Top 10 starter roses

Are you new to old roses? Try our top 10  starter roses!

Repeat-flowering, fragrant, beautiful and largely disease-resistant, these have been recommended for the newcomer to old roses by David Stone, BEM, RHS Associate of Honour, former Head Gardener of the National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey with its specialist collection of old roses.

comte de chambord portland rose

1. ‘Comte de Chambord’

One of the very best of all roses for both strength and quality of fragrance. The flowers are rich pink and fully double and, as it belongs to the Portland group of roses, it repeat flowers very well. The Portlands usually have rather stiff upright growth, but 'Comte de Chambord' is a little more relaxed from this point of view. With its delicious fragrance it is important to plant it where the blooms can be accessed both easily and frequently.

Height: about 4ft/1.2m tall by about 3ft/1m across
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 5

2. ‘Jacques Cartier’ (sometimes called 'Marchesa Boccella')

This is arguably the best of all the Portland roses, which puts it amongst the best of all roses. The blooms are a pure, pale, rose pink and fully double, the very many petals arranged in a perfect rosette. The fragrance is strong and particularly delicious. Unlike many old roses, the growth is  stiff and upright and while it looks superb mixed up with other plants it can also be planted in more formal beds. It is very tough and reliable and repeat flowers well.

Height: 4ft/1.2m by 3ft/1m
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 5

3. ‘Rose de Rescht’

A very neat rose that has the classic characteristics of a Portland – upright growth with the flowers sitting above the foliage and good repeat flowering. The blooms are quite small, about 2.5”/6cm across and very double, the petals neatly arranged in a rosette formation. Like most other Portlands there is a strong and delicious fragrance, and it is generally very tough and reliable. It can make an excellent short, neat hedge.

Height: 3ft/1m by 2.5ft/.75m
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 5

4. 'Lady Hillingdon’

Most Tea roses have a certain look to them which Lady Hillingdon doesn’t quite share. It is, though, still very beautiful, and the flowers are a wonderful rich apricot colour. The fragrance is wonderfully rich too and actually smells like a freshly opened packet of China tea leaves, although sometimes very fruity too. The original 'Lady Hillingdon' is a bush rose but is rarely seen: this climbing form is rightly very popular. For a Tea it is relatively hardy and will grow and flower well on walls in the UK.

Height: 13ft/4m by 6ft/2m
Hardiness: RHS H4, USDA Zone 8

gruss an aachen

5. ‘Gruss an Aachen’

'Gruss an Aachen' is something of an anomaly in the history of roses, although that in no way detracts from its beauty or its garden worthiness. It was introduced in 1909, when Hybrid Teas were all the rage, but with its very full bloom it looks very much like a true old rose from the 19th century and before, or like one of David Austin’s English Roses that didn’t appear until the end of the 20th century. The colour varies hugely according to the climate - anything from cream through soft pink to an apricot blend. Lightly scented. It repeat flowers well and has attractive bushy growth that looks beautiful in a mixed border.

Height: 3ft/1m by 3ft/1m
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 6

6. ‘Pink Gruss an Aachen’ a.k.a. ‘Irene Watts’

This is not related to 'Gruss an Aachen' at all but does look like a rather more pink version of the latter and the two are in fact often confused. Both though are very pretty, their formation being very full and rosette shaped, although the overall effect is more modern looking like one of David Austin’s English Roses. It is generally classed as a China rose and perhaps has Tea rose in its background, which would explain its excellent repeat flowering properties. The blooms exhibit a great range of colours, although the overall effect is soft pink but with hints of cream, apricot and salmon appearing.

Height: about 3ft/1m by about the same across
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 7

7. ‘Little White Pet’

A rose with an interesting background. It is a result of a sport from the very vigorous and once flowering rambler 'Félicité et Perpétue', which resulted in a shrub only about 2ft/60cm tall by about the same across and which repeat flowers well. The flowers are perhaps slightly smaller than its parent (a little over an inch or 3cm) but otherwise identical, with very many tiny petals perfectly arranged in a rosette formation. The tight buds are bright crimson but open to pale pink quickly changing to cream and then pure white. A lovely rose for the front of the border.

Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 5

8. ‘Perle d’Or’

'Perle d’Or' is a classic polyantha with very small flowers, the buds in the form of a perfect Hybrid Tea bloom with a high pointed centre. While the open flowers are a soft apricot, they develop from rich vermilion buds and go on to become cream in colour before the petals drop. It forms a fairly open bush the young stems being red and has few prickles. The fragrance is sweet and fruity. Good repeat flowering.

Height: 3ft/1m by about the same although with light pruning and/or a warm climate it can get substantially bigger
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 6

9. Roseraie de l’Haÿe

Rosa rugosa and its hybrids are famed for their extreme toughness and health, and Roseraie de l’Haÿe certainly lives up to that reputation. It suffers from no disease (indeed sprays will scorch the leaves), is extremely winter hardy and can cope with poor soil conditions. The loosely double flowers are the richest purple and very strongly and deliciously fragrant. It repeat flowers well. Excellent choice for the back of the border or as a hedge where, with its very thorny stems, it can form an impenetrable barrier.

Height: 6ft/2m by about the same
Hardiness: RHS H6, USDA Zone 4

10. ‘Cécile Brunner’

The young flower has a high pointed centre and scrolling outer petals just like a perfectly formed Hybrid Tea except it is very small - only about 2”/5cm across when fully open. It is one of those varieties that once you know it, is immediately recognisable. It used to be called the sweetheart rose and was very often used for a buttonhole. The flowers start a coral pink in the centre and blush pink on the outside, then pale significantly with age, creating a lovely mix of shades. There is a lovely sweet, musky fragrance. It makes an open bush with very few thorns and repeat flowers very well.

Height: 3ft/1m by about the same across. 'Cecile Brunner' climbing is a sport from this: it is very vigorous and does not repeat flower
Hardiness: RHS H5, USDA Zone 6