My Favorite Rose

Lily Shohan


It has been said before that no matter how many new friends we make, old friends are especially cherished. When I'm asked for my favorite rose, the choice is always a very old friend, Celsiana.

A damask that was introduced before 1750, it is very much an old-style rose, a rich pink, semi-double, fragrant flower, born profusely on arch­ed canes. As the bush comes into bloom, the weight of the flowers bows down the branches which fountain over with tips touching the ground, overwhelmed by the long-stemmed clusters of four inch flowers.

These blossoms have a peculiar elegance as the whorled buds unfurl to petals slightly fluted but never untidy, with a crisp twirl reminiscent of a dancer's tutu. Usually a half-folded petal partially conceals the center ring of golden stamens, but removing that petal in the interest of neatness fatally mars the characteristic informality of the bloom.

The plant is very hardy, surviving temperatures below -25 F. without damage. To northern gardeners that means an abundance of bloom regardless of severe winters; this is one rose that never fails to bloom. The somewhat grayish foliage is disease resistant though it will blackspot. And, last but not least of its charms, it is an excellent cut-flower and if gathered in the bud will unfold indoors over a period of days. In fact, since it tends to fade in hot sun, the best flowers will be those cut and allowed to open inside.

To see it at its best, plant in well-drained soil with plenty of humus, choosing a sunny spot and fertilize heavily after the first year. Two pounds of 5-10-5 is not too much if rainfall is adequate and drainage is good. Prune out the dead wood and the older (three year old) canes and then let the plant grow naturally in its own graceful fashion.

It does not repeat. That may make its flowers more treasured in their season. It has been a favorite garden flower for 250 years so scarcely needs my recommendation. The testimony of eight generations of gardeners should be enough.

There is some question as to whether Cels was the hybridizer/grower or introduced it. In any case, he must have been a proud man when it bloomed for him the first time. It is a thrill we can all relive in our own gardens.


Lily Shohan's favorite, Celsiana. Photo courtesy of Pat Wiley of Roses of Yesterday and Today.


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Date last edited: 01/21/10
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