|'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain'|
One new rose that I already like very much is 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain', an 1865 Hybrid Perpetual bred by Francois Lacharme. My own-root specimen was planted in the Summer of 2012 and at its first birthday it stands three feet tall on several canes, with healthy dark green foliage and no blackspot yet, although it is too early for me to really judge the disease resistance of this rose. The BLOOMS are the strongest reason, if you need one, to grow this rose. The canes are covered with these very double-formed and very dark red or wine-red colored blooms that are fairly large, perhaps four-inches in diameter, but yet the canes are stiff enough to keep the whole bush upright in the Kansas wind. No slouching for Dr. Jamain! Blooms are incredibly fragrant too, with odiferousness on a par with the fragrance of the best Bourbon roses, as one would expect from a seedling of 'General Jacqueminot' and 'Charles Lefebvre'. I've been extremely pleased that every day since the first blooms, I've taken a picture of it, each day thinking the bush could not possibly sprout more blooms, and each day it is yet more covered. The good Docteur is supposed to be remonant in flushes, but I don't know how often I'll see repeat bloom, since it didn't bloom at all last year. 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain' does have a few thorns in defiance of references that say it is "nearly thornless," and I'm told that my 3 foot rose will eventually be difficult to keep under 7 feet tall, which may cause some problems in the Kansas tornadic wind storms. The bloom color darkens with age, becoming more violet, like arterial blood fading to venous over time. In that, I suppose, it mirrors life and death, vitality and senility all on one plant. Several sources state that this rose may burn in hot sunshine and I'm waiting to see if that will be the case in the Kansas sun. So far, I've seen only deep purple, not brown from this rose.
A number of references attributed the revival of this rose to the infamous 'Vita Sackville-West', who reportedly discovered it growing in Hollamby's Nurseries (as named by Graham Thomas) and distributed it. If that was indeed the case, then Vita, a pioneer in so many aspects of gardening, is also one of the earliest documented Rose Rustlers. In the end, I expect to agree with Peter Beales, who, noting the problem of sunburn on the petals, nonetheless said "At its best it is of rare beauty and even at its worst can still be enjoyed." I'm going to keep enjoying it as long as the bloom and the fragrance grace my garden.