Alba Rose – An Elegant Old Garden Rose

Winter hardy, good disease resistance and very fragrant – an Alba Rose offers many advantages to rose gardeners

Alba Maxima

Alba roses are one of the oldest roses grown in gardens today. Botanists believe that this types of roses where the ones mentioned in Roman writings.

Alba's most likely derived from Rosa canina (Dog Rose) and from Rosa Damascena (Damask Rose); they were for use in perfume and medicine in ancient Europe.

The Alba is said to be involved in several historical events.

It is assumed the Rose of York,  a symbol of English political power, was an ‘Alba Maxima’ and had several other names such as ‘The Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Rose’ or ‘The Jacobite Rose.'

Facts About Alba Roses

Albas make elegant upright shrubs with blue-green foliage. The bushes can grow fairly large, up to 6-7 feet high, with long arching canes. They only bloom once a year in late spring to early summer.

Alba's are also:

  • Very disease resistant and winter hardy
  • Grow on shady places too
  • Bloom on second-year wood
  • Easy to prune

Their coloring of the very fragrant flowers ranges from white through delicate soft shades of pink.

How To Prune Alba Roses

In the first year, cut back unripe and damaged shoots. For the second and following years, cut back new basal growths up to one-third in early spring.

Take care not to prune young shoots back too much, or the elegant arched growth habit can be lost.

Also, cut out all badly placed shoots and cut back laterals on flowered shoots to 2-3 eyes.

In September to November deadheading and cutting back extra-long growth to minimize wind-rock is recommended.

Always remember that next year’s flowers will grow on the canes you have now and not the emerging ones.

Make Your Alba Rose Choice

Some types of Alba’s may be well known and should be considered for your garden too.

Alba roses tolerate more shade than other types of roses, but they still need direct sunshine to grow beautiful flowers. Take a look at some of my recommendations of these beautiful type of old roses.

'Königin von Dänemark'

Queen of Denmark

What I think, the most popular Alba rose  that makes a beautiful bush with richly scented flowers in summer.

It has a long flowering season – up to six weeks – and the flowers have excellent resistance to wet weather.

Sometimes the variety is named as ‘Queen of Denmark.' 

The bush grows up to 5 feet and grows to a wide of about 4 feet.

The double flowers are light pink, shading to deeper pink in the center.

Felicite Paramentier

Felicite Paramentier

I love this variety of Alba because of their extraordinary flowers.

When they grow, the buds have a yellow green color showing a circular a little circular opening with pink petals when developing.

As the flowers mature, they show a blush pink rosette shaped flower that reflex into a dome-shaped flower fading to white.

Their fairly small flowers spread a strong, sharp, spicy rose scent.

It is one of the daintiest Albas, suitable for a small garden growing up to a height of four feet and a wide of four feet.       

Rosa ‘Alba Maxima’

Rosa Alba Maxima

An Alba rose dating from at least the 15th century.

The somewhat untidy flowers are very fragrant and followed by red hips.

They are known as the ‘Great Double White’, ‘Jacobite’ or ‘Cheshire Rose’, while some consider them to be the ‘White Rose of York’.

The shrub rose grows up to a height of six feet and a wide of about five feet.       

‘Celeste’ or ‘Celestial’

Rose Celeste

A very old Alba variety.  The flowers are sweetly scented and carried on lax, spreading stems.

They grow beautiful red hips in fall.

They can grow up to a height of six feet and a wide of six feet.

Alba ‘Semi-Plena’

The small semi-doubled cupped flowers show a soft white color and have prominent gold stamens.

They grow in clusters of 6-8 sweet fragrant blooms.

The Alba ‘Semi-Plena’ can sport to ‘Alba Maxima’ and contrary, what sometimes can account for some of the confusion about these varieties.

Grow to a height of six feet and wide of five feet.

The roses listed above are only a small selection of Albas for further varieties, check out the heirloom rose page, where you easily can order some of these easy to grow and beautiful roses.

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