Bourbon Roses

I am looking for some suggestions for Bourbons to use as seed parents, fragrant ones, hopefully very fragrant. I am particularly drawn to MMe Isaac Perier but am open. What sorts of experiences have any of you had with Bourbons as seed parents especially when crossed with hardy shrubs?


MMME. Isaac is seed fertile. I understand why you’re drawn to it.

As Pierre has pointed out, going back to most OGR’s reintroduces problems we’ve been trying to breed out for decades.

That said, we have a great many more choices now as to what to try them with.

It doesn’t hurt anything to try. I grew out OP seedlings of MME. Isaac years ago for fun. Here is one I preserved as I enjoyed the stamens and it was one of the few OP seedlings I got that repeated well and didn’t mildew.


Back to the museum pieces for breeding…an understandable draw, but one, which I feel terribly fraught with disease issues it may take many generations to eliminate. Raise a population of selfs to see what I mean. You may eventually create something suitable for where you are, but probably few other places.

Austin raised this one, which is rather pretty, WHEN it’s pretty.

This one is far superior in this climate to the original and the newer permutation.


I can’t imagine working with any of the Bourbons, as they are all terrible plants in this climate. Every single cultivar I’ve had has dwindled down to a few paltry sticks once I stopped spraying them, and then swiftly croaked. They have serious problems with both Mildew and Blackspot, and as Kim and Robert have stated, you will likely spend 10 generations trying to breed out the weaknesses.

Some of the “museum pieces” are certainly worth looking at as a potential source of genes. However, the Bourbons are not on the list of candidates, in my opinion.

In sulfurous environments, or those too arid or cold to germinate fungus spores, they’re probably gorgeous, as they were when originally introduced. The same with the HPs, but we’ve been there, done that and no longer have those high levels of sulfur in the environment (unless you live downwind from an exhibitionist! LOL!)

Please, don’t the wrong idea, I’ve grown probably more than my share of museum pieces, still have one or two around because I love them, but to deliberately breed with them in this climate is something I don’t need to be kissed with. There are PLENTY of other, happier sources of disease, botrytis and die-back for me to play with!

I guess it depends where you are. Some Bourbons actually do quite well here in Australia.

MME Isaac is terrible in my no-spray garden but my only other Bourbon, a rose called ‘Vivid’, is one of my strongest and most healthy roses. It is hardly touched by any of the many fungal baddies we’ve had this year. Its growth habit is awkward though and it doesn’t repeat for me, after 4 years in the ground. I’m thinking of cutting it right back this winter and moving it somewhere it can spread out as a weeping shrub over an embankment as it just wants to grow large and wild. I’ve had trouble striking its cuttings. They seem to callous well enough but never seem to form roots. The recent downy outbreak didn’t phase it and I’ve never seen mildew on it. You might have seen or heard about all our flooding we’ve had here lately. Last week was incredibly wet and we flooded badly here. I’m up high but my local town went under water. ‘Vivid’ still isn’t spotting, even now the rain has stopped and it is 30 degrees again… like a sauna. I don’t know much about ‘Vivid’ though so it might be one of those border-line varieties that is more of something else than it is Bourbon. It sets hips, though not many, and when it does produce pollen it is fertile and it’s very fragrant. I’ve never managed to get her OP seedlings to adulthood though I have only tried once. She’s a climbing bourbon too which gives her that extra bit of oommpf.

‘Rose Edouard’ is a good rose in Australia too and I have been considering buying it to call into service. I wouldn’t use MME Isaac (I’m offloading my MME Isaac this winter too) or Boubons like 'Z

I have a few MIP seedlings bred with explorers. My plants are 7 - 8 ft. tall & produce more leaves than blooms, but that may be my sandy soil. They also took a long time to bloom & they do not appear to be recurrent. I was able to get a beautiful OGR bloom of modern red colouring, great substance, with Henry Kelsey, but the shrub was very blackspot prone and lanky. The blooms are the temptation.


I was wondering whether you were high and dry, and am so glad to hear that you are. This must be one of the worst years ever to be raising roses. The coverage in the news here has been very dramatic. Good luck and hopefully the worst of the weather is behind you.

This is along the lines of what I would do like to do with MIP.

You can see the KO in it very plainly. But instead of KO, perhaps use a darker seedling of KO, like this:

Has anyone played with Maggie?

Wow, I have little experience with Bourbons. I’ve seen a few specimens growing locally and they seemed reasonably (not completely) healthy, I had no idea they were such a disease problem waiting to be passed on. I was just hoping to utilize repeat blooming roses that were very near the original OGRs as an alternative to David Austin roses. But it appears this may not be the best path.

Has anyone tried DA’s “The Ingenious Mr Fairchild”? I am looking for a good fragrant substitute for a Bourbon that already repeats its blooms. (Abraham Darby and similar roses don’t look sufficiently OGR in their coloring). Any ideas?




Perhaps you could tell us something about your climate, and describe the kind of plant you hope to create, so that we might make recommendations for potentially useful parents?



Thanks. I live in zone 3, pretty cold with little disease pressure (probably why I didn’t notice about the Bourbons).

What I envisioned was not a rose to breed with and create a nice cold hardy result, but more a foundational parent. I would try different cold hardy shrubs. Ultimately I would hope to achieve F1’s that were cane hardy, healthy, fragrant repeat blooming with a very romantic old fashioned appearance both in flower and growth with a preference for double bloom forms.

This is all I ask for… EVERYTHING!

These F1’s would then be crossed with each other.

Since most of the hardy shrubs I’m likely to use are either single or semi double, or non-repeating, or only slightly fragrant, I was hoping that the rose in question would be everything the hardy shrubs are not.

Hope that helps.



Austin also bred some out of Golden Wings but I do not know their hardiness. I think theyre all pretty though.

Likewise, he supposedly used Rosa roxburghii, so who knows if it is in any of his newer OGR replicas.

Crown Princess Margareta is being grown by folks in zone 4b Otawa, Canada as per HMF. Also, its listed on Austin’s German site as “winter durm”, which I think means hardy.

I hadn’t heard that about David Austin and rosa roxburghii. Any speculations as to which ones may contain roxburghii blood?



Nada. I think we all tried guessing before too.

“What sorts of experiences have any of you had with Bourbons as seed parents especially when crossed with hardy shrubs?”

I have noticed that Louise Odier takes just any pollen you put on it and her seeds germinate easily. I have put mostly some very healthy, hardy Kordes roses pollen on it.

During two years I have been despered to get something out of Jaune Desprez, and finally Odier did it! She has produced some nice hips of J.D. Hardly can wait to see the seedlings.

Odier has been healthy in my garden, and I love its free growing way. It really has great old rose charm.

MIP blackspots badly here in TN.

I do have hips ripening from

(Knockout x Oklahoma) x MIP, (found)Maggie , Jadis, Pink Peace, & Peace (As you can see I mostly went for fragrance).

I expect to have decent germination on these (so we will see how they turn out come this spring). Also, Zepherine Drouhin does fairly well here- fragrant, but only slightly.


I think Claire Austin could possibly have rosa roxburghii in its traids, thinking of its leaves. CA is arching, quite vigorous, fast growing shrub, and reasonabely healthy. It is also very fertil. Before I bought it, I asked David Austin roses if it sets any seed, and the answer was, that it does not tend to set hips. The fact is it is louded with hips.