Unlike the beverage of the same name, Bourbon roses are not named for a county in Kentucky. Instead, they are named for the Ile de Bourbon, a French island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and now known as Reunion. The Bourbon roses are said to have originated from a chance cross between Autumn Damask and Old Blush China rose, both of which were used as fencing on the island. Dating from about 1816, the original cross was taken to France and more hybrids were developed. The Bourbons inherited their wonderful fragrance from their damask parent and the free-flowering characteristic from their China parent. Typically, Bourbon roses have very full flowers with many petals and a wonderful scent. They are very heat tolerant and prefer to grow in zones 5–7. Most flower repeatedly throughout the growing season. Bourbon roses make excellent cut flowers on their own or to combine with other garden flowers.
Souvenir De La Malmaison was named for the rose garden built around 1800 by Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, just outside Paris. Although this rose was not in that garden, it would have been if it had been available at the time. Introduced in 1843, this is a favorite of most growers of old roses. It is a very full, pale pink rose with a classic, enchanting rose scent. Available in both shrub and climbing forms, the plant blooms repeatedly throughout the growing season. The shrub generally grows 3–4 feet tall, and the climber will grow 8–12 feet tall.
Kronprincessin Viktoria is the white sport of Souvenir de la Malmaison. A sport is a branch that comes from an original plant that is just like the plant except for one characteristic, for example, color. Souvenir has produced more than one sport, demonstrating the different forms that can come from one original plant. Kronprincessin Viktoria grows 3–4 feet tall and flowers freely.
Souvenir De St. Anne’s is another sport of Souvenir de la Malmaison. St. Anne’s is a semi-double with a very pale pink flower. It is a lovely, fragrant rose that grows 3–4 feet tall. It was found in St. Anne’s Park in Dublin and offered for sale in 1950. St. Anne’s is on the list of Earth-Kind roses.
Zephirine Drouhin is a climbing Bourbon that has the extra advantage of being virtually thornless. The beautiful bright, cerise-pink flowers have a strong fragrance that makes them a favorite in the house as well as in the garden. The sturdy stems are often a reddish color that contrasts nicely with dark green leaves. The plant grows 8–12 feet tall and is perfect for a well-traveled spot where you can enjoy the fragrance and not be grabbed by thorny branches.
Louise Odier is a vigorous, large shrub that produces deep pink roses that are very full and fragrant. It can be trained to grow up pillars or a post or simply planted in its own space as a specimen plant to show off its beauty. It grows 4–6 feet tall and perhaps taller if it is happy in its
Variegata Di Bologna is popular for its peppermint-candy look. The white blossoms are streaked and splashed with dark red color. The round flowers are often 3–4 inches across and bloom in clusters. A heavy spring bloomer, this variety rarely repeat-blooms. It has the characteristic sweet
Bourbon scent and grows 5–7 feet tall.
Madame Isaac Pereire is perhaps the most fragrant in a group of very fragrant roses. The roses are dark pink and very full sometimes characterized as “cabbage roses.” Spring displays are overwhelmingly beautiful and sweet-smelling. Occasional repeat blooming throughout the summer
and a smaller flush of blooms in the fall make this a great addition to any garden. The plant grows 5–7 feet tall.