« Glittering Trees and Other Joys | Main | Passing in a Flash »

Penelope Rose, an Antique Rose for the Organic Garden

English clergyman Joseph Pemberton introduced the Penelope rose to the world in 1924. Pemberton's roses are also called hybrid musk roses, and Penelope has a delicious fragrance that is a blend of musk and fruit. With large clusters of medium to large, semi-double blooms on a sprawling frame, this antique rose has a unrestrained, romantic appearance.

The flowers are a pale peachy-pink, fading to creamy white. The hotter the weather, the paler the blooms. Penelope is a rebloomer with a large flush of blooms in late spring and then another flush in early autumn as the weather cools, with sporadic flowering in-between. One can encourage repeat blooms by deadheading the earlier blooms. Later blooms should be allowed to mature on the shrub, as lovely coral pink hips follow the flowers. 

Like all roses, Penelope likes loamy soil. Clay is fine as long as generous amounts of organic amendments are added. Penelope has lustrous, healthy foliage with little need for spraying or fertilizing. I feed mine in spring with fish emulsion, and I usually treat it, along with almost everything else in my garden, with a summer tonic of 2Tbs epsom salts and 2Tbs fish emulsion per gallon of water. In late winter I spray it with a dormant oil. That's it, and Penelope probably would carry on just fine if I did nothing at all.

Growing in hardiness zones 6-9, It will reach 5 feet by 5 feet or larger but can be pruned to maintain a more moderate size. It could be considered a semi-climber. My own Penelope grows amidst perennials and other carefree roses, but I think it also would look wonderful growing along a wall or fence. Penelope is one of the few roses that will bloom in semi-shade and will do well along woodland edges.

My humid, hot climate is not kind to most roses, and I use a low maintenance, organic approach to everything I grow. I am happy that Penelope has done so well for me. The American Rose Society rates Penelope 8.7 on a scale of 10. That means it is an excellent rose that is recommended without hesitation. I heartily agree.


You may also enjoy Red Cascade: A Favorite Low-maintenance Rose and Summer-Proof the Garden.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (19)

It's a beautiful Rose, Deb! I think I even like the bud better than the bloom. It must look really pretty when it just starts blooming. Lucky you to have Roses at this time of year!

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

This rose looks fabulous growing in your garden, not many roses flower well in part shade either. I think you made a really good choice when you planted it. Our climate is hot and humid in summer and early Autumn as well and roses tend to suffer from black spot sometimes. I still grow them because I love roses, their beauty and fragrance.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

That is a great rose if it needs little care in your humid climate. I always plant Iceberg for that reason. I just pulled them out of my garden though. Roses, even though getting few Japanese Beetles in the past ten years, this past few years, just started getting them in numbers. I was surprised at this development, so the roses went.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Just stunning. I hope you enjoy many more years of Penelope's beauty. Like her namesake, she seems faithful, strong and true.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

I am always interested to read about 'trouble free' roses. The last couple of years with the mild winters we've had the roses have not done so well because they have become dormant. What is the Japanese beetle mentioned above, I have a kind of beetle eating the stamens and centre of my roses this year (and quite a lot last year too) they were never in the garden before. As always you choose such good varieties.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Such pretty coloring. She is absolutely gorgeous in your garden. So nice to hear of another rose that does well organically, and stays clean in a hot, humid climate.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

The buds are particularly pretty and a low-care rose is always a treasure.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

When I see photos and read posts about roses doing so well, it just reinforces in my mind the fact that purchasing a rose after researching it first, is much smarter then falling in love at first sight.

Case in point, the beautifully blooming when I bought it, pink climber that is languishing at the front of the house. Silly me, even wrote about falling in love with it. All flash in the pan that rose...

Yours is a absolute beauty.


Thank you everyone for visiting and commenting! I appreciate each of you very much. Christina, you asked about the Japanese beetle. I am fortunate that this critter has not shown up in my garden. Most Japanese beetle infestations in the U.S. are north of me. It will skeletonize a plant in a hurry. It is a small, metallic green beetle with white hairy tufts on its side. I don't know if it exists in your area. You would probably know it if it did. Deb

May 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Lovely rose, we have one here which was planted by the previous people, I have it in semi shade and it seems very happy. The buds are such a beautiful colour, its nice that we see both colours at the same time on the bush.

May 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

Your Penelope is beautiful! Especially paired with the dianthus. You are so lucky not to have Japanese beetles. They truly are a scourge.

You've convinced me that I really should try this rose!

May 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I love this sort of rose - single and semi-double whites with an informal habit. Also the fragrance sounds so nice. I was getting more and more tempted, but then I saw - zone 6. Although we seem to be shifting from 5 to 6, I prefer sticking with plants hardy to zone 5. But then again, with a little protection ...

May 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

What a gorgeous rose Deborah....my soil and climate makes them iffy here so I do mostly Knockouts and some climbers. I am pleased with any blooms and I use only organic methods as well.

Absolutely lovely. Are you a believer in banana peels for roses as well? I have a friend who swears by them.

What a pretty rose! I like that the just open flowers are pale peachy-pink and fade to a different color. Fragrance is always a huge bonus in my eyes. I like my Fairy roses, but am always disappointed that there is no scent.

May 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

This is a rose I need to try. I've already pulled out one rose this spring because its new leaves had already developed blackspot and pulled a spotted leaf off another rose yesterday, despite having applied an organic fungicide. Tomorrow I start spraying. :(

May 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Lovely rose, just like a rose should be! I am always looking for roses that can be happy growing in shade or semi shade, as the sunny part of my garden is very small. So far I have a David Austin rose called Wildeve happily growing in quite a shady spot, but it is only in its third year so not sure how it will be long term.

May 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

lovely rose, pleased it is working for you, Deb. So much more attractive than the new fangled hybrids, Ithink.

May 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

Very nice! It look so pretty in that border! I appreciate roses that aren't fussy, and, as pretty as some of the fussier ones are, I just don't have time to baby them! Nor do I like using chemicals in the garden. Last fall I planted some 'The Fairy' roses and a 'Sally Holmes', since they are supposed to be super hardy. Let's hope!

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIndie
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.