This small but important Group of Roses have a rather confused and muddy ancestry. For many years Portland Roses were considered to be an ancient chance cross between Rosa chinensis semperflorens (Slater's Crimson China) and Rosa damascena bifera. Respected Rosarian Peter Beales wrote in his definitive work "Classic Roses":- I am of the opinion that no China Rose was in any way involved in this scattering of pollen. Not surprisingly Peter has been proved right as DNA tests have shown that the Portland Roses have no Chinese Ancestry and in fact inherit their good looks, fine fragrance and remontant habit from the Damask and Gallica.
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Rosa portlandica AKA as Rosa paestana and "Duchess of Portland" arrived in England around 1780 or so and was first listed in a Nursery Catalogue in 1782. The Nursery in question was most likely to be Lee and Kennedy of Hammersmith, London who were instrumental in introducing many new plants to the acquisitive horticulturists of the era. Not only did they import the first China Rose in 1787 and the first Fuchsia in 1788, in 1818 they also introduced Roses grown on standards, an idea they pinched from the French. Sacre bleu! Lee and Kennedy were suppliers to the Empress Josephine"s garden at Malmaison and were given special dispensation to continue to supply Josephine's garden despite the Napoleonic Wars. The Portland Rose is said to be named after the II Duchess of Portland a passionate collector and keen botanist. During the 1800's Portland Roses were bred intensively in France being highly valued for their brightness of bloom. Despite their desirability and importance in rose history eventually Portland Roses were out-classed by their own off-spring, the upstarts we know as the Hybrid Perpetual Group. Luckily we can still show them the respect they deserve and plant such beauties as "Jacques Cartier" and "Comte Chambord" in our gardens today.
Characteristics of Portland Roses
- Tidy and compact habit
- Short stems
- Deep red or pink blooms that are very double
- Prefer rich soil
- Prefer Winter pruning
- Remontant i.e. flower more than once a year usually summer and again in autumn