Some roses are simply easy to love. Rosa chinensis ‘Old Blush’, supposedly hardy to USDA Zone 6 (and definitely to Zone 7a), goes by many different monikers, including ‘Parson’s Pink China’ (as it is still known in England), “Old Pink Daily,” “Daisy Rose,” and “Common Monthly.” As a shrub and in its climbing sport, it is one of my best garden performers.
“The clustered blossoms, casual three-inch cups of clear pink petals, though lovely, lack the elegance of a modern hybrid tea, but they also have the virtue of persistence.”
Living out in the country, where the wind whips over the plains, there is nothing I like better in a rose than persistence.
A story I once read stated this rose was called ‘Common Monthly’ by settlers because, as they brought it west, it bloomed nearly every month of the year. In my Oklahoma garden, it is the first rose to unfurl its leaves and bloom; the climber starts the show with the shrub not far behind. Over the course of spring, the climber blooms in a series of flushes and then mostly stops (except for the occasional flower) in summer. However, the shrub, like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going. Its flowers may be fried by the hot sun, but that doesn’t stop it. It also laughs at Jack Frost when a late April freeze comes its way.
As its botanical name attests, R. chinensis ‘Old Blush’ is a china rose with the thin, light green leaves of such. No leathery, shiny foliage graces its canes and very little blackspot either. In fact, it is unbothered by most insects and diseases, although, in some years, thrips are a problem in early spring. No matter, since it continues to bloom throughout the rest of the gardening season. Although china roses tend to like warmer climes, ‘Old Blush’ also shrugs off cold. My shrubs are planted in the middle of the Garden of Shame facing the street where they get no extra love or protection.
This year, as the weather cooled off for fall, the climber started to produce roses in threes and fours, while the shrub was again covered in pink beauty. Fall progressed, but as of last week, my area saw only slight freezes, which barely nipped the beautiful buds. I began to wonder if winter would ever arrive. This week saw cold temps of 28F, and the pink blooms finally froze half open on their canes.
Although the bloom form has been described as looking like a wadded up tissue, I think it is unfair. Not everyone is the Queen of the ball, but she can be a princess worthy of a place at the royal table.
Instead, maybe ‘Old Blush’ should be considered a prince. This unassuming little shrub (maxing out in my garden at four feet high and wide) is quite the romantic, and is actually considered one of the “four stud Chinas” which lent their DNA to every modern rose. According to the introduction to Roses: A Celebration, edited by Wayne Winterrowd, on the Ile de Bourbon (now Reunion), ‘Old Blush’ mated with an ancient Autumn Damask and created the Bourbans, an entirely new class of roses which retained the china class’s remontant (reblooming) habit.
Added to all of its other attributes is a light and refreshing fragrance which floats over the garden in the early morn. If you live in USDA Zone 7 or warmer, there is nothing nicer than pulling weeds beneath a bower of this handsome rose, and I can’t think of a nicer plant to grow.