Moss Roses

By Miriam Wilkins (Lecturer and Active Member of Master Gardeners), El Cerrito, California

Fifteen years ago Miriam Wilkins founded the Heritage Rose movement, which has now spread to England, France, Australia, and New Zealand. She is renowned for her knowledge of roses and her work to make the old roses popular. Her garden in El Cerrito, on San Francisco Bay in California, has been visited by about every famous rosarian in the world. Now seventy-five, she lectures frequently, writes a semi-annual Roser’s Digest and travels, visiting rose gardens of the world. She most recently visited rose gardens in France and Germany with special interest in the largest rose collection in the world at Sangerhausen.

The mosses are the most romantic of all classes. Victorian gentlemen thought so and sent their loves greeting cards imprinted with these extravagantly fringed roses. If your plants are not producing equally beautiful blossoms, perhaps you have not met the simple requirements. Do not crowd the bushes, for they do need good air circulation.

The first mosses sported on centifolias. Later, hybridizers crossed them with damask varieties hoping to achieve repeat bloom. Not all damask mosses will rebloom after the initial period. Your catalogs will tell you which do. Centifolia moss is soft to the touch, damask moss, stiff.
Start with the loveliest of all, Rosa centifolia muscosa, the ‘Common Moss’ or ‘Old Pink Moss’. You will have a typical cabbage shape framed by the mossy cabbage sepals. ‘General Kleber’ comes the closest to it. For a repeat pink try ‘Salet’ or ‘Soupert et Notting’ but they will not equal the original charmer.

If you desire a cheery accent, ‘Henri Martin’ can’t be outdone, a bright red, fairly double bloom on a bush that can go to eight feet or more. On his own roots, he is definitely a traveling man, so give him space. Once established, this rose is not easy to prune, but doesn’t suffer if neglected.
The more contained mosses, if repeat blooming, may be pruned during dormant season, as you’d prune hybrid teas. Rose show judges will be impressed by the larger blooms. Perhaps the loveliest roses result from this treatment. Cut back the once-bloomers right after they bloom in summer. Take off straggly growth and shape to suit yourself, some preferring balanced bushes and a neat effect. One of the most deeply toned is ‘Nuits de Young’, a dark red-purple, classy. ‘William Lobb’ is lighter, purple-lavender and vigorous. I enjoy ‘Goethe’, two-inch red, single roses in clusters. This bush may reach five feet.

I can’t grow ‘Deuil de Paul Fontaine’ which probably needs a hotter climate. When its happy, it is gorgeous - purple red and repeat blooming. Other repeaters are: ‘Alfred de Dalmas’, blush; medium-red ‘Eugenie Guinnoisseau’; deep-red ‘Mine de la Roche Lambert’; pink ‘Salet’; the ‘Perpetual White Moss’ which blooms in mossy clusters.

Everyone knows and grows Rosa centifolia cristata, ‘Crested Moss’ or ‘Napolean’s Hat’. The intricately folded sepals form a three-cornered effect and enhance the cabbage style rose of deep pink. If you order ‘Gloire des Mousseux’ from the U.S., you will have a pink rose with an unusually large hypanthium and good mossing. If you order it from abroad, you will receive a rose similar to ‘Mine Louis Leveque’ except that it won’t mildew.

Our ‘Mine Louis Leveque’, if well grown, is a delight, excellent in arrangements, indeed the focal point. ‘The Striped Moss’ is not large, but sweet. ‘Muscosa Japonica’, the Japanese moss, has unique velvety mossing, a somewhat awkward look to the stem and bloom. You couldn’t be disappointed in ‘Comtesse de Murinais’, ‘Duchess de Verneuil’, ‘Jeanne de Montfort’, ‘Marie de Blois’, or ‘Marechal Davoust’.

Peruse the moss section and add some to your order. They will lend enchantment to your garden.