It is with more than a little surprise that a recent post on GardenWeb.com reminded me that I've never blogged about one of my favorite Old Garden Roses, the Gallica 'Duchesse de Montebello'. The sheer delinquency of my neglect bothers me deeply and is a worrisome sign of my aging.
'Duchesse de Montebello' was bred by Jean Laffay in 1824, and is variously referred to as a Hybrid China or a Hybrid Gallica. Whatever her breeding, this etheral, exquisite, once-blooming pink double rose is one of the upper hoi oligoi, a regal lady of the rose world, comfortable associating in snooty company such as the beautiful 'Madame Hardy'. She is, in simpler modern terms, a Supermodel of the rose world. She opens from rounded buds into a quartered and sometimes cupped form that usually has a greenish-white pip at the center. Her hue in my garden seems to depend on the temperature, with deeper pinks seen in cold weather as evidenced by the difference in the blooms pictured on this page. 'Duchesse de Montebello has a strong sweet fragrance and has a minimally thorny nature. Her overall form, both flower and the vase-shaped bush, is delicate, but she is very hardy in my 6A climate (the Swedish Rose society recommends her for Sweden!) and she is free of blackspot and mildew without spraying.
At maturity in my garden, 'Duchesse de Montebello' stands 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide this year. She did get up to 6 feet previously, but I severely pruned her two years back and she has behaved herself since. I will tell you that I've noticed some tendency to roam as she has aged, recently finding a couple of nearby-suckered daughters growing at her feet like illegitimate offspring from a seven-year-itch inspired dalliance. I have not reprimanded her for her promiscuity, but merely transplanted the daughters across the garden, spreading the wealth, as it were.
'Duchesse de Montebello' is so good that she has been used in the breeding programs of several rosarians, among which are David Austin and Paul Barden. I have previously written that Paul Barden has mated her with 'St Swithins' to breed 'Allegra' and 'Abraham Darby' to breed 'Marianne'. Paul Barden writes that her ability to pass on genes that result in remonant offspring suggests that she is, in fact, a result of a Gallica cross with China or Noisette blood, as some have suggested. Whatever her heritage, this is a rose I can recommend to anyone who looks to add a classic Old Garden Rose to their gardens.