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Alba Roses
[From The Rose Garden (Tenth Edition), by William Paul, p. 253:] The Alba or White Rose... although forming but a small group, the extreme delicacy and surpassing beauty of the flowers, which are chiefly of white, blush, flesh, and pink hues, make them a highly popular one... The upper surface of the leaves of the true Alba has a whitish appearance, beneath which is shown an intense green... The Alba Rose ranges over the middle of Europe and was introduced in 1597.


[From Gardening with Old Roses, p. 24:] Another ancient group, the Albas, emerged as a cross between R. damascena and R. canina. They have distinctive and very attractive grey-green foliage, flower in early summer in shades from white to pink, and are worth trying in difficult places in shade or where tree roots invade mercilessly.


[From Classic Roses, by Peter Beales, p. 87:] the fragrance of albas is refined.


[From Gardening with Roses, by Judith McKeon, p. 19:] White, or alba, roses are vigorous, upright, bushy shrubs that have distinctive bluish leaves. They are easy to grow and are the most rugged, hardy, disease-free, and shade-tolerant of all the old roses... Ancestors of alba roses include Shakespeare's briar rose, the dog rose (Rosa canina), and damask roses... flower color is restricted to pure white and soft tints of blush pink... Today, there are only a few albas available.


[From The Charm of Old Roses, by Nancy Steen, p. 31:] In ancient times England was known as the Isle of Albion; and in 77 AD Pliny stated that it might have been so called because of the white roses with which it abounds... Gerard not only mentioned R. alba first in his list of roses, but grew it in his Long Acre garden... At the height of their popularity, over a hundred different varieties were listed; but today, less than twenty are available, which is strange, when R. alba held so honoured a place in English history and heraldry for 500 years.


[From Ibid, pp. 32-3:] often referred to as Tree Roses because of their tall, upright growth... their foliage has a very unusual colour (grey-green)... thrive in sun or shade... free of mildew... their fragrance has been likened to the scent of white hyacinths, of spicy apples, and of honey... In the fifteenth century, Botticelli painted his Birth of Venus, and in this picture can be seen flattish white flowers which have been identified as the blooms of Alba Roses.
[From Roses for English Gardens, by Gertrude Jekyll, p. 44:] Considered a cross between canina and gallica. This capital Rose is often seen in cottage gardens, where it is a great favourite... When once known the albas may be recognized, even out of flower, by the bluish colouring and general look of the very broad leafleted leaves.


[From A Heritage of Roses, by Hazel Le Rougetel, p. 13:] Albas have glaucous foliage [and are] dependably disease-resistant... they adapt well to most situations.


[From A Little Book of Old Roses, also by Le Rougetel, p. 12:] Twenty-one Albas were listed in the 1845 catalog of Hovery's Cambridge Nurseries, Boston, and include "superb Queen of Denmark" and "exquisite Felicite Parmentier".
[From The Rose Bible, by Rayford Reddell, p. 25:] The Romans are credited with distributing the Alba roses throughout Europe. Romans grew Albas, it is thought, primarily for medicinal purposes, although it is clear that their beauty was appreciated, too, for their blossoms appear in paintings and etchings from the period... once called tree roses because they often reach heights of more than 6 feet... considered to be the hardiest and most easily grown of all roses.


[From Botanica's Roses, p. 70:] Very little work with the Albas has been done in the twentieth century, save for the German hybridizer Rolf Sievers, creator of the Blush series. They are bred with a mixture of old-fashioned and Kordesii roses.


[From The Essential Earthman, by Henry Mitchell, pp. 168-9:] When Botticelli painted "The Birth of Venus" he sprinkled roses here and there -- you recall the picture of Aphrodite sailing along in a seashell in a rain of pink roses -- and the rose he painted is Rosa alba.


Let us not dwell on why pink roses are called R. alba... Pliny says that England was called Albion either for its white cliffs or the white roses of that island ("ob alba roses") but if so they cannot have been R. alba, which was not then in existence. This has never deterred anybody, however, from calling R. alba "the white rose of England" and it was, in fact, R. alba that was the white rose badge of the House of York. So the rose is storied enough, though not the white rose Pliny mentioned...


The one most strongly endorsed by two preeminent connoisseurs (both dead, alas) is 'Celestial', also called 'Celeste,' which is a medium light pink flower. It makes a large bush on the order of a lilac, say eight feet high, and has blue-gray-green foliage. Gertrude Jekyll's donkey, Jack, once ate the side off a large plant of this rose, and Vita Sackville-West once observed that if she had to settle for just one alba it would be 'Celestial.' These were both great authorities on roses. Others prefer 'Maiden's Blush' or (as the French call it) 'Cuisse de Nymphe Emue,' which is to say the thigh of a passionate nymph. It is quite similar to 'Celestial,' perhaps more a bluish color....


All these albas make impressive bushes and they have a powerful, sweet scent. They bloom in a great orgiastic spree in June and do not flower again until the next June... no roses surpass them in fragrance, no roses surpass them in delicacy of color and petal texture, and no roses surpass them in magnificent showiness when they are in bloom...


[From Roses of America, by Stephen Scanniello and Tania Bayard, p. 65:] Now generally believed to be a cross between a damask or a gallica and a form of R. canina, the alba seems to have originated in central or southern Europe. It was grown by the Romans and introduced into England at any early date, possibly before A.D. 100.


[From Roses: An Illustrated Encyclopaedia and Grower's Handbook, by Peter Beales, p. 3:] R. canina can stake a claim as progenitor of that beautiful group, the Albas.


[From The Old Rose Informant, by Brent C. Dickerson, p. 26:] By 1824, Jean-Pierre Vibert reported that he was growing over 70 varieties of Albas and was "much occupied" with them...


[Ibid, p. 79: Vibert wrote in 1826:] At the time of Dupont, only about ten Albas were known; Monsieur Descemet didn't add more than four. Today, I know and grow more than sixty varieties, all of them interesting.

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