I’m aware that rose cultivars achieve something approaching immortality when small parts of the plant are passed from person to person down the generations, but it still seems amazing to think that Rosa ‘Queen Of Denmark’ has been around since 1816.
Its bicentenary came and went with less fanfare than that accorded a human queen, but the important thing is that people are quietly growing it around the world. You may know it as Rosa ‘Königin von Dänemark’.
It’s easy to see why this rose has lasted. It’s a classic. The medium sized blooms are full, flat and a touch on the scruffy side, adding a voluptuous quality. Did I mention the scent? It’s strong and rich, as Albas tend to be.
While the flowers are traditionally described as ‘quartered’, when fully open they typically have five or six sections that loop around a glimpse of stamens at the centre.
Albas can be dated back to the middle ages. Devotees of Old Roses (also called Heritage Roses or Antique Roses) have helped them weather the storms of fashion and outlast many thousands of new introductions, despite the clear preference of most gardeners for repeat flowering varieties. It makes sense that the Albas that have come down to us don’t need much fussing. They tolerate partial shade better than most roses.
The parts of Rosa ‘Queen of Denmark’ I like best are the sepals (the green bits that protect the bud). They are longer than the bud with ferny or feathery appendages, and curl out around it with a cheerful flick.
My pictures are from Whitehall Park, in Darwen, where volunteers care for a small rose garden tucked away where not everyone will find it. It has all the ingredients you’d want in a rose garden, including a good mix of shrubs, climbers and companion plants; structures to give height; and places to linger. The little garden’s character has a naturalness, a sense of wildness, helped along by the roses themselves, despite them having great pedigrees. It is a little on the shady side: Darwen’s blessings have rarely included abundant sunshine. A cream coloured variety grows there that produces several twisted green buds in the centre of each flower. I’ll perhaps share some pictures of that one later, but I warn you, it’s funny looking.