March 31st, 2008
Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’

photo: rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ March 31, 2008, in a light mist…coming down with a case of powdery mildew.

I love the cyclical nature of gardening. I’m amused to find myself taking photos of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ as I did exactly one year ago. I wish I could put her on pause because today all her flowers are in full bloom and by tomorrow the petals will be scattered on the paths. And I really wanted Carol to see her. Ephemeral beauty. She’s bloomed non-stop all through March but she won’t make it to April. Fortunately ‘Blush Noisette’ is waiting in the wings to take the spotlight. Thus I am consoled.

Dateline: 2007

photo: rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
March 28, 2007
Despite my losing almost half my roses in the last two years to rose dieback, my favorite rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is still growing strong. She is the undisputed queen of the roses in my garden. Her flowers are almost twice the size of any of the other heirloom roses. They have a beautiful shape in all of their forms, as a buds, partially opened, and fully opened. The flowers are sweetly scented and they cover the bush like huge pom-poms.

In addition to being covered with flowers right now, she’s sending up new canes. I had to cut her back a bit because she insists on growing out into the path and attacking the meter reader. She hasn’t been bothered with spring cankerworms this year–I’ve found hardly any so far.

Garden History

Dateline: 2000-10-11
I plant the climbing ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ under our bedroom window in compost, greensand, and composted manure.

Dateline: 2001-10-11
‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ has been the most incredibly vigorous rose I’ve planted. From the base it has produced three thick stalks an inch in diameter and two slightly thinner ones. These stalks arch out over seven feet. I have tied them down to an iron railing. Each stalk has broken and produced flower stems along their lengths about two feet tall. It bloomed in the spring, but it was wet then and so the many flowers balled. I’m looking forward to a tremendous fall bloom soon.

Dateline: 2004-03-11
Given the abundance of rain we’ve had the last two months and the mild winter (no late hard freezes like in 2002 and 2003), the roses are sprouting new growth like never before. They’re all three or four years old now, so that might also be a contributing factor. Most of the roses still had last year’s leaves, which are ragged, turning yellow, and subject to black spot. So I’ve had to strip them (which I usually do anyway a couple of weeks before pruning them).

photo: rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
March 10, 2004

The bourbon rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is the first to put on a show. This year she managed to open her flowers before the annual attack of spring cankerworms. She’s still recovering from the powdery mildew that’s troubled her since last November. This causes the flowers to ball. The outer petals form a hardened case that the inner ones can’t break apart. So I have to open each affected flower by hand. The flowers are so double, though, you can’t tell that the outer petals have been removed.

Despite the extra effort she requires, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ remains my favorite rose.

photo: rose Souvenir de la Malmaison
February 22, 2005

Dateline: 2006-03-12
Yesterday the first flower opened on ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ and today she is covered with flowers. With temperatures near the 90s, the flowers open and fade in the same day. However, given how dry this spring has been, none of the flowers are balling. They are absolutely gorgeous this year. She sets flowers on small sidestems which grow off long arching canes. So I think she’d be a great rose for an arch.

I stripped the old leaves in the last week of January…so it took about six weeks for her to respond. And she’s beat the spring cankerworms this year. Of all the roses, she responds to stripping most dramatically.

by M Sinclair Stevens

19 Responses to post “Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’”

  1. From Angelina (Oregon):

    I am so enamoured of S.De La Malmaison. I’ve wanted one for a few years but she’s kind of gotten put lower on the list and I still don’t have her. In spite of the possible balling up problem, I really do need to get one.

    Those pictures are gorgeous!

    Thanks. I’m like a Mom with her girl dressed up in her ballerina outfit. I just can’t stop taking photos of her and showing everyone how cute my girl is. — mss

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Your “girl” is lovely. That’s how I feel about my Belinda’s Dream, which will be blooming its head off any day now. I don’t call my roses she or he, as you do, but perhaps that’s because most of them have gender-neutral names. With the exception of Belinda’s and Marie Pavie, of course. Poor things, still going by “it” after so long. 😉

    I don’t know why I started anthropomorphizing the roses. Maybe because most of mine have girls’ names. They also have such distinctive habits and looks; they’re such individuals. I remember I once referred to ‘Penelope’ to my son and he looked at me oddly, “You NAME your roses?” I had to explain that I didn’t; the breeder did. — mss

  3. From Pam (South Carolina):

    I’m sorry to hear that you have lost so many roses. I have about 30 antique roses in my garden, and I would be devastated to see so many of them go. I have two Souvenir de la Malmaisons, the only rose that I have two of – and it is one of my favorites. It has buds on it now, so I’m hoping to see some of them blooming soon. I’ve never thought whether my roses are a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ – so I might need to give this some thought.

    ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is such a southern belle that I always think of her as “she”. Other roses are easier to sex because they are named for some woman or another. — mss

  4. From Ki (New Jersey):

    It seems roses shaped like the Souvenir de la Malmaison with tightly packed petals appear to be the most fragrant varieties–at least the catalogs indicate that they are. Do you know if these were the old varieties they made perfumes from?

    We haven’t had much luck in planting roses. Black spot and powdery mildew were difficult to deal with. We’ll try again this year in a sunnier spot and hopefully will grow some as beautiful as your are.

    I don’t know if the Bourbon roses were used to make perfumes. I think it was the Damasks. — mss

  5. From Julie (Austin):

    So grateful I had a chance to see your girl in person. But the day I saw her, she was wearing not a ballerina’s tutu but a ballgown with a huge round hem! Gorgeous and so healthy.

    Okay, now. Please tell me about the secret voodoo, what chant you’ve been chanting to keep the worms away. They’ve been plentiful and hungry over here and, despite my daily+ picking, have chomped up loads of buds.

    I spray the cankerworms with about a weak apple cider vinegar solution: about 1/4 cup to a quart of water. I do it especially where the buds form because they like to chomp on the tenderest new growth. Lot’s of times the worms will spin a thread to escape and I squish them between my fingers. The last two years I did this twice a day for about a week. This year, no worms (yet). — mss

  6. From Gail:

    I am so wishing I had roses…not enough of what a rose needs in this garden! Your photos are lovely; I can imagine the rose fragrance from each one.

    What I have loved about visiting blogs, is listening to gardeners talk about their garden, you can hear the love, excitement, humor, frustration and the sense of wonder.

    See you and hopefully your garden this weekend.

    Yes, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ has a nice fragrance. I don’t really have enough sunlight for roses but she blooms very early in the year before the trees leaf out. — mss

  7. From Angelina:

    I still want her. But roses prone to balling up will ball up here. I’m reluctant to find myself heartbroken at an unsuccessful experience with such an amazing rose. But such is love, sometimes you go for the affair that you know in your heart is doomed from the beginning because you must experience it before you believe it.

    I just tried planting my Pickering bare root roses in my new garden yesterday but discovered that I have thick solid clay and it is too wet to be worked yet. So I think I’ll be potting them up.

    I’m so excited about your new house and garden. I can hardly wait until you are back online and posting photos about it. Again. Congratulations!!! — mss

  8. From Trudi:

    Malmaison looks…what sort of words does one use for such a beauty. I Love roses and still plant some, so my climate is not well suited for roses. Generally I like a wild garden like mine. I live on the gold coast and here most gardens are very manicured and are planted out with the same plants which are in fashion. Not my style. Have you been before to Australia and which part are you visiting?

    I haven’t been to Australia yet but my sister-in-law lives south of Victoria on the coast…so that’s where we’d be visiting. — mss

  9. From Annie in Austin:

    This rose is worth an annual visit, MSS, and a new portrait.

    Thanks. — mss

  10. From Zoe , Hampshire, UK:

    Fabulous photographs, hard to imagine it flowering so early! I don’t expect to see any roses in my garden until May. I adore old roses.

    Did you know she was named after the French Empress Jospephine’s (first wife of Napolean Bonaparte) home, Chateau du Malmaison and was bred in 1843, so she has an illustrious history!

    I actually had read that somewhere. One of the things I like about old roses is they have such interesting histories. — mss

  11. From deb:

    Hi and thanks. I recieved this rose from a coworker a couple of years ago as a little rooted cutting. I promptly forgot the name and was about ready to pull out Antique Roses for the Southern Landscape to try to jog my memory. You got to my brain first.

    Again Thanks,


    Glad to be of help. ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ has very distinctive quartered flowers. I can often spot her in other people’s yards as I drive by. — mss

  12. From Bonnie, Austin:

    I think I saw one this weekend at Zilkerfest. Just gorgeous. I was out examining my roses today and found…aphids all over three of the roses. Had to spray them all down with water to knock the little guys off. Spring is here!

    I probably have aphids but because I don’t wear my glasses in the garden, I don’t notice. The hot, muggy weather we’ve had the last few days has brought out the powdery mildew and black spot. I’m glad that front came through yesterday to cool us off again. — mss

  13. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    She is a beautiful rose. I remember your post and pictures from last year.

    Leave the petals on the path and I’ll be there in a few days.

    (I often go without my glasses in the garden… I wonder what I am missing?)

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  14. From Layanee:

    I can almost smell her! She is a beauty.

  15. From Pam:

    My malmaison hasn’t started blooming this year – but there are some small buds are here. I think that this rose might be a favorite – it is just such an exquisite flower. Those images are beautiful – I especially like that one from 2005. Gorgeous!

  16. From kerri:

    She’s wonderful..form, color…she looks perfect! I’m imagining the scent. Your photos do her justice.
    I can’t wait to see my roses blooming again!

  17. From kate:

    So I’m trying hard not to think about missing out on Spring Fling and seeing your garden and this Rose. Your photographs are beautiful.

    The conversation on the gender of roses was fascinating. I realise I think of most roses as ‘men’. That’s because my Explorer roses have names like John Cabot, Martin Frobisher and William Baffin.

  18. From Rees Cowden:

    I spent summers in college working for a rose commercial hybridizer (one of the largest in the world) and I must say your photo of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ really brings back fond memories. The clear, clean, pure pink is wonderful.

    It is one of my favorite roses and has always performed very well for me. The only rose that has performed better in my garden is ‘Blush Noisette’ which can really take the heat, even in Austin. — mss

  19. From Shirley Fort Wayne, IN:

    I first heard of this rose in Jan Karon’s book “New Song” Your pictures are so lovely. I would like to put a link to them on the Bulleting Board for the Mitford books if you approve at
    Take care.

    Anyone can link to this site…but don’t hot-link my photographs because that’s stealing bandwidth. — mss