Hybrid Musk Kathleen

In the summer of 2016 I used Kathleen extensively in my breeding program…both as a pollen and seed parent. I had been inspired by work done using hybrid musks by other breeders…mostly in Europe by Louis Lens and recently by Warren Millington in Australia. Peter Harris also had used Kathleen in the past and was excellent in describing what I might expect.

My goal was to develop a more floriferous rose…sprays of smaller flowers that covered the whole plant… that from a distance looked more like a hydrangea than a rose. So Kathleen was available in Canada and as I discovered was very fertile. Out of 206 seedlings I grew under growlights in my basement last winter…the vast majority using Kathleen as the seed parent…only ONE had that desired floriferous trait. And that one seedling still didn’t compare to Kathleen…what a disappointment! It was no surprise to me then why Pemberton had perhaps saved Kathleen…it was likely an oddity… expressing that recessive trait by a statistical coincidence.

But what did surprise me was the ability for Kathleen to produce some respectable complex, larger flower forms. After all, Kathleen’s flower appearance is not enhanced by the singular, small, unsaturated individual flowers but rather the effect when a large number of these flowers accumulate in clusters. I quite enjoy it in my garden and it does fine in a pot…and sometimes handy when the idea of a new unplanned cross pops into my head.

Attached is a photo taken today of one of those complex seedlings:

[attachment=0]Kathleen seedling.jpg[/attachment]

I think I have kept a total of 4 seedlings from all that work…and oddly it is worth it…the power of intermittent reinforcement.

If there are some other hybrid musks you could recommend that would be appreciated. There must be an easier route to increase floriferousness than by using Kathleen.
Kathleen seedling.jpg

To my eye Doug it is gourgous. Doug I have just looked at Kathleens parentage and found that the pollen parent “Perle des Jarins” is very yellow, is this where you got the deep yellow from do you think or was it from the other parent in your cross ?

That’s lovely, Doug! Congratulations! It would have to have been the other parent, David. Perle des Jardins isn’t a strong yellow and it fades badly, very quickly. That yellow is a Foetida yellow, obviously from a more modern hybrid.

Doug, that is a very nice Kathleen offspring. Perhaps using Darlow’s Enigma is more what you are searching for. I have not used it personally but when I was considering a very similar end goal that is one that seemed to stand out. I did try to start it several times from OP seed but for some reason I did not get anything to germinate although I was assured that it was not difficult to germinate. Perhaps others with experience with Darlows Enigma can weigh in with their two cents.

I have not grown Kathleen, but weighing in on Darlow’s Enigma as Jackie mentioned:

Darlow’s is quite crown hardy here in Zone 3. It gets up to about five feet tall and is healthy.

I had poor germination from it, but the few OP seedlings that I have grown show, overall with exceptions, a good combination of health, vigor, hardiness, and bloom power. Well above average. I tried putting some pollen on it this year, but after brushing pollen on those tiny, tiny pistils a few times I quickly gave up, remembering the poor germination as I did. I do have several seedlings from it as a pollen parent. Darlow’s being a diploid, when used as a pollen parent the characteristics of the seedling will more greatly resemble the polyploid seed parent.

In regards to germinating the seed, David Zlesak has mentioned that seeds of polyanthas (ie. multiflora heritage) seem to germinate more readily at a steady 50 degrees F. rather than after a cold treatment.

Overall I love Darlow’s Enigma and I think it shows good potential as a parent.

Doug, I grow none of these, so take my thoughts/observations/ramblings with a huge grain of salt…
The obvious ones might be Robin Hood (yielded everything from Gartendirektor Otto Linne, Mozart, and Iceberg), Trier (too many to name, but appears to open up possibility of more yellow/orange), and perhaps Ballerina. I note that some of Lens’ better ones now derive from Seagull, and he has returned to the species multiflora for a number of them as well.
You might use some of the advanced search tools on HMF to discover most frequently used parents of roses you like, and consider substituting better, more modern mates. (Though this route doesn’t real give you actual success rates so much as the level of breeder’s hard-headed determination to get something out of a parent.)
Now I’ll shut up about what I don’t know, and let someone else give you more direct advice. :wink:

My suggestion may seem rather retro in character, but what about Chuckles? I have what I believe is a sport or seedling of Chuckles in my garden, Mrs. Frederic Lee, and it produces massive sprays of 3-4" sized flowers. Not unusual for sprays to have 20+ blooms and be 18" in diameter. Chuckles has Robin Hood in its family tree and has above average resistance to BS in my zone 8B garden. VERY fertile and HIGH rate of germination.

If I am not mistaken, some hybrid musks do not have even musk genes or only a very small amount. Rosa multiflora was used to create the same effect. You might want to try working with Heavenly Pink or maybe Dinky. I have not used them but I believe, if you would use the pollen on Kathleen you might get some special roses. Maybe it’s worth to investigate this path. Hope you will find to your hydrangea roses soon!!

You aren’t mistaken at all. The vast majority of the “hybrid musks” trace back to Agalaia, which was a seedling between multiflora and Reve d’Or. Reve d’Or was a seedling from Mme Schultz, which had no recorded parentage, but was presumed to be a cross between a Tea and some sort of Noisette or “musk”. IF there was “musk” or “moschata” behind Reve d’Or, hence Agalaia, it is so far back from the “hybrid musks”, it probably provides very little, if any, benefit. Also, the vast majority for which there are known and provided parentage, MANY are based upon Ballerina or other forms of multiflora.

To follow up on Kim’s post, here’s a nice write-up from a gentleman on this forum:

According to Wilhelm Kordes, R. moschata contributed a high degree of resistance to fungal infections. Please excuse the clumsy translation. The German text is on the linked page.

Proceedings 14th International Horticultural Congress 14(1): 355-359 (1955)
Barmstedt Holstein, Deutschland
The first big success was the more floriferous shrub rose hybrids bred from Rosa moschata. Today they are many tens of thousands, especially in German gardens, and they have never before found fault with their owners with fungi. The first varieties, in particular the variety ‘Eva’ and the later ‘Hamburg’, have been partners in many cross-breeding attempts and not only have more frequent flowering bushes with quite healthy foliage have emerged but over the past 10 years also a large number of truly leafy polyantha Hybrids. I use this term, polyantha hybrids, although no involvement of any is in the majority of these varieties on Rosa multiflora declining grades. Rosa moschata is the wild Rose, which provided that in its composition, the development of parasitic fungi-preventing protoplasm in these roses. Even the old Noisette Roses, with whom Peter Lambert has its variety ‘Trier’ bred from crossing experiments with multiflora-descendants, were extraordinarily resistant to the fungal races occurring on all occidental roses. This variety ‘Trier’ was used by Pemberton as his starting point for his so-called Hybrid Musk Roses. A Pemberton variety, ‘Robin Hood’, which was characterized by tireless flowering, perfect resistance to all leaf diseases and striking winter hardness, was used by me as a starting form for this happy new breed. After the first successful immune forms showed themselves also as good sires of these desirable plants, it was naturally a comparatively easy work to come to healthy roses.

Except, there still is no demonstrated link between Moschata and Eva, Hamburg or Robin Hood, but there ARE documented links between them and multiflora.


I’m not arguing, but I will add a contrary comment from Wylie (1955):

“All the PEMBERTON varieties whose origin is recorded have ‘Trier’ itself, or a seedling, as one parent. It is probably safe to assume that the ‘unnamed seedlings’ which figure in some pedigrees, are also ‘Trier’ derivatives, from the general similarity of most of his hybrids.”


Thanks, Karl, which provides the perfect circular route back to my original statement that there is no demonstrated, documented link to ANY of them with Moschata. Trier is listed as a self seedling of (Multiflora X Reve d’Or). Reve d’Or is listed as a seedling of Mme Schultz, which was listed as being a “Noisette” with no stated parentage. IF there honestly is any Moschata behind any of them, how much influence could it exert? It’s been so diluted with the infusions of multiflora, floribundas, HTs and the doses of multiflora and China they contributed, I doubt there could be much benefit to be found.

I think part of the confusion is the sort of flippant use of the term “musk” as it applies to roses. Many have used the term when describing several different species in the Synstylae group, such as R. brunonii, R. filipes, R. helenae, R. arvensis, R. multiflora, R. sinowilsonii, etc., as well as R. moschata proper. I’ve smelled a few, and I do note that there’s a common base element to the fragrances of them, but find it odd that the one called R. moschata has such a noticeable top-note of clove, and the others really don’t. Meanwhile, when roses are described as having a “musk fragrance”, it doesn’t mean clove. It’s really that generic base found among many Synstylae roses, upon which they each add their own specific top-notes. These days, when I read “musk fragrance” in a rose’s description, what I smell is essentially R. multiflora, which, to my nose, is the same “musk base” found in the others, but without a top-note.

If we want to be picky, and restrict “musk” to R. moschata ancestry, then the old Damasks are more “hybrid musk” than are the roses currently called Hybrid Musks. If you happen to grow any of the old Damasks like ‘Quatre Saisons’ or ‘Kazanlik’, see for yourselves. The next time you encounter a fresh bloom, pull off the petals and smell the stamens – they reek of clove. I didn’t notice this myself until I clipped an otherwise fresh bloom whose petals were knocked off by the rain. Without those strongly-fragrant petals, the scent of clove was all that remained.



It is certainly confusing, particularly in regards to scent. Pemberton (1926) wrote, “These Hybrid Musks all carry the Musk perfume.”

However, Pemberton (1918) listed the following as having the Musk perfume:
R. moschata nivea (M); not perpetual.
R. brunonis (M); not perpetual.
The Garland (M); not perpetual.
Seagull (M); not perpetual.

Nothing about R. moschata’s clove scent (I like it, too).

In regards to blackspot, is ‘Robin Hood’ more resistant than ‘Edith Cavell’? I have only seen these varieties at the San Jose Heritage garden where blackspot is not much of a problem.


One other thing to keep in mind is that Pemberton was writing at the time when the rose going around as ‘R. moschata’ was actually ‘R. brunonii’. This is one I haven’t smelled, so I don’t know if it has the clove scent, or just some other variation of “musk base” that is found in other Synstylae roses. It wasn’t until Leonie Bell and Graham Stuart Thomas both rediscovered the original R. moschata some decades after Pemberton died that it re-entered commerce. So maybe Pemberton’s idea of “Musk perfume” was a comparison to R. brunonii. Or maybe it was just the general “musk base” he smelled on other Synstylae roses – like ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk Rambler’, which to me smells more like R. multiflora than R. moschata. His grouping of roses with what he calls the “musk scent” certainly leads me to believe he hadn’t actually smelled the real ‘R. moschata’. And it adds support to the idea that the term “musk rose” really meant any fragrant Synstalae species, or a rose bred from one.



If the Montecito at The Huntington is, as some have suggested, Brunonii, then it smells like Allspice. There is a clove element, but it’s much more sophisticated than just clove. What I smell in Secret Garden is “soapy sweet”. What I smell in “hybrid musks” is multiflora, which has a skunky, bitterness on the back of my tongue and throat. Secret Garden is very “moschata” in appearance and susceptibility to black spot in this climate.

Strangely, “Secret Garden Musk Climber” got blackspot here, but R. moschata stays clean until frost. SGMC was far too cold-sensitive, and after buying it twice, I finally dug out what was left this Spring. I’ll try it again when/if I move further south. But it did smell almost the same as R. moschata.

It’s a shame no one seems to have pursued making “Polyanthas” out of R. moschata using Lawrancianas or Miniatures instead of full-sized Chinas. I guess they’d be like miniature Noisettes genetically, but function like Polyanthas. I think R. moschata isn’t as alkaline-phobic as R. multiflora, so the offspring would probably do better in CA.



If ‘Champneys’ Pink Cluster’ would produce self-seeds, one might make a start in that direction. Or cross R. moschata with ‘Eblouissant’ or some other diploid red China.

Years ago, Robert B. Martin, Jr. raised seedlings (presumably selfed) from the rose in commerce as ‘Nastarana’. One looks like a Polyantha, with clusters of small flowers. He named it ‘Elizabeth Navarro’.

However, the parent is not the real Nastarana, which bore solitary flowers. No telling what the pollen parent might have been.

My own ‘Sweetime’ (Blush Noisette x Popcorn) combines Noisette and Polyantha ancestry. I don’t have it now, so I don’t know how it would do in alkaline soil.

‘Plaisanterie’ (Trier x Mutabilis) is thriving in my rather alkaline, clayey soil. I hadn’t been thinking in terms of Hybrid Musks, but maybe something will turn up in the OP seedlings that would be more promising as a parent.