the charm of old french roses

by Sharon Santoni

pink rose called yolande d'aragon1

If like me, you are heading fast towards spring, you are probably also longing to see some colour back in the garden.  There are the times when I reach for my gardening books, and catalogues, and try to work out where I could fit a few more roses into the garden.

roses in a terracotta vase

I find it hard to resist the old varieties of French rose.   They are perfumed, and I love their tumbling shapes and tight multiples of petals.   I have found a couple of varieties with several colours, like the Ghislaine de Feligonde below, whose buds are orange and whose flower fades in colour as it opens and matures.


Our tall stone walls on the barn and around the edge of the garden are perfect for setting off a beautiful rose.  I use some bush roses in front of the house, but I go for the climbers against the walls.  Having climbers in the garden makes for some interesting bouquets because they fall and drape themselves so perfectly.

rabling roses arranged over a fireplace

Of course we want a rose to tick all the boxes:  to look wonderful; smell divine; give us a repeat flowering season and be disease resistant …. that’s all ….. Ha!


I like to mix in a few new ones each year, because the bigger the variety I have to hand, the more interesting my bouquets, and the longer the overall flowering season.

rosier fantin de latour5

Here is a pick of my favourite old French roses.  Their names are as romantic as their shape and perfume.  I can’t guarantee that you will find them near you, but I am putting the name of each at the bottom of the post.


And maybe in return you could tell me about your favourite rose, and why you love it so much….. Happy gardening!


rose 1: Yolande d’Aragon;       rose 2: Ghislaine de Feligonde      rose 3:  Alfred de Carriere       rose 4: Fantin de Latour      rose 5: Felicité et Perpetue


Colleen Taylor March 10, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Your roses are absolutely glorious Sharon! Those large pink ones look like peonies. We have pretty much year round flowers here except for the intense heat of the summers, so I’m not missing much color.

My favorite roses are the weigela roses. Most likely you already know about these or may have them already. My grandmother grew them on the farm in Kansas & I had a huge garden of these in Colorado. I just realized how much I miss them living in Arizona, don’t think they grow well here. The weigela is a densely-rounded deciduous shrub which typically grows 4-5′ tall with a slightly larger spread. It is a profuse reddish-pink spring flowers with a slightly purple foliage. It is nearly disease resistant & I rarely had to fertilize them. To me, the perfect small non-formal rose! X

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:29 pm

I used to have a weigela Colleen, I remember how generous the flowers were


SassyinDC March 12, 2015 - 7:15 pm

Abraham Lincoln is a beautiful Crimson rose that has an intensely old fashioned rose aroma.

Emm March 10, 2015 - 7:03 pm

Those pictures are so beautiful. I love roses, but I’ve pretty much given up on them because they’re all hybrids now with no scent. It’s hard to find “real” roses.

Will these be part of your planned parterres?

Linda March 11, 2015 - 1:25 am

Look for antique roses! The Antique Rose Emporium near in Tx has many climbers….most have been rescued from old farmsteads and abandoned sites throughout the years. Beautifully scented and very hardy.

Emm March 11, 2015 - 1:42 am

Thanks. Will do.

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Yes, Linda is right, you have to hunt out the old roses. Often they are available by catalogue or on line and can be sent to you by the post. If you are worried about the quality then stick to a well known name like David Austen who has brought many old varieties back in to fashion

Emm March 12, 2015 - 3:28 pm

Thank you, too. I’ve noted both those supplier names for reference.

Barbara Lilian March 10, 2015 - 8:20 pm

Your roses always look beautiful. Your post was nicely timed as we are putting up a new arbour and I want climbing roses on it. So thank you Sharon for giving the names. I hope I can find them at a pepiniere in Limoges or around there

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:31 pm

I’m sure you’ll find them near Limoges Barbara, and this is perfect planting season!


Vicky from Athens March 10, 2015 - 8:22 pm

Oh my, they are all gorgeous! I can almost smell them from here in NE Georgia! I will begin my search for them right away! Thanks so much for sharing.
BTW . . . one of my personal favorites is “Lagerfeld”. It’s a pale lilac color and the scent is heavenly!

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:32 pm

I have seen Lagerfeld at a garden fair, you are right, it smells divine!


Sandra March 10, 2015 - 8:54 pm

Your roses are just beautiful and such an inspiration for me today. Here in the mountains of West Virginia the snow is melting (slowly) and we have a hard rain and cold.

Now to roses: My favorites are 2 French roses. One was also my mothers favorite and when she passed away I dug it from her yard. It is a beautiful pink, named Bibi Maizoon. Mother said it was a French Bourbon rose and she would know. Look it up Sharon and if you can find it – get it. Just beautiful and so fragrant. Next is another French rose, Frederic Mistral. Fragrance out of this world. I have Gertrude Jekyll on my arbor and also another special favorite is the Peace Rose.

Just to let you know, I will be planting soon my poppies that I received from you in the late summer. Hopefully, I will scatter them within the next 2 weeks – will keep you posted on their progress.

Thanks again so much for your wonderful photos! Beautiful, Beautiful!!

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:36 pm

Dear Sandra

Thank you for telling me about Bibi Maizoon – such a fun name! I’ll see if it is suited to our climate here, we may be too damp for it.

Frederic Mistral is beautiful, I don’t have it myself but I have seen it around, very elegant.

Glad that you are about to sow those seeds. Just remember to sow them where you want them to grow, they will not put up with being moved around! I look forward to hearing how they get on


Diana Ferguson March 10, 2015 - 8:54 pm

I am a big fan of “old roses”. Nothing compares for scent and shape and colour to the centifolias and the Albas. Fantin Latour, Charles de Mills, Mme Hardy and Félicité Parmentier are top favourites. I also love Königin von Danemark, with its lovely grey green foliage, a perfect foil for its sweet pink double flowers. They are so romantic, especially with their beautiful names….I wonder where you buy your old roses in France, which catalogues do you use? In the UK we have David Austin who also produce modern shrub roses. I would love to have a Pierre de Ronsard for example for my French garden en Périgord.

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:38 pm

Hi Diana

First of all the Pierre de Ronsard ha to be the easiest rose to buy at the mometn it is every where! And rightly so, because it does tick all the boxes, and the flowering season is very very long.

I used to use the André Eve catalogue, and was very pleased with their plants, but since then I have found a nursery near here where I can choose the plants and bring them home.

Off to check out Konigin von Danemark. Thank you for the suggestion


Diana Ferguson March 10, 2015 - 9:01 pm

Oh I almost forgot ! the beautiful Zépherine Drouhin, the raspberry-scented thornless rose. Another top favourite!

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:39 pm

love it!

Barbara Thompson March 10, 2015 - 9:02 pm

Doesn’t everyone know about David Austin Roses? At least here in the U.S., they are the closest thing to those gorgeous French roses you show. These are mainly Old English roses, have wonderful scents, are generally disease resistant, and can be ordered from David Austin Roses in Tyler, Texas. I am not profiting in any way from this post—I just have a few of them and they have had to fend for themselves for the last several years, but are still hanging in there. I would probably never grow any other kind.

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:40 pm

You’re right Barbara, the DA roses are generally a very good quality, and they have a wonderful selection


Barbara Warren March 10, 2015 - 11:07 pm

Lovely post! Gotta love the old roses! I especially like the Bourbons and the Perpetuals, but all are so wonderful!

Karena March 10, 2015 - 11:27 pm

Sharon your roses are so lush and exuberant! I love them! I had not heard of the David Austin roses and will check them out!
The Arts by Karena

Cecelia in Massachusetts March 10, 2015 - 11:57 pm

My mother planted a sterling silver rose called “Blue Girl” and it really was a beauty, but I don’t remember much of a scent. After a harsh winter, the poor rosebush was a little worse for wear, so she chopped it down to the ground. The bush that grew back was an an old variety…we never knew what…with an unappealing flat flower…but the aroma!!!! The perfume would inspire poetry and the summer breeze filled our home with dreams!

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:41 pm

That is a lovely story Cecelia, your mother must have cut back to the original plant, beneath the graft


Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon March 10, 2015 - 11:58 pm

It looks like you have chosen the best of the best. I love David Austin. They look very much like yours.

terry irick March 11, 2015 - 12:24 am

You’ve captured your lovely roses so beautifully I can almost smell their wonderful perfumes. I’ve been researching roses this fall/winter and preparing proper homes
(creating really good soil) for the ones I will purchase for the new gardens I’m creating here is central California. THERE ARE SO-O-O-O MANY truly beautiful roses. I must have researched over 100. How to chose??? What I’ve done is: Limit my color pallet,make sure it’s fragrant,the correct size and growth pattern for the location and right for my climate. I’ve made files on the contenders. For my 160ft of gray 3ft tall,wooden rail fence I’ve decided to go with several of the Alba roses as I want white and I think they will be better suited for my quite hot/dry summers than the other varieties. But along with them will be Sombreuil ( a quite Large Flowered Climber)also white . I hope she will not take over the garden! I’m hoping my climate will limit her growth.
My all time favorite rose is Abraham Darby, a David Austin rose I have to try that but the Austin roses supposedly need more water than most roses and water is a problem here. I will use a couple white Lady Banksia( if I can get them) to cover the huge water tank that serves our vineyard and house,Crepuscule (a Noisette climber)
Old roses will be the jewelry for the gardens I’m creating. Mostly climbers for my fences, walls and arbors.

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:42 pm

Terry, I have an Abraham Darby, it has proved to be very slow growing, but frankly it produces maybe the most beautiful flowers in the garden, just divine!


Emily March 11, 2015 - 12:42 am

Your roses are magnificent. One of the favorites in my garden is the wonderfully fragrant, Blanc Double de Colbert. I also have a Madame Alfred de Carriere. I plant only old roses or David Austin roses but with our water shortages on the central coast of California, they don’t get much pampering. The old roses have much stronger survival abilities than any hybrid tea.

La Contessa March 11, 2015 - 1:01 am


Esther George March 11, 2015 - 4:03 am

Hi Sharon I love all of the above but I don’t know if they are available here…..must investigate. My favourite roses, We have a French Delbard climber called Nahema it’s on an arch which it shares with a Clematis Montana Elizabeth in the backyard they are absolutely beautiful and a perfume to match. I also love my Delbard standards Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro delicate colours and beautiful. We have about 22 roses and they have been loyal to us even when the water has been limited and the heat has been unbearable. I promise if you can get your hands on Climbing Nahema you won’t regret it, it’s a beautiful pink with stunning perfume. Thank you for sharing beauty. Till next time regards Esther from Sydney.

Sharon Santoni March 11, 2015 - 2:43 pm

Thank you Esther, I shall investigate Nahema, I admit it’s not one that I have heard of here


Esther George March 12, 2015 - 1:18 am

Hi Sharon, you can tell I love roses I just had to let you know about Delbards web site…. Rosier Grimpants …very tempting. Regards Esther from Sydney.

Amanda Rush March 11, 2015 - 4:16 am

Such are the joys of Spring Sharon!! Lovely photos as always, best wishes from Amanda

Dita March 11, 2015 - 10:06 am

I used to have New Dawn climber in my previous garden. Delicate pink going to white later, they say it’s very resistant. It doesn’t get bothered by wind, endures everything. The scent isn’t terribly strong but when you’ll make an effort it is there, little shy perhaps. Just like it’s beautifully round shaped closed-kind-of flower. Enjoy.

Therese March 11, 2015 - 12:35 pm

I totally relate to what you are saying I love the old English Roses. In Oregon we have a nursery called Heirloom Roses in St. Paul. They grow the old fragrant varieties I love. I always pick up another one when I visit. My favorite is the St. Cecilia from David Austin. Creamy pink in color and oh so fragrant! They can be ordered on-line through their website.

Lynn March 11, 2015 - 4:38 pm

I live in a condominium in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, so do not have a way to grow roses really. But my friend grows “Mr. Lincoln Hybrid Tea Roses” – they are gorgeous. A deep, velvety red.

Love your blog – I always read it, but haven’t commented before. There is something so poetic sounding about old French roses.

Kat March 11, 2015 - 4:55 pm

Gorgeous roses, Sharon. They really brighten up my day, especially considering the brutal winter we had here in Ohio.

My favorite rose is Johann Strauss. It is a pale pink hybrid tea that grows on long stems. It’s beautiful and was a favorite of my mom’s as well. She passed away ten years ago and whenever I see one I’m reminded of her and relive so many fond memories. Where I am currently living, I unfortunately do not get enough south light to grow healthy roses but I look forward to having a rose garden again some day. In the meantime, I enjoy your photos and live vicariously!

As always, thanks for sharing so much beauty with us.

Rebecca Hively March 11, 2015 - 6:35 pm

I have a wonderful David Austin climber which has done well considering the windy conditions on top of a hill!

Pat March 11, 2015 - 8:35 pm

Love, love, love all your roses Sharon. When we lived in the UK we were fortunate to have a neighbor who was a rose expert, now that we are here in the US (WV, Hi Sandra)
we have Knockout roses in our garden that are nothing like old fashioned roses. But as we are not blessed with green thumbs, we appreciate anything that flowers. Ha.

suzana March 11, 2015 - 9:05 pm

Sharon my all time favourite rose is Pierre De Ronsard, a climber in nature but may be shaped into a bush rose, although the flowers aren’t very fragrant the tightness of the buds and the white on soft pink that evolves when the buds open into a saucer shape, still thrill me each flowering season.

Mary W. Ferguson March 12, 2015 - 1:02 am

Your roses are simply stunning. I love roses and have over a 100 of them. My favorites are roses with over 30 petals. I like them full and very fragrant. I have the most stunning red rose with a little white underneath the petals. I got it at our 99 cent store. They were Jackson and Perkins roses but the name was cut off and they were bare root. I though what the heck for 99cents I can’t go wrong and it is one of my most favorite roses. Quite a performer. I also like the David Austin roses. Check out some of my earlier posts and you can see some of them. Need to do another post as they are really blooming.

Have a wonderful weekend in your lovely garden.

marci piraro March 12, 2015 - 5:02 am

Such beautiful photos of your roses, wish I could smell them. My Mom used to have a few hybrid teas when I was young. My favorite was one called Crimson Glory, velvety dark red with a wonderful fragrance. I don’t know if it is even grown anymore, but it caused me to think a rose is not a rose without fragrance. I used to have a few David Austin roses in very large pots and loved them. I also used to look at rose books and catalogues and dream about the old Alba’s, centifolias, gallicas, etc. Wish I could hear you pronounce the names of the French varieties, I loved reading about them, but sure I massacred the pronunciation since I never studied French. There is no room anymore for me to grow any, so I will enjoy yours through your photos. Would love you to give the names of any you put in your arrangements or show in your garden. Do you have any of the mauve or violet color roses?

Laurie | Hedgerow Rose March 24, 2015 - 4:31 pm

Sharon, thank you for sharing these lovely photos. They were much needed as it still looks and feels like winter here, and roses in bloom seems very far off!
PS: I love Ghislaine de Féligonde, too. 🙂

Deborah April 4, 2015 - 8:04 pm

Hello Sharon
I’m delighted to have discovered you through a gardening magazine! Your photographs are wonderful and I am drooling over your beautiful roses. I inherited a number of stunning old French roses in the house we bought here in Allier a few years ago, but they are very conjested and sadly get blackspot every year. How do you have such lush green foliage. Do you give them any special treatment – or is it just your good soil?
Thank you, and don’t stop the wonderful blogs.

Jack Sumski; Northeast Nursery September 3, 2019 - 3:08 pm

Hi Sharon, I am looking for a grower of the “Jardins de Bagatelle ” rose . Cannot find from my commercial Growers.
Thank You for any assistance.
Regards, Jack

Susan October 11, 2019 - 8:06 pm

Bonjour Sharon
I’m on the hunt for what in Washington was called New Dawn rose. I wonder if you might know what its called in France? I live in the Aude in Languedoc and would love to find. Im not much of a gardener but really liked it and was successful with it. Thank you for any help you can offer.
Your site is gorgeous and the roses are fab!
Best regards,

Jeannette Smyth June 1, 2021 - 10:23 pm

Is there an online source in France for heritage roses to plant? I’d like to send some as a gift and don’t want them to have to pay customs duties.
With thanks, yours are so gorgeous.

Evelyn Harwell April 15, 2023 - 5:13 am

This spring some of the buds on my pink antique rose bush are opening beautifully, but some are not opening at all. Some of the buds have a brownish tip. I have not found anything unusual inside the bud or on the leaves. I would appreciate your thoughts.


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