Rosa gallica, the French red rose, has had much to do with the ancestry of our modern garden. In the 18th century the gallicas were used in breeding by the Dutch and later by the French, and its many offspring became very popular in the 19th century as garden plants.
‘Belle de Crecy’, 1.2 m (4 ft). An untidy shrub which is almost thorn- less. Theare rich pink in the opening stage, maturing to soft violet. Regarded highly by some, its habit does not appeal to others. Good cultivation to prevent drying out is especially helpful with this variety.
‘Camaieux’, 1 m (3 ft). A short shrub with unique appeal: on opening, the bluish-white petals are liberally striped and splashed with light crimson, flushing to violet purple, and eventually fading to violet grey. Sage green leaves help to make this one of the most distinctive of the old striped roses.
‘Cardinal de Richelieu’, 1.2 m (4 ft) or more. Of medium vigour and few thorns. Very free flowering, with its blooms opening as a sumptuous purple, then fading to Parma violet. The ball-like flowers as they reflex assume colours akin to those of black grapes. Must be grown well and fed generously, and much of the old flowering wood must be pruned away.
‘Charles de Mills’, 1.5 m (5 ft). One of the best gallicas for general garden purposes, it has large, flat, quartered blooms which are very full and sweetly scented. Colouring is opulent crimson-purple through maroon to wine shades.
‘Complicata’. Although of unknown origin, this variety is sometimes grouped with the gallica roses. Will attain 2.4 m (8 ft) if given the support of a small tree (I have done this in my own garden). The large, single, pink flowers with a white centre are like those of a deeper-coloured and enlarged dog rose (R. canina), which may claim a share in its ancestry. Good on light soils and easily rooted from cuttings. Where space is available this is one of the finest of single roses and a first-class garden plant.
‘Duchesse de Montebello’, 1.5 m (5 ft) when given good cultivation. Produces sprays 1 m (3 ft) long of small cup-shaped shell-pink flowers which are good for cutting. Early flowering and almost thornless, it probably derives part of its ancestry from the albas.
‘Jenny Duval’, 1.1 m (3 ft). A shrub of medium vigour with blooms of spectacular colours — cerise, magenta, and violet in the centre, shading to lilac white. Very shapely buds. Exquisite at all stages.
Rosa gallica officinalis, 1.2 m (4 ft).
The Apothecary’s Rose, generally considered to be the red rose of the House of Lancaster. A shrub of medium vigour, it is inclined to sucker (develop underground basal shoots) if on its own roots, growing into small thickets. The semi-double flowers arc light crimson with yellow stamens. A good garden shrub, and one of the oldest in cultivation.
‘Tuscany’, 1.2 m (4 ft). Known also as ‘Old Velvet’ owing to the texture of its petals, this is a plant of bushy growth which suckers in light soils if on its own roots. The semi-double flowers are rich crimson-maroon with hints of purple offset by yellow stamens.
‘Tuscany Superb’. Possibly a sport from ‘Tuscany’, it is more sumptuous than the latter, with larger, fuller flowers that tend to conceal the attractive stamens.
‘Versicolor’. A sport from R. gallica officinalis, it was first recorded in the 16th century and is often found in old gardens; known also as the ‘Rosa Mundi’, it is often confused with the York and Lancaster ‘Versicolor’. The flowers are striped pale pink and white, very gaudy in appearance. It makes a spectacular low hedge. Sometimes susceptible toin autumn.