Souvenir de la Malmaison would undoubtedly be one of the world’s most famous old garden roses. The delicate soft pink flowers are fully double and possess the most delightful sweet fragrance. In Australia it grows a neat compact plant making it ideal for virtually any rose garden.

The rose is classified as part of the Bourbon family of roses yet recently a loyal customer provided me with some information which has me now questioning if in fact this may be correct.

As a grower of many roses, and always trying to learn more about growing in different climatic regions, I recently asked Frank in north Queensland about his Francis Dubrieuil and how it grew in tropical conditions. He stated Teas are one of the best old roses to grow in his climate. A casual comment also was made where he felt Souvenir de la Malmaison does not seem to be a Bourbon as Bourbons just do not grow well in his region. He believed this variety must have considerable Tea genes in it to perform so well in his climate.

Records show Souvenir de la Malmaison is listed as parentage Mme Desprez (bourbon) crossed with unknown Tea, possibly Devoniensis. Having possibly Devoniensis a Tea rose, in its breeding could account for its ability to grow in the tropics however the thought of Souvenir de la Malmaison possibly being a Tea got me thinking.

Consulting Dickson’s ‘The Old Rose Adviser’ the description of Souvenir de la Malmaison had these  points.

  • In 1840 Monsieur Beluze Sr. sowed the seeds which produced this splendid rose.
  • 1842 the breeder affirmed that he had produced the rose which was out of the ordinary.
  • Monsieur Plantier declared that this was one of the most fortunate obtentions – the question to be resolved which variety produced the seeds.
  • Over and again the Societe d’Horticulture Pratique du Rhone hoped to resolve the question.
  • The Societe determined the Bourbon Mme Desprez produced the seeds for Malmaison as seeds collected and sown were mostly collected from Mme Desprez and it looked more Bourbon.

Could this admission that seeds were collected also from the other rose mean it may possibly be a Devoniensis (possibly) crossed with Mme Desprez cross which would mean it is in fact a Tea?

This is speculation but based on the Queensland growth factor should this be something more to be looked into?

In researching one major point has stood out as interesting regarding Souvenir de la Malmaison. Its ability to create new roses through ‘sporting’ while very few others in the Bourbon class have done so. Just look at all roses in this group and something is very strange.

  • Reine Victoria sported to Mme Pierre Oger
  • Mme Isaac Periere sported to Mme Ernst Calvat.
  • Souvenir de la Malmaison has sported Kronprinzessin Viktoria, Mme Cornelissen, Mlle Berthe Clavel, Mlle Marie Therese de la Devansaye, Malmaison Rouge, Capitaine Dyel de Graville, Souvenir de St Anne as well as to a Climbing form.

When looking at other Bourbons no others have sported climbers except Zephirine Drouhin which has made Kathleen Harrop and Martha. However I have serious reservations whether Zephirine Drouhin could also be classified a Bourbon, especially when it just doesn’t fit in with all the others, and parentage lists breeding as ‘unknown’. How could in over 100 years, all over the world, with tens of thousands of bushes in existence a climbing sport has never been found on any other Bourbon? Except Souvenir de la Malmaison.

In the Teas we see an incredible amount of natural mutation with nine bushes sporting to other cultivars and more importantly twelve bushes have sported to a climbing version.

Considerable study of the growth of Malmaison sees a lot of similarity in leaves and thorns of the climbing version to that of some of the Tea climbers.

I feel the observation in Queensland together with documented evidence of the possible wrong seed parent, and now the genetic inability for Bourbon’s to sport into climbers sees some serious questions needing to be answered.

I hope this information may see some of the rose sleuths around consider this as a project to tackle to see if Souvenir de la Malmaison may possibly actually be a Tea rose.


Created   11/9/2020