Queen of Denmark

In 1816 James Booth introduced Konigen von Danemarck (Queen of Denmark). It slowly spread across northern Europe, picking up new names as it went along. Among them were “New Maiden’s Blush,” a reference to its kinship with albas, and “Naissance de Venus,” literally, birth of Venus.  Because people propagate roses even after forgetting their original names, or because the original name sounds awkward in one’s native tongue, roses accumulate new names.  A rose’s popularity is generally related to the number of names it has picked up.  And this one has picked up at least seven or eight names.  ARS members rate it 8.6, which puts it among the twenty highest rated old garden roses.  So it’s popularity seems to be based on merits that are widely evident to rose gardeners in the US.

The plant is very well-branched, shrubby, and densely covered with rich, gray-green foliage.  It’s cold hardy at least to zone 4. It is virtually untouched by disease.   And it is surprisingly tolerant to dry soil.  The plant is so well branched that one could make a rather neat hedge out of it. At almost three inches (7 cm) across, the flowers are almost as large as some of the centifolia roses, and they are deliciously fragrant.  Held so that they face away from the surface of the plant the flowers can be viewed from the side of a tall plant – something which cannot be said for a lot of hybrid tea roses.

At first blush, Queen of Denmark does not make a great impression because it defies our rather recently acquired tastes in rose.  But when it was introduced it distilled what was best about roses into a single plant. Two centuries ago there existed a number of gallica roses, offering a lot of different shades of pink.  In form, their flowers ranged from neat and quartered Duc de Guiche to a somewhat ragged  Tuscany. Gallicas are cold hardy and tough, but the suckering plant is not always very neat. The yellowish foliage sometimes clashes with the pink flowers. There were a handful of damask roses such as Ispahan that had neat flowers that were smaller, about two inches across.  These could make neat shrubs, but the small flowers were not very showy.  The centifolia rose existed, too.  It’s cupped flowers were the largest roses in the garden, but it generally made a leggy, open plant. Finally, there was Great Maiden’s blush, an alba.  It’s a rose that grows into a large, shrubby plant covering itself with very dark green, slightly glaucous foliage.  In season it covers itself in small white flowers.

As we’ve mentioned, the beauties of this rose seem subtle to those who view the hybrid tea rose as the standard by which roses are judged.  But in most places where hybrid tea roses struggles, Queen of Denmark will grow effortlessly and create a lovely, lush shrub whose delicate, fragrant flowers will charm each May.  If you can find a good source for this rose, it’s definitely a keeper.  Back when Sam Kedem shipped roses I bought one there.  When Pickering offers it for sale, I’ll probably get one from them. The one I got recently from Vintage Gardens was three inches tall and it perished within six weeks of receipt despite daily attention.