Choosing favourite roses is a daunting task, since every rose is a joy in its season, and one must look for some extra merit, besides beauty of flower, such as elegant foliage or a long flowering season. The bourbon rose ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’, dating back to 1880, but of undiminished vigour today, must come high in the hierarchy of shrub roses, for it is ‘old-fashioned’ in the best sense, the huge, light crimson blooms being quartered and double, and the scent sweet and strong, while the main flowering season, in mid-summer, has a follow-up in autumn.
It is described in Bean as ‘one of the most perfect and large of all roses, from half-open flower to expanded bloom’.
I like it best grown as a shrub in a rose garden or mixed border, its height of 6 feet (1.8 m) being somewhat too low for a wall or pillar. I have also seen it in a large garden grown as a magnificent hedge. Like all roses, it needs plenty of organic food and judicious; as well as out dead wood in spring, cut an occasional tired-looking down to the ground. I do not find that the usual instructions for shrub roses – ‘no pruning required’ – work well in practice. After a very cold spring, the first blooms of this rose may be malformed, but the later blooms will be perfect.
I suggest underplanting ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ with Stachys olympica, or some other silver plant, to soften the almost excessive brilliance of its colour.