Bourbon rose

A nostalgic, scented favourite

Among the old-fashioned roses, the Bourbons have a most distinctive scent. On a warm summer evening, the raspberry-like fragrance wafting across a garden lets you know immediately that this enchanting rose is not far off.




Complete planting bare-root (grown in ground) bushes. Cut out any dead or straggly wood and generally tidy the plant before new growth starts. Mulch (cover ground) with well-rotted compost.



Begin spraying against pests and diseases if you have a delicate variety. Deadhead and cut away old flowering wood.

Peg down vigorous new growth. Keep new plants watered until established.



Prepare new planting sites.



Plant new bushes.

Prune side shoots to 3 buds, peg down new long shoots and cut back old ones to an outward-facing bud.

Bourbon roses are repeat-flowering shrub roses that blend well with cottage garden perennials in a mixed border. They are hardy and most are vigorous.

There are many Bourbons to choose from, ranging in height and spread from low-growing and compact (’Boule de Neige’) to large and sprawling (’Mme Isaac Pereire’). Colour varies from the creamy white of ‘Boule de Neige’ to the deep maroon ‘Prince Charles’. ‘Variegata de Bologna’, ‘Honorine de Brabant’ and ‘Commandant Beaurepaire’ have petals striped and blotched with crimson.

There are also climbing Bourbons. ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ is probably the best known, and is thorn-less, as is ‘Kathleen Harrop’.


On the whole, Bourbons are robust, but there are a few disease-prone ones. ‘Mme Pierre Oger’ and ‘La

Reine Victoria’ are prone to black spot disease.

Remove affected foliage and burn. Mildew can be a problem on young growth, especially on ‘Mme Isaac

Pereire’ and ‘Honorine de

Brabant’. ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ is mildew prone. Check new growth regularly and begin spraying at the first sign of mildew or aphid infestation.

Planting and care

Bare-root plants dug from a nursery need to be planted immediately, while container-grown plants can be planted at any time except in frost or drought.

Inspect the plant roots and trim away any that are dead or damaged. Do the same with the top growth. Trim back the branches to about 10cm from the bud union (the knobby protuberance where the grafted rose branches shoot from the root-bearing wood).

Plant so that the bud union is about 2.5cm below the soil surface. Make the planting hole at least 45cm deep and 60cm in diameter. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with a garden fork and scatter over a handful of bone meal. Add the same to the dug-out soil before you backfill (fill in the planting hole with the soil mix).

Spread the roots in the bottom of the hole. If it is buried too deeply, backfill to raise the plant to the correct height. Half fill and then carefully tread in the soil around the plant; shake it gently to work in the soil around the roots. Complete backfilling and tread again.

Water the plants well before and after planting.

Bourbon rose


Bourbons grow best in, full sun, but some such as ‘Commandant,

Beaurepaire’, ‘Gipsy,

Boy’, ‘Honorine de,

Brabant’, ‘Mme Isaac,

Pereire’ and ‘Kathleen,

Harrop’ will tolerate, partial shade. Like all roses, Bour- bons need a medium soil that is slightly acid.

Dig in plenty of rotted manure or compost to improve texture and moisture retention, and dress planting hole with bone meal.


Bourbons take their name from the He de Bourbon, now known as Reunion, off Madagascar, where the first rose of this type was found.

Mulch (cover ground) with compost annually and feed with rose fertilizer. Deadhead (remove dead flower- heads) and shorten wood that has flow- ered to encourage a display all summer long.

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