Not complicated or fragile. Hardy and enduring. Well, in a word, sensible. Thomas C. Cooper writes: “the rose ‘Betty Prior’ is rumored to be the favorite of the Queen of England, and if this is true, I imagine the appeal for her is similar to that of another English institution for which she has a well-documented affection – the sensible shoe.”
Now that kind of comparison grabs your attention, for it’s not what one normally reads in a rose catalog. And yet it is the perfect way to describe’ Betty Prior’; a long blooming season, indifferent to pests and contrary weather, with a flower introduced in 1935, ‘Betty Prior’ was one of the first floribundas to be recognized by The National Rose Society of Great Britain with a gold metal award. ‘Kirsten Poulsen’ and an unknown seeding are the parents of this compact (height and spread of three feet each) rose. The flowers first open in profuse clusters of deep pink, which fade with age to an almost ghostly white. Cooper further describes the bloom as “delicate singles…. the effect more of small banks of pink clouds settling about the bush.”
We now have three ‘Betty Prior’s’ in our garden. The first we planted and have enjoyed for over ten years. Last year we added two more. These three bushes give our garden color all season long. It’s also a fabulous rose for flower-arranging. There are always blooms to cut. The canes are light and the flowers well-spaced. And someone always asks; “What’s the name of that pretty and unusual rose?” I guess everything must have some fault, and ‘Betty Prior’s’ might be a lack of fragrance.
The American Rose Society gives ‘Betty Prior’ a solid 8.2 rating and she’s had loyal followers now for almost seventy years. At that age she has learned to let the newcomers depend on dazzle and glitter. ‘Betty Prior’ emphasizes her other attributes and can hold her own in any crowd. Makes sense.
By Gary Scales
Edited for the website by N Londeree, October 2021