Gloire de France is a really old-fashioned, properly rococo rose you just must have... The flowers are impressive, growing to up to 10 cm in diameter with a pink centre that ripples out in endless petticoats of petals to a paler, edge. The flower hues evolve with age so you end up with a myriad of pinks over the flowering period of about six weeks. The leaves are large and a mid-green and even the buds are of a perfect smooth roundness. The shrub itself is medium sized and tidy in its habit giving an ornamental effect to the whole plant. The added bonus is that Gloire de France has very few thorns. Visual delight aside, the rose has that scent redolent of romance and old roses. A Gallica-Centifolia cross, this rose has been grown since 1828 which is testament to its reliability and beauty.
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The old trope was to have roses in the cutting garden or in a special rose garden, but now few of us have the space for this and anyway, how deprived the informal herbaceous border must have been. Gloire de France roses blend beautifully with plants with grey-green leaves and blue/purple flowers. Have a look at the ethereal fronds of Perovskia atriplicifolia or Russian sage, Caryopteris x clandonenesis or one of the many lavenders like Lavender Hidcote. Other ideas are to have a slightly hazy plant with it - Crambe cordifolia - or a complete contrast like foxgloves - Digitalis purpurea. Bulbs grow well under roses and keep that area of the garden interesting: Double snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis Flore Pleno are so pretty or the eye-catching red Tulip Apeldoorn. Just make sure that you calculate the heights of any plants that you put close to the rose so that one does not obscure the other's moment of glory.
Gallica roses are the oldest roses in cultivation and were used as a religious emblem by the Persians. The French were particularly enamoured with their free-flowering form and scent, so they are sometimes called Provence roses. Combine this with the romance of the Centifolia or cabbage roses - so beloved by Colefax and Fowler and immortalised in bedrooms all over the country and you do get a Glorious French rose.