Strictly speaking, this is a group of about two dozen roses raised in England by the Reverend Joseph Pemberton and his successors in breeding, Jack and Anne Bentall. These were slightly preceded by a group of hybrids raised by Peter Lambert in Germany about the turn of the century. The Lambertianas share a similar parentage with the Hybrid Musks, and are largely included with them, although classed variously as Polyanthas, Ramblers, Large-Flowered Climbers, etc.
Aglaia, a parent of the Lambertianas, was the result of a Tea-Noisette, Rêve d’Or, crossed with Rosa multiflora. Because of the Rosa moschata in this Tea-Noisette’s ancestry, a tenuous link to the Musk roses is held by this class. Their sweet and fruity scents are attributable more to the nearer parentage of the strongly fragrant Rosa multiflora and perhaps the Tea rose influence in Rêve d’Or. More recently in this century, roses sharing similar ancestry or a similar look to the Hybrid Musks have been added.
We have moved into this class some cultivars by Lambert and others previously placed in modern shrubs. The Hybrid Musk group has grown over the past decade with introductions by Louis Lens and other Europeans with an eye for the charm of this group. Many of the roses described here are Polyanthas of large, spreading habit, too large to be considered “Dwarf Polyanthas.”
What binds this group together is its shrubby nature. These varieties are best grown freely, without pruning, allowing their naturally graceful growth to develop. Most of them are 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. Most adapt beautifully to training as pillars or climbers. They are mostly hardy to about 15°F.
In designing gardens, I have found Hybrid Musks irreplaceable. Roses that require little pruning, and thus little familiarity with rose culture, suit people who want the showy beauty of roses without the upkeep.