The Glorious Rose of the Nineteenth Century

Edme-Henry Jacotot could not have been more proud when the Societe d’Horticulture de la Cote d’Or proclaimed that the strong and beautiful Tea Rose that he had created had captured their exhibition’s top prize. The large translucent blooms of rose, salmon and yellow mesmerized the eyes of the jury and the scent in the air thrilled their noses with a unique and powerful fragrance. There was no question that this new rose would be named ‘Gloire de Dijon’ in honour of the town where it was born.

Gloire de Dijon
‘Gloire de Dijon’ taken from ‘The Amateur Gardener’s ROSE BOOK’ Hoffmann J. (1905)

The year was 1853 when this little known nurseryman from the rose growing area of Dijon in Burgundy, France ventured forth to exhibit the very first rose that he had bred himself. He did not know for sure who its parents were. He was pretty certain that the pollen came from a Bourbon Rose ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ but he only thought the receiving parent was ‘Desprez a Fleur Jaune’, a Noisette Rose, which gave his glorious new rose the characteristics of the climbing Noisettes. Although it was a climbing Tea Rose it would often be classified as a Noisette.

Gloire de Dijon cigarette card
‘Gloire de Dijon’ Wills cigarette card No. 32 (1912)

‘Gloire de Dijon’ was one of many roses bred in France and sold to British nurseries but once here it began to make a name for itself in the newly designed catalogues dedicated solely to roses. The catalogues and books of Paul, Rivers, Cant and Cranston, to name but a few, exclaimed the virtues which appealed to the innovative and growing numbers of gardeners in Victorian Britain. This glorious rose became very popular with a climbing habit, a vigorous nature and beautiful blooms that were an unusual buff yellow tinged with a touch of salmon in the centre and which had a strong and enticing fragrance.

Gloire de Dijon on trellis
Taken from ‘The Rose Book’ Thomas H.H. (1913) P. 49

Throughout the literature of the second half of the century there seems to be no other rose to rival ‘Gloire de Dijon’s existence. Recommended for garden walls, for growing in pots, for forcing and for exhibition it was included in the lists of the finest roses and did not seem to lose ground as other varieties came and went. Championed by nurserymen, writers and laymen alike it found favour with Dean Reynolds Hole, perhaps the most influential rosarian at this time. He declared this rose to be the best climbing rose with which he was acquainted and suggested that although classed with the Tea-scented China Roses it more closely resembled the Noisette family in robust growth and constitution.

Gloire de Dijon
Gloire de Dijon (taken from ‘Les Roses’ Jamain and Forney (1873)

‘Gloire de Dijon’ made it to the twentieth century unscathed in reputation. Gertrude Jekyll in ‘Roses for English Gardens’ 1901 included it in her list of best roses and believed it to be the most free flowering of all climbing roses and suggested that for general usefulness there was no equal. Little did Edme-Henry Jacotot know that his one and only glorious new rose variety would become so embedded in the gardens of Britain and that it would survive there for over a century. It certainly seems that Edme-Henry Jacotot deserved that accolade in 1853.

Taken from an old French text of ‘Rare Roses’ . Author and date unknown.

“. . . . and if ever, for some heinous crime, I was miserably sentenced, for the rest of my life, to possess but a single Rose-tree, I should desire to be supplied, on leaving the dock, with a strong plant of Gloire de Dijon”.

S. Reynolds Hole. ‘A Book about Roses’ Ch.8 P.113

(Gloire de Dijon is listed in many of the rose catalogues we have today. It may not be the strongest and best of all climbers as other more modern varieties have, as one would expect, surpassed it in this respect. It, however, remains I believe at the top of the list for unusual colour and fragrance.)

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