Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rose of the Month: 'Zephirine Drouhin'

 'Zephirine Drouhin' at the peak of the spring flush 2011 in my garden.
 (you can click on the photos to enlarge)

Continuing my series of posts about a specific rose variety I will feature 'Zephirine Drouhin' today. Unfortunately I was not capable to write a post about one rose variety each month as planed for various reasons. Since I still intend to publish posts portraying one rose variety in particular from time to time I will keep the title for this series of posts in my blog even though they will not necessarily appear each month anymore.

Unfolding flower of 'Zephirine Drouhin' with water drops

'Zephirine Drouhin' is a Climbing Bourbon rose that grows in a wide range of climate zones and seems to be equally loved and hated. Many of the criticism that I have read about this rose is based on her susceptibility for various rose diseases like black spot and powdery mildew, her trait to defoliate, and not to repeat well under certain circumstances.


On the other hand she is loved for her abundance of blooms, her ability to bloom in flushes or even continuously (yes, this is very contrary to the fact that it is also said, that she does not repeat well!), and her strong, incredible, and unique fragrance. I myself am split in two halves when it comes to this rose. I certainly love her in spring, but I am not too fond of her at certain other times of the year. But we will come to that later...

General Information

'Zephirine Drouhin' was bred by Bizot (France, 1868). It is classified as a Bourbon Climbing Rose. The color of its blooms is a hot bright pink. The size of her flowers is approximately 3.5" (9 cm). They have 20 - 30 petals and the average diameter of the large loosely double blooms is 4". David Austin says about her flower shape: "Although the individual flowers are not particularly fine in themselves, they are produced freely." They appear as single blooms or in small clusters of 3 - 5 flowers.

 on this photo you can see a typical clusters of buds

The rose is described to have a strong, sweet, very delicious, damask fragrance and is said to bloom in flushes throughout the season. It is a tall climbing rose with matte, light green foliage. Her height is estimated to be 10' - 15' (305 to 455 cm) and the width to be 6' to 8' (185 - 245 cm). HMF lists this rose to be suitable for USDA zone 5b through 10b. The rose is vigorous and can be grown as a shrub or a climber.

My Zephirine Drouhin in spring 2009, she has grown quite a bit if you compare this photo to the ones from this year's spring.

It also has the advantage of being shade tolerant. 'Zephirine Drouhin' is known to be susceptible to black spot and powdery mildew. It is recommended to remove spent blooms to encourage re-bloom. One of her outstanding attributes is that 'Zephirine Drouhin' is almost thornless. This rose is known to be one of the earliest roses to bloom in the season and one of the last.

You often will find buds, unfolding flowers and fully opened blooms at the same time on one cane.

There are two lighter pink sports of 'Zephirine Drouhin' available: 'Kathleen Harrop' (flowers have fewer petals) and 'Marthe' (has a fuller bloom).

Personal Experience

'Zephrirne Drouhin' and I have a little bit of a complicated relationship. On the one hand she is one of the most fragrant roses that I grow in my garden and not only is her fragrance very strong, but it is also a very pleasant one to my nose not matched by any other rose that I grow. On top of this it wafts, which is very rare here because of our low humidity. She is also one of my most beautiful rose bushes in spring in terms of the overall appearance, not necessarily of the individual flower though, when she is in her first flush. My photo do not do this rose justice. You have to see a 'Zephirine Drouhin' rose in person to really be able to appreciate her beauty. It just can blow you away!

' Zephirine Drouhin' spring flush 2011

On the other hand in my garden she has periods in summer when she can be downright ugly because she gets mildew, or black spot or rust and sheds a lot of leaves for that reason. Of course, the leaves turn yellow before they fall off and that does not help with the appearance of the rose bush. Even though it is said by different sources that this rose is blooming in flushes or even continuously, mine is not. She is in her fourth year now and the re-bloom in summer has become a little better with age, but is still not anything to write home about. It is more a scattered re-bloom than a second flush.

This is how 'Zephirine Drouhin' looked just a couple of days ago.

I can attest that this rose is very vigorous once it takes off, which happened in my garden in the second year, as my photos document. I bought my rose from a local nursery and forgot what the tag said the grower was. She is most likely grafted on Dr. Huey rootstock, since that is usually the case for roses that you can buy in Southern California. Since I bury the graft of my roses, I assume that the rose is growing on her own roots by now, too. 'Zephirine Drouhin' throws up a lot of basal canes, which lets her appear lush and full. She is approximately 9' wide and 9' tall and wide by now and I have a slight suspicion that she might become much taller in Southern California than the size that is usually listed for her in rose books. I grow my rose as a fountain like shrub in a location where she is shaded by Queen Anne Palm fronds part of the day and 'Zephirine Drouhin' seems to like that. The flower color is hot pink, which is almost a little bit too bold for my taste, but the blooms fade quickly under the California sun to a more paler pink.

Basically, I grow this rose for her spectacular show in spring and even more so for her outstanding unique fragrance, which can really transport you to heaven in a second. In my small garden I do not know if I have the space for such a large rose that is only really beautiful, not to say spectacular in spring, which is just a short time of the whole growing season here in San Diego and most of the other times of the year just looks so-so. I also would prefer to see a climbing rose that gives me at least two distinctive flushes per year and is less disease susceptible.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking about replacing her with a climber or tall shrub rose that repeats better and has more healthy foliage year round. But each spring I am asking myself how I could ever even consider taking her out, because she is so breathtaking. I also have to give her credit for starting to repeat a little better over the years and her spring flush goes on for a couple of weeks.

I am curious if she will actually give me an autumn flush this year since she has matured so much more. So for now I most likely will give her another year and see how the repeat is this autumn and will at least enjoy one more breathtaking spring flush next year.

Another option could be to plant her in a less prominent location. Right now she is almost in the center spot of my backyard and there I really would love to have a rose there that performs better. One thing that I am trying this year is to fertilize her three times and also give her more water. Maybe that will improve her performance.

Even though 'Zephirine Drouhin' shows some flaws in my garden I would recommend to grow her if you have a big garden, just for the spectacular spring flush and her special perfume alone.

If you have a smaller garden you still might want to try her since this rose seems to be very temperamental how she behaves (depending probably on your climate and soil condition) and it seems to be somewhat unpredictable where she likes to grow. Who knows, she might do well for you!

Unfortunately, my experience has been that since she is a climber you have to give her even longer than the usual three years to really find out how she is performing in your garden. So you have to be patient with this rose to allow her to develop her full potential, but I feel that if you garden you have to learn to be patient anyway. In my garden 'Zephirine Drouhin' will stay a little longer, at least for now!

 'Zephirine Drouhin' a little bit past her peak spring 2011

Not related to the topic of this particular post, but still very worth mentioning to me is the fact that between the last post and this one I crossed the line of my first ten thousand pageviews (You can find the counter at the sidebar of my blog). So I just would like to take the chance to thank my visitors for reading my blog, looking at my photos, becoming followers, and even leaving kind comments on my blog. If it weren't for you, it would not make sense that I would write and photograph for this blog at all. It is so much fun for me to share my own garden experience here in San Diego, California with you, dear readers, but also let you participate in my visits of other public and private gardens close and abroad. A heartfelt thanks to all of you out there! I am looking forward to continue this journey together with you!

See you in the garden!



  1. A beautiful rose ! Spectacular ! And I like to see the stages in his development. Great post, Christina !

  2. Twoje piękne róże mają wspaniałe widoki (krajobraz). Pozdrawiam

  3. Oh Christina ~ What a beauty Zephirine Drouhin is. Thank you so much for sharing her with us here in blogland.


  4. Dani, thanks for your compliment regarding this post. I am glad that you like Zephi!

    Giga, thanks for you comment. Yes, you are right my roses enjoy great views. Have never thought about it, but they may enjoy them as much as we do ;-)!

    FlowerLady, thanks for your lovely comment. When Zephi is good, than she is really good isn't she?


  5. Christina, your ZD is gorgeous. All in all, I am split about it too, but I grow mine in the lawn, and the chief advantage for me is its lack of prickles (I do have kids running around there all the time). Mine is about as old as yours, and the rebloom has not been spectacular either... I love the way you grow yours, as a weeping shrub, I think it is one of the most beautiful ways of showing off a rose. I hope you keep it.

  6. You did a great job.Everything you wrote here will be useful for those who want this rose.

  7. She is spectacular! I have often thought of growing her, but have not because of her reputation with blackspot. Perhaps you're right - putting her far enough away to not be too noticeable unless she's in full flush would be a perfect spot for her. Thanks for all the info. She is really gorgeous.

  8. She's a beauty. Her fragrance is even more amazing. Does she waft, Christina?

  9. Masha, thanks! I am glad that you like the fountain like way I grow my Zephi. Interesting that yours does not repeat well either. With all the positive reponses that she gets here on my blog I guess I have to keep her for at least one more year ;-)!

    Mihai, welcome to my blog. Thanks for your encouraging comment regarding this post!

    HolleyGarden, thanks for your comment. Now that I think about it, you are one of those people with a big garden I was talking about ;-)! You could grow her somewhere out of the way and just enjoy her when she is in full bloom. Maybe you should give her a try! I am curious to hear if you will get her...

    Sherry, yes, yes, yes, Zephirine's fragrance wafts! That is astonishing since we have so little humidity here in SoCa that almost non of my roses do this. I can imagine that in Florida she would even waft stronger for you. Are you considering to try her?


  10. It's funny when I visit your site I can smell the roses, thank you beautiful!

  11. Christina this is such a detailed and informative post, thank you! I can't believe what a beautiful view you have over there, I just dream of visiting California and seeing views like that for myself. I love roses but you are obsessed I feel! Don't change though...

  12. Foxglove Lane, thanks for visiting my blog! I wish I could smell the roses that I see on other blogs, too. Can you tell me your trick?

    Martin, thanks! Yes, we are blessed with a beautiful view down the valley below us, which is populated, though, but it is still very nice. So you dream of visiting California and I dream badly to visit Sussex, again! Life is funny! Hmm, am I obsessed with roses?! Never thought of it that way... Maybe your are right, but even if I am I can't help it :-)!


  13. I think your rose is beautiful! So what if she's not perfect. :o) Try giving her worm compost and dried banana peels. It might help her make it through her less-than-fabulous phase with a little more grace.

  14. Casa Mariposa, thanks for stopping by! We have a worm bin and I noticed that the roses respond very well to a treatment with worm compost. Unfortunately we produce way not enough of this great stuff to feed all my roses. But I may give Zephi a decent scoop of worm poop and see what happens. Excellent idea!


  15. I just ordered 4 of these to place at the house I am moving into soon ( and have been looking for more info on this rose. If you have a chance to look at the link I put there you will see where I plan to put them.

    It says they can be a climber instead of a fountain... how would I make it climb? Put some sort of support behind it and somehow attach it to it? I also do not want it to be 9 feet wide!! That part was not listed on the page I ordered it from... I am assuming I can just keep it clipped back? Not let all the limbs go so long? Trim to keep it more compact width-wise and let it shoot for the moon in height??

    Thank you! I did learn so much more about this rose here than I have found elsewhere :)

  16. Dana, if you want 'Zephirine Drouhin' to climb you have to tie her to some kind of support, otherwise the rose will grow into a fountain. I have seen ZD growing on pillars so it should be fine growing on columns. You may want to wrap the long, flexible and thornless canes around the columns as long as they are young, which will control the width of the rose and encourage lots of laterals and therefore lots of blooms. I can imagine that four 'Zephrine Drouhin' in front of a house will look breathtaking. Good luck!


  17. Christina, l am finally getting my Zephrine. Thank you for your helpful information. l would like to share my grandmom's secret for black spot and rust. 1% vinegar/water mix poured over roses. That's about 1 tsp vinegar per quart. Stops it in its tracks. You can spray it on the undersides, just cover every leaf top and bottom, stems, and the ground underneath if you haven't cleaned out the old black spot leaves that fell. l have saved roses that only had 3 yellow leaves left on the plant.

  18. I just purchased 2 ZD today for my backyard. I live in a north suburb of Houston - ground zero for humidity in the summer. I did not realize she was so susceptible to black spot. I hope I can keep her healthy as the spot I have planned is very visible. Thank you for the very informative post. Your rose is beautiful and so is your view!!