Alba Maxima

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Alba Maxima

class: Alba Rose
synonyms: R. x alba 'Maxima'
breeding: before 1500
photographed by Daphne Filiberti in her garden

'Alba Maxima' is close to an archetypal white rose; it is also one of the oldest roses grown in gardens today. Boccaccio (1313-1375), writer of the Decameron, was quoted by Julia Cartwright in Italian Gardens of the Renaissance. Boccaccio described the beautiful gardens near Rome: "the beauties of these gardens, of the broad alleys shaded by pergolas laden with purple grapes, and bordered with red and white roses and jessamine". There is a good chance the white roses that Boccaccio spoke of were either 'Alba Maxima' or 'Alba Semi-Plena', which still embellish Florentine gardens to this day. 'Alba Maxima' was painted by Italian masters of the fifteenth century. This might be due to the fact that 'Alba Maxima' is a beautiful white rose, which could symbolize the definitive white rose. E.Y. Bunyard believed that 'Alba Maxima', as well as 'Maiden's Blush', was painted in The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. 'Alba Maxima' also appears in many Dutch masterpeices of the eighteenth century. There has been a good share of debate over whether 'Alba Maxima' is the Rose of York, a symbol of English political power. Some experts believe The Rose of York refers to 'Alba Semi-Plena', while Graham Thomas believes it is probably Rosa arvensis. 'Alba Maxima' can sport to 'Alba Semi-Plena' and 'Alba Semi-Plena' can sport to 'Alba Maxima' and this can account for some of the confusion about these roses. 'Alba Maxima' is like a fuller version of 'Semi-Plena'. Jack Harkness wrote that the history of 'Maxima' was lost in the eighteenth and early ninteenth century. What is certain is that the rose is a noble white rose, with many other names such as 'The Jacobite Rose', 'Great Double White', 'The Bonnie Prince Charlie's Rose'. Redouté's Rosa alba flore pleno is 'Alba Semi-Plena'. There are stories of 'Alba Maxima' still surviving for many years in a place where a home once stood. The rose can tolerate some severe conditions. I have had my rose planted in partial shade for over five years. It didn't bloom for a couple of years in my Southern California garden. The rose is a stately six feet tall and it fills up nicely with white, loosely double, scented flowers. In December I love the hips, which are a beautiful red oval shape. 'Alba Semi-Plena' is supposed to be more fragrant than 'Alba Maxima', but I find 'Alba Maxima' to be wonderfully fragrant. I look forward to my roses from 'Alba Maxima' once a year. They are nicely scented of damask and citrus, even tangerine tones. The rose is healthy, with beautiful foliage, that has a blue glow. It is about six feet high, upright, and V-shaped.

©2000-2005 Daphne Filiberti