The first Moss rose apparently emerged as a sport from a Centifolia prior to the mid-eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, a few single-flowered forms appeared in their ranks, enabling a few hybridists to cross them with hybrids from other groups in an attempt to prolong their flowering period, but this was soon discontinued.
With flowers that are sweetly scented and which average 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 in (6.4 – 8.9 cm) in diameter, the moss roses are not only distinctive but charming. Aside from the novelty of the mossing, this class of roses has a number of practical advantages. Moss roses are cold-hardy shrubs that in favorable conditions will endure for decades and though like most antique roses the mosses bloom just once a year, their flowers usually have a powerful perfume.
- ‘Alfred de Dalmas’ Roses (Introduced – 1855)
- Sometimes incorrectly confused with a similar rose called ‘Mousseline’, this variety has double, pale pink, fragrant 1- to 2-inch flowers that bleach to white in the hot sun and bloom in clusters. Compact, sprawling plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall, have a multitude of thorns, and show some, but not prolific, repeat bloom.
- ‘Celina’ Roses (Introduced – 1855)
- Like others of this classification, the sepals covering the buds of ‘Celina’ bear a mossy growth that has a fir-like scent. The buds open to large semi-double flowers in shades of mauve, pink, crimson, lavender, and purple. When fully open, the blooms reveal golden stamens. Canes are studded with long, sturdy prickles.
Suitable for beds and borders, ‘Celina’ rose has a tidy habit and a moderate height. This rose is a very hardy rose but has a tendency to get mildew late in the season.
- ‘Common Moss’ Roses (Introduced – 1696)
- Commonly considered to be the first rose of this class, ‘Common Moss’ remains one of the best. The distinctive buds are appealing, overgrown with the mossy glands that give these roses their name, and when brushed they smell pleasantly of balsam. When the flowers open in late spring or early summer, they unfurl into clear pink, 3 in (7 .5cm) bowls with button-eye centers. Their fragrance is strong and rich, a classic old rose perfume. Their stems are arching and prickly, and the foliage of ‘Common Moss’ rose is dark green and roughly toothed along the edges.
- ‘Communis’ Roses (Introduced – late 1600s)
- Considered by many to be the best moss rose, ‘Communis’ (also called ‘Common Moss’) produces mossy growths on its sepals, buds, and stems. Buds are rose pink, opening to pale pink, intensely fragrant double flowers that are 2 to 3 inches wide. Reflexed petals surround a green button eye. The abundant foliage is medium green.
‘Communis’ plants are moderate growers with an arching habit; they are usually slightly taller than they are broad. The rose is well suited to beds and borders, and is both disease resistant and hardy.
- ‘Crested Moss’ Roses (Introduced – 1826)
- The buds of ‘Crested Moss’ (also called ‘Cristata’ and ‘Chapeau de Napoleon’) are uniquely beautiful, peeking through a set of large, deeply fringed, mossy-edged sepals. Open, the fragrant medium pink blooms are very double and cabbage like, ranging from 3 to 3 1/2 inches across. The bloom period is lengthy but not recurring. Foliage is abundant and light green.
This rose has a strong, upright form and arching canes, and can be grown as a medium-sized shrub in a bed or border or trained against a support. This rose is disease resistant and quite hardy.
- ‘Deuil de Paul Fontaine’ Roses (Introduced – 1873)
- This rose’s susceptibility to powdery mildew makes it less than an ideal candidate for an easy rose, but its many virtues outweigh this fault. Nevertheless, this rose should be planted in a warm, dry spot to help keep its foliage healthy.
‘Deuil de Paul Fontaine’ blossoms are among the darkest and most dramatic of the moss roses; the petals are a velvety crimson purple with paler undersides. Even the mossing on the buds and the base of the flower is a dark red. Both the flowers and the moss are highly fragrant, and unlike most of the roses in this class, ‘Deuil de Paul Fontaine’ reblooms in late summer and fall.
- ‘Gloire des Mousseuses’ Roses (Introduced – 1852)
- Heavily mossed buds open into clear, bright pink, double flowers with a deeper pink center. The petals overlay each other on 4-inch flowers that appear in clusters once a year above large, light green leaves. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet high.
- ‘Henri Martin’ Roses (Introduced – 1863)
- Sometimes called ‘Red Moss’, this variety has shining crimson-red, semi-double, 2 1/2-inch flowers that bloom once a year in clusters of three to eight. Blooms have a rich perfume and are long lasting as cut flowers. Arching, thorny plants grow 5 to 6 feet tall and have medium green, finely textured leaves.
- ‘Salet’ Roses (Introduced – 1854)
- The most reliably recurrent of the moss roses, ‘Salet’ bears a large flush of its big, fragrant, rose pink saucers of petals in late spring or early summer, and then it reblooms intermittently into the fall. These flowers have the strong, sweet fragrance characteristic of this class. The mossing on the buds and bases of the flowers is light. The foliage is bright green and coarse.
Its size makes it well suited to use as a specimen shrub. Like all the moss roses, ‘Salet’ rose has a special nostalgic charm that fits perfectly with a cottage garden planting. This rose also looks perfectly at home in a herb garden.