Albas

Belle Amour, Pompon Blanc Parfait, Blanche de Belgique

The “White roses” are clearly derived from Rosa canina, the European species known as the “Dog Rose.” With it they share smooth stems, lightly armed with fine prickles, a grayish bloom on leaves and new canes, a tall fountain habit of growth, and pale fragrant flowers ranging from white to mid-pink. The scent of the Albas is special; what Graham Thomas calls a “purity of scent” is a fresh “face powder” fragrance lacking in the rich heavy complexity of the Damask roses. In some varieties like Félicité Parmentier that fresh scent is intensified. Above all, the glaucous coloring of Alba foliage makes them useful today as a contrast to other greens in the mixed border, and their exceptional disease resistance recommends them to all gardeners.

Habit

The Alba is typically a tall arching grower, narrow below, rather like a green umbrella, and reaching 6′ to 8′ tall, with lightly armed canes. Three versions of the habits of Alba growth (left to right, above) give us a sampling.

  • (E.g., Alba Semi-plena) The archetype as described above. 
  • (E.g., Maiden’s Blush) A broader, heavier-caned and thornier, arching plant, often broader than tall.
  • (E.g., Chloris) A few Albas of more mixed parentage with more upright growth, much less arching and spreading, very smooth stemmed.

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