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Souvenir d'un Ami

Souvenir d’un Ami
Rose of the Month For April, 2008
by Barbara Picarelli

I was stumped about what rose to feature this month, not because I have a mental block (that too) but because there’re so MANY to choose from. I went back to the list on our website and debated. ‘Souvenir d’un Ami’ is another rose I ordered from Sequoia Nursery before it closed its doors forever. I think the idea of it being intensely fragrant was the clincher.

This rose is listed as a Tea rose—not to be confused with a hybrid tea. Tea roses were popular garden roses in Europe during the later part of the 19th century, however, many have now become extinct. They are not very cold hardy so growing them in the eastern and northern states requires a lot of protection. Tea roses were considered something of a status symbol, and were mostly grown in Conservatories, (especially in England), a glorified version of our greenhouses. Many of our old Tea roses were also crossed with Chinas, Noisettes and even Bourbons, which greatly confused the issue. Gerd Krussman states in his book, The Common Book of Roses, that while close relatives of Chinas, the blooms are larger, more fragrant and semi to fully double, while the colors can vary from yellow to apricot, white and pink to a very bright red.

The first Tea rose was sent to England in 1808 by the East India Company, from a nursery in Canton, China, to Sir Abraham Hume who named it “Hume’s Blush.” The rose did not arrive until 1810 so it must have been well cared for en route. Between 1821 and 1830, no fewer than 27 Tea roses were hybridized by the French. From this time forward the development of the Tea rose began in earnest and did not stop until the advent of the hybrid tea roses. Tea roses are best just lightly pruned if at all, and then only after they bloom.

‘Souvenir d’un Ami’ dates to 1846, hybridized by a Mr. Belot-Defougere. Its color can vary from pink to salmon color. Foliage is a deep green and the bush is very vigorous and grows quite tall, listed up to 8 feet by 4 feet wide. (Apparently one of the items I did not check before ordering!) Some books state this rose is good for a potted plant but I suspect that this is in the frozen north where it would not grow so large! What is especially notable is the intense fragrance of its cupped double blooms which are recurrent. This rose was one of the best loved in Victorian England because of its ease of cultivation. The name means in “remembrance of a friend.”

Image of Souvenir d'un Ami from the Beauties of the Rose by Henry Curtis 1850-1853 .

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