garden. As shrub-climbers they provide cheerful background colour, especially with their healthy foliage. As shrubs they look good in a mixed border; as specimens they stand alone well, while they grow well as free-standing hedges. They fill the colour spectrum from soft pastels to startling vibrant scarlets. These are the Hybrid Musks we grow (in order of introduction) * rating is my subjective opinion.