Rose of the World; th’ embroidered Tuscany;
The scented Cabbage, and the Damacene;
Sweet Briar, lovelier name the eglantine;
But above all the Musk
With classic names, Thisbe, Penelope,
Whose nectarous load grows heavier with the dusk
And like a grape too sweetly muscadine.
-V Sackville-West, The Garden, 1946
I couldn’t agree more with the noted gardener Vita Sackville-West. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite types of roses, the hybrid musks. This group of roses has been around for a long time but aren’t as well known as they should be. You may be familiar with well known varieties like Ballerina and Penelope, but may not appreciate the breadth and beauty of this hardy, healthy family of shrub roses.
While many hybrid musks are delicate in appearance, don’t let them fool you – they are tough roses. They produce lots of blooms under less than ideal soil conditions, temperatures and limited sun. They make wonderful landscape plants with their arching branches that cascade gracefully. They produce abundant blooms throughout the season in a wide range of colors from delicate pinks, yellows and apricots to vibrant reds. Best of all, many are very fragrant and fairly resistant to disease.
Hybrid musk roses are generally attributed to those created by Englishman Rev. Joseph Pemberton and his gardeners, the Bentalls. Many of the best of his roses has Trier as one of their parents, and Trier has a tenuous link to the Musk Rose, R. moschata. Subsequently, many others have developed roses that they describe as hybrid musks. The Vintage Gardens website has an apt description of this group of roses – “what binds the Hybrid Musk group together is its shrub-rose nature. These roses are best grown freely, without pruning, allowing their natural grace to develop. They are mostly fragrant, bearing subtly colored smallish flowers in clusters, often very large clusters, especially in the fall. Healthy, lustrous foliage is a hallmark of the Hybrid Musks and several varieties can be pushed quite far with shade tolerance. ….. [they] require little pruning, and thus little familiarity with rose culture, suit people who want the showy beauty of roses without the upkeep. They are mostly hardy to about 15 degrees F.”
Regardless of where they come from, they are indeed incredible roses that are consistent performers. Here is a sampling of some favorites:
Autumn Delight (ARS 7.1) 1933; soft semi-double buff-yellow extremely fragrant blooms with prominent red stamens on an upright thornless shrub. Dark green foliage.
Ballerina (ARS 8.7) 1937; outstanding and versatile shrub/climber. Huge sprays of clear pink single blooms Glossy foliage. Very tough and disease-free.
Bloomfield Dainty (ARS 6.7) 1924; long pointed orange buds open to soft lemon single blooms. One of the most interesting. Shorter-growing, deserves attention.
Buff Beauty (ARS 8.2) 1937; outstanding foliage, trusses of strongly-scented buff-apricot double blooms. Can be persuaded to climb, but will grow happily as a shrub.
Erfurt (ARS 8.5) 1931; one of the very best. Larger semi-double rose-carmine blooms on a super healthy plant.. Wonderfully fragrant and long-flowering.
Felicia (ARS 8.5) 1928; outstanding large shrub. Rich pink blooms with salmon shadings and great fragrance. Tough and reliable.
Kathleen (ARS 8.7) 1922; lovely single blush-pink to cream colored fragrant flowers in large clusters. Extremely healthy, dark green leathery foliage.
Lavender Lassie (ARS 8.1) 1960; lilac-pink blooms, medium-sized and rosette-shaped in loose trusses on a versatile tall spreading shrub. Moderately fragrant. Vigorous and healthy.
Lyda Rose (ARS 8.9) 1994; graceful shrub covered with expanding panicles of single white fragrant blooms with a rose pink outline. Charming ‘wild rose’ character. Very disease resistant.
Moonlight (ARS 8.3) 1913; classic white rose with wonderful foliage. Creamy- white fragrant blooms make a great display. The contrast of the pure white blooms in big clusters contrasts well with the healthy dark green foliage and the dark brown-red wood.
Nymphenburg (ARS 8.5) 1954; salmon pink shaded orange semi-double large fragrant blooms in clusters. Upright growth.
Penelope (ARS 8.8) 1924; large semi-double creamy-pink blooms are nicely fragrant. Prominent stamens, excellent healthy foliage.
Sadlers Wells (ARS not rated) 1983; big deep pink ruffled single blooms with a silvery reverse, paler at the centre. Nice dark foliage, blooms are weather-resistant.