One of the roses I ordered this year was the Duchess of Portland (which I’ve heard is more properly called Portlandica) and I have to sing her praises now. This rose first appeared in the late 1700s, and many experts once thought it was an early cross between European roses and China roses. Recent genetic testing proved this wrong. The Duchess of Portland is likely a cross between r. gallica officinalis, AKA the Apothecary’s Rose (which it resembles), and the Autumn Damask, one of the few repeating old European roses. The Duchess gave birth to the Portland class of roses, and shows us the direction rose breeding in Europe likely would have gone if not for the introduction of China roses (not to say the China roses were a bad thing, but they did make our modern roses more tender).
As soon as I opened Portlandica’s box I fell in love with the rich old rose scent wafting through the house. I realized that a lot of the smell was coming from the dried petals in the box; like the Apothecary’s Rose, the scent seems to get stronger when the petals dry, which will make it great for potpourri. The flowers are beautiful too, especially with the promise they’ll repeat later in the summer once the plant is established. If she’s as tough as her parents, I may have a new favorite rose.