I have ingredients to make a new Damask, but here the Gallicas don’t bloom at the same time as my R. moschata, which seems to need to have some minimum amount of “heat units” met before setting buds. I’m guessing the original hybrid occurred in a warmer climate, where R. moschata got started much earlier in the season and coincided with the Gallicas. I tried freezing Gallica pollen last year and putting it on R. moschata when it opened, but I didn’t get hips forming. I’m not sure if I did something wrong with the pollen due to my inexperience, but in any case, I thought of another way.
Last year I bought a few more “true” Damask Perpetuals with little or no apparent China blood. I already had ‘Indigo’, and ‘Rose du Roi – original’ – which Vintage Gardens propagated from a reversion of ‘Panache de Lyon’, and is rather obviously different from the Hybrid Perpetual “Rose du Roi” being sold by a few other nurseries now. I also had ‘Blanc de Vibert’, but that one is a fussy plant, and I’d rather not encourage those traits. Last year’s additions were ‘Marbree’, ‘Delambre’, and ‘Duchess of Portland’. This small group of roses came about as reblooming offspring of ‘Quatre Saisons’ with Gallicas, and have a very Gallica air to them – except they repeat-bloom sporadically through the summer, and then have a flush about 1/2 the heaviness of the Spring flush in Autumn.
I also added a few old repeat-blooming Mosses – ‘Mousseline’ (aka ‘Alfred de Dalmas’), ‘Salet’, and ‘Soupert et Notting’. I already had ‘Quatre Saisons Blanc Mousseaux’, but I have yet to see any repeat-bloom on that, and its habit is definitely Damask, not Gallica. The other Mosses are growing much like the Damask Perpetuals – the main difference I see is in degree of “thorniness”. So I think of the two groups as “Damask Perpetuals – Mossed and Un-Mossed”. And I’m thinking that they could function as proxies for Gallicas in remaking a Damask.
This year, I just watched to see how the new roses “behaved”. There is definitely bloom overlap with R. moschata – especially since last year I moved R. moschata to where it gets more sun and heat, and this year it started blooming by the end of June instead of the end of July. This was still after the Gallicas were finished, though. My garden fell behind due to a crazy work schedule at a new job, and getting it back on track didn’t leave me time to make a concerted effort at collecting pollen, but I did move the potted Damask Perpetuals and repeat-blooming Mosses to where they are surrounding R. moschata. From what I understand, R. moschata doesn’t self-set seed readily, so I’m hoping that whatever hips mature on it will be something other than selfs. And I’m guessing that hybrids with its neighbors will be rather obviously different from self-seedlings. So we’ll see. Next year I’ll be able to do it properly. And until I get something, R. fedtschenkoana is already sitting by waiting to have its way with the offspring. Mine has scattered blooms through the Summer, and a modest flush in Autumn – just like the Damask Perpetuals. I’m hoping this would be reinforced in my “remakes” since the Gallica component would be fulfilled by Gallica-like repeat-blooming Damask Perpetuals and Mosses, and I’ll eventually get a repeat-blooming Damask.
I’ve never seen R. laxa, but I wonder if its “disagreeable fragrance” is anything like the linseed-oil scent I get from R. fedtschenkoana. It may seem odd how that scent contributed to what we call “classic Damask scent”, but I had a bit of an epiphany about it last year. I was dead-heading ‘Quatre Saisons’ (the pink Damask, not the mossy white sport of it), and I caught a whiff of clove. It was in my hand – a bloom whose petals had dropped prematurely after a rain still had fresh stamens, and they were clove-scented, just like R. moschata. I think that’s the “sharp” or “spice” top-note element of the scent in Damasks. The “middle” of the scent is Gallica, and I think the linseed-oil scent of R. fedtschenkoana is like the mortar binding it together, like a fixative. In the world of fragrances, fixatives often have “disagreeable fragrances” on their own – have you ever smelled true, pure civet musk, for example? But a dash of it provides a base for light and sharp notes added from elsewhere. I think the “classic Damask scent” is similarly built – fixative from R. fedtschenkoana, floral from R. gallica, and sharp spice notes from R. moschata.
BTW, where do you garden? If you are experiencing issues with R. moschata getting through your Winters, are you able to keep it potted and bring it somewhere inside for Winter? I’ve also found that it will rebound and bloom after being cut back hard, but also that it will get going earlier if it gets heat. If you can keep it in a black resin barrel planter – Home Depot sells them for about $20, and they’re nearly two feet in diameter at the top – its roots will heat up faster in Spring than if it was planted in the ground. That also means a longer time for its hips to ripen.