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Expert Advice: 8 Best Garden Roses for Cutting, from a Boutique Grower

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Expert Advice: 8 Best Garden Roses for Cutting, from a Boutique Grower

February 16, 2018

What makes a garden rose a good cutting rose? Is it simply a long life span in a vase, or should the plant’s growth habit, its posture and poise, be considered too? Or is a good rose to arrange simply a beautiful rose? One you can marvel at and then be pulled in to sniff—a real rose, with a strong scent?
To answer these questions, I went to Carpinteria, California, in winter—not an ideal time for roses, even in southern California, but there I discovered that there is a particular charm to the last roses of the season, with their air of faded glamour. I visited Rose Story Farm, a boutique grower focusing on old-fashioned varieties, mainly English and French roses and early American cultivars.

Operated by Danielle Dall’Armi and her husband, Bill Hahn, Rose Story ships blooms to floral designers throughout the US. Over the past 20 years Danielle has learned what makes a rose great for cutting. Here are some of her favorites.

Photography and styling by Christin Geall.

‘Madame Paule Massad’

One of Danielle’s top picks is ‘Madame Paule Massad’. Belonging to the Generosa group of roses, these plants have been bred by the French rose company Guillot-Massad to be remontant (repeat blooming). They are hardy to zone 5.
Above: One of Danielle’s top picks is ‘Madame Paule Massad’. Belonging to the Generosa group of roses, these plants have been bred by the French rose company Guillot-Massad to be remontant (repeat blooming). They are hardy to zone 5.

A disease-resistant cultivar, ‘Madame Paule Massad’ is a modern shrub rose with a sweet scent.

‘Sally Holmes’

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Above: ‘Sally Holmes’ is pictured here with two other David Austin roses—the apricot chalice-shaped ‘Jude the Obscure’ and pale pink ‘Wild Eve’.

“I look for great vase life,” Danielle says. “But I’m also looking for beautiful roses that bear many blooms per stem. ‘Sally Holmes’ has large sprays of single blooms which open from apricot buds. If picked at the right time, the buds continue to open.”

‘Fair Bianca’

The English shrub rose ‘Fair Bianca’. Strongly scented, this rose has a tidy habit, growing to only
Above: The English shrub rose ‘Fair Bianca’. Strongly scented, this rose has a tidy habit, growing to only 2 1/2 feet. It can be grown in large pot.

‘Climbing Shot Silk’

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Above: ‘Climbing Shot Silk’ at right with ‘Julia Child’ (yellow) ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’.
‘Sally Holmes’ has earned an RHS award of merit and is, according to English breeder David Austin, ‘almost always in bloom’. Pictured with ‘D. A. Kathryn Morley’, the deeper pink ‘Grande Dame’ and at right ‘Climbing Shot Silk’.
Above: ‘Sally Holmes’ has earned an RHS award of merit and is, according to English breeder David Austin, ‘almost always in bloom’. Pictured with ‘D. A. Kathryn Morley’, the deeper pink ‘Grande Dame’ and at right ‘Climbing Shot Silk’.

At Rose Story Farm, ‘Climbing Shot Silk’ is grown along a fence. Plants reach heights of about nine feet and bloom throughout the growing season, making them a great choice for covering a garden arch.

‘Paul Bocuse’

Another of Danielle’s favorites is the apricot-pink rose ‘Paul Bocuse’, named after the French chef. Apparently he was a hunting companion of breeder Guillot, who gave the name to this high-performing plant. “The blooms are in little groups at the end of each stem,” she says. “We have designers who hoard these.”

‘Paul Bocuse’ with ‘Bronze Star’.
Above: ‘Paul Bocuse’ with ‘Bronze Star’.

‘Julia Child’

Hardy to USDA Zone 4, ‘Julia Child’ blooms for months, can be pot-grown, and holds well in the vase.
Above: Hardy to USDA Zone 4, ‘Julia Child’ blooms for months, can be pot-grown, and holds well in the vase.

Another pick, the heat-tolerant floribunda ‘Julia Child’ rose, naturally blooms in a buttery yellow.

‘Julia Child’ at center. Danielle uses open flat baskets when harvesting.
Above: ‘Julia Child’ at center. Danielle uses open flat baskets when harvesting.

In the color range of pink-lavender-brown, the popular ‘Koko Loco’, ‘Neptune’, and ‘Distant Drums’ made Danielle’s list. As I assembled these flowers for a picture, she ran out with her secateurs to grab the “perfect’”complement, a beautiful small-flowered rose called ‘Florence Delattre’. For a true rosarian, one might never have enough roses for cutting.

‘Distant Drums’

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Above: ‘Distant Drums’ from bud to blown. A favorite with designers, this rose holds well in all stages.

‘Neptune’

‘Koko Loco’, ‘Florence Delattre’, ‘Neptune’, and ‘Distant Drums’ at Rose Story Farm.
Above: ‘Koko Loco’, ‘Florence Delattre’, ‘Neptune’, and ‘Distant Drums’ at Rose Story Farm.
The fading glory of the lavender rose &#8
Above: The fading glory of the lavender rose ‘Neptune’.

When it comes to planning a rose garden, nothing beats seeing a rose growing yourself. Thankfully Rose Story Farm offers tours in season. Visit their website for more information.

My selection of deep and light pinks including (clockwise from upper left): ‘Climbing Shot Silk’ with a yellow center, ‘Tiffany’ at top, and ‘Christopher Marlowe’ with a touch of ruffled yellow. The pale pink rose below ‘Christopher Marlowe’ with the peachy center is ‘Madame Paule Massad’ and at bottom right is ‘Jubilee Celebration’. The pale pink rose at the base of the arrangement is ‘D. A. Kathryn Morley’ with ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ to her left.
Above: My selection of deep and light pinks including (clockwise from upper left): ‘Climbing Shot Silk’ with a yellow center, ‘Tiffany’ at top, and ‘Christopher Marlowe’ with a touch of ruffled yellow. The pale pink rose below ‘Christopher Marlowe’ with the peachy center is ‘Madame Paule Massad’ and at bottom right is ‘Jubilee Celebration’. The pale pink rose at the base of the arrangement is ‘D. A. Kathryn Morley’ with ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ to her left.

The rose is the most widely loved flower—both in garden beds and in bouquets—and much of the woody perennial’s popularity is due to its wide variety. There is a rose for you. With more than 100 species and thousands of cultivars, Rosa comes in many variations to suit: climbers, shrubs, ramblers, floribundas, and hybrids. See more of our favorites in Roses: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Our curated Perennials 101 guide also covers other fragrant flowers including Lavender, Lily of the Valley, and more.

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