Garden Journal

Madame Isaac Pereire roses most fragrant of all

May 8, 2013

Roses are simply vehicles to carry fragrance. Always looking for the biggest, gardeners have been drawn to a rose with perhaps the strongest, richest perfume on Earth.

In the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, is the French island of Reunion, formerly known as the Isle of Bourbon. Hedges of roses ring the island and here there was a chance cross between the Autumn Damask rose and the Old Blush China rose. The resulting Bourbon Island roses were introduced in France in 1823 and known for repeat flowering on vigorous, often semi-climbing shrubs with glossy foliage and purple stems. Bourbon roses are among the most fragrant roses on Earth, and one, Madame Isaac Pereire rose, is perhaps the most fragrant rose around.

Introduced in 1881, she was named after the wife of a French banker. The blooms of Madame Isaac Pereire are big and hefty, with fat, cabbage-shaped blossoms of deep rose madder.

The scent is rich like fully ripened fruit. The petals are quartered in the center. These heavy flowers start as small, rounded buds that open to a deep, smoky red. It will be in full bloom in June and July with a scattering of bloom throughout the entire season. This is a large shrub, about five feet wide and tall, with a rather open growth habit and huge leaves. You can also train this as a climbing rose. Because the rose canes are lax they can be trained into a small climber or heaped into a pyramid.

You can peg this rose for more blooms. Simply pin or peg the long canes to the ground, and the rose will bloom all along the canes.

Choose a spot with at least a few hours of sun each day away from the roots of trees or shrubs.

If your yard is hot in summer, choose a site with a little shade from the harsh afternoon sun.

A nice effect with any shrub rose is planting them in close groups of three of the same variety

They will grow together as one large, dense shrub. Plant three roses just 18 inches apart in a triangle. Or try a blooming hedge and again space your roses about 18 inches apart for best effect.

Even though roses will grow in a wide range of soils, start by adding a generous quantity of well rotted manure compost before planting. Ask for it by name at your local nursery or by mail from companies such as David Austin roses and High Country Roses.

Never let the roots dry out at any time before planting. If the bush is bare root, soak the entire plant under water overnight. Plant the rose bush so that the base of the canes, or bud union, is just four inches below ground level in cold winter areas and at ground level where winters are mild. Ideal soil pH is 6.5. Water your roses well after planting and pile a small hill around the base of the canes with about six inches of compost, soil or mulch.

Roses need lots of water, so depending upon the weather, water deeply at least once a week.

Like all repeat flowering varieties, Madame Isaac Pereire roses need a lot of nutrients during the growing season. Slow-release rose food or organic fertilizers dug into the soil are best.

Mulching with organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings and compost helps conserve water, keeps the roots cool and the decaying mulch feeds microorganisms and worms in the soil.

The best defense against disease and pests is to grow your Madame Isaac Pereire rose as healthy and strong as possible.

Plant a Madame Isaac Pereire rose and you will have the most fragrant rose on Earth.

When the scent wafts up you will be transported to a small dreamy island in the Indian Ocean where romance abounds, so that even roses on a hedge fall in love.

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