Tuscany Superb: The Most Romantic Rose of All

I thought I would write a whole post dedicated to what I think is the most romantic of all roses: The Gallica rose, ‘Tuscany Superb’.

The Gallicas are the oldest of all garden roses: their predecessors were grown by Ancient Greeks and Romans. They were then developed and bred in greater numbers in France through the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is where their name ‘Gallica’ comes from.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’

Their longevity of the Gallica may be due to their natural good health. Gallicas rarely have problems with pests and diseases. They have bright green foliage, slightly wrinkled in texture, and bristly stems. It reminds me of the equally healthy Rosa rugosa, and like Rosa rugosa, Gallica roses are ideal for poor soils and less-than-ideal situations, owing to their vigour. Also like Rosa rugosa, the Gallicas have a tendency to sucker: to spread runners via their roots. This does not happen if they are grafted onto different roots, as most roses are in the UK.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’, in a tumble with Geranium ‘Brookside’

Gallica roses make neat little shrubs, of about 1.2 metres in height and width. This makes them ideal for a small garden. They tend towards upright growth, with multiple upright stems, each of which will bear a cluster of three or more flowers. The central flower opens first, and then the outer flowers follow.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’ with Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’in the background.

Gallicas tend to have deeply-saturated colours, in the crimson-purple range. The flowers have soft, velvety petals, which are gently ruffled. They are a double flower, with at least twice, but often many times more, than the five petals found on species roses. The petals of Gallica roses often open out in maturity to reveal the stamens. Because Gallica roses still have stamens (many later developed roses don’t), the bees love them.

‘Tuscany Superb’ is at the maroon end of crimson, but it can look purplish or reddish, depending on the light. Its petals are softly, sweetly curved, as if to hold just enough sun-warmed air to delight the nose with old rose perfume.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’

It is the loveliest of all roses to deadhead. I like to remove the central flower once it has started to dry out and curl up. The removal of the central spent flower allows the outer flowers to show their best.

It is one of my favourite sensory pleasures to hold the impossibly soft and tender rose in one hand and snip its bristly stem with the other. The petals are softer than anything I know: peach fuzz, babies’ bottoms, duck down: they are nothing to this rose. The spent flower fits perfectly into my hand. Its petals may suddenly let out a silent ‘oh!‘, let go of their calyx all at once. They drop into my waiting bucket, with a flurry of petal confetti. and glorious rose perfume.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’ revealing stamens (and harmless bugs).

I grow ‘Tuscany Superb’ without support. It holds its weight well. I have three shrubs, planted from bare-roots, placed about a metre apart in a circle. Planting in threes creates more of a presence in a border, if you have the space (and I would make space for this rose). I have surrounded ‘Tuscany Superb’ by the airy hardy geranium ‘Brookside’. Any blue or white geranium would do. The geranium weaves its way through the rose, enjoying its support. There is never any need to weed, as there is simply no space left.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’

This pairing of rose and geranium is especially beautiful in the morning sunlight, when dew is just clinging to the edge of the petals of ‘Tuscany Superb’ and the sunlight is shining straight through the geranium. They twinkle, and wink at one another.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’ with Geranium ‘Brookside’ in the morning light.

Gallica roses only flower once in the summer, but are glorious for the whole of June. Once the flowers have gone over, the foliage remains healthy. It provides structure and scaffolding for its neighbours for the rest of the summer. In my rose garden, I have geraniums, salvias, foxgloves, hollyhocks, phlox, penstemons, agastache and day lilies. They ensure the display continues until November.

Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’ with Geranium ‘Brookside’, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Digitalis ‘Pam’s Choice’ and Bourbon rose ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’

If I had to choose just one Gallica rose, then ‘Tuscany Superb’ would be it. No other old rose combines health, vigour, neat growth habit, lush foliage, deep, rich velvety flowers and heavenly scent, like this rose.

I mulch my roses deeply (5-10cm) with well-rotted manure in winter. Whilst I may feed my more hungry English and Bourbon roses with blood-and-bone or a liquid seaweed feed at the end of June, I don’t think it is necessary with the healthy old Gallicas. And besides, I challenge anyone to find the base of this well-clothed rose in the height of summer.

I never spray my roses. So long as you grow roses with plenty of other species, like geraniums and salvias, I find that disease does not take hold. Very few pests harm roses in the UK. By spraying roses, you are doing great harm to the garden’s ecosystem. I have no desire to take away food from birds or the frogs in the garden, let alone poison them.

If you would like to explore more recommended roses, click on the ‘Roses’ category from the main menu, or from the ‘Rose Portraits’ tab near the title of this post. As you may have guessed I have a little bit of a rose problem. English roses and old roses are my obsession and my joy.

Do you too have a rose problem? Join me! Join in the conversation: I love comments or questions, which you can post below.

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32 Comments Add yours

  1. Chloris says:

    Lovely post, I am a fan of Tuscany Suberb too, but then I love Gallica roses, specially Charles de Mills, Cardinal de Richelieu and Ipsilanté. Rosa rugosa leaves me cold although they are healthy and have lovely hips.

    1. That is a gorgeous selection you have, Chloris. Which is your favourite? I have ‘Charles de Mills’ too, and I think ‘Tuscany Superb’ has overtaken it in my affections.

  2. Jan says:

    Fabulous flowers, I think I have something similar in my garden, what are it’s pruning needs?

    1. I give it a good haircut to about 1m all round in late winter. It is very easy!

      1. Jan Willetts says:

        Thanks Ali, hoped you would say that !

  3. CCBethune says:

    Beautiful! And what a fantastic colour! 😊

    1. Thank you CC! It is gorgeous, isn’t it?

  4. susurrus says:

    The rose, geranium and salvia make a glorious threesome. I especially like the picture with the sun loungers in the background (very atmospheric – I hope you have chance to take full advantage of the loungers) and the one with the foxglove towering over, as if it is a teacher and the flowers are classmates. It might be interesting for you to root some Tuscany Superb and see how it does on its own roots.

    1. Today those loungers are getting some use! I may well try that with cuttings.

  5. john says:

    If you had one spot left in your garden for a dark red, maroon rose of this colour, would you pick this rose or Munstead Wood Instead ? Thank you

    1. I would go for ‘Munstead Wood’. ‘Munstead Wood’ has the edge because of its scent, which is stronger and so dark-fruity. Also larger flowers, and repeat-flowering. ‘Munstead’ is my absolute favourite rose.

      1. John says:

        Thanks Ali, I just have one spot left, so the rose needs to count. To offer something back, I have found the recent introduction James Austin to be good.

      2. Oh yes, I have spotted that one! It’s gorgeous!

  6. I may have to look for one of these roses to plant when I’m feeling better. It sounds like they are more hardy and would do well in our less that ideal rose conditions here where I live. The color would fit in well with all my pinks and purples. Thank you for sharing Ali. Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Oh goo! I am glad to be of use! Hope you are making a good recovery, Cindy?

    2. Cathy says:

      I have resisted once- fliwering roses because space is always at a premium, but am always tempred by Tuscany Superb when I see it and you have almost convinced me to add it to the woodland edge border…

      1. It is such a lovely one, Cathy.

      2. Cathy says:

        My fingers are forever hitting the wrong keys when I use my tablet or phone, although I do try to check before I send a comment, so apologies for the typos…

      3. I could understand it completely, Cathy!

  7. Heyjude says:

    You are a wicked temptress Ali! Do I have room for another rose? No.

    1. Sadly me neither. Life’s tough, isn’t it? 😂

  8. Suzanne says:

    Nothing quite says beautiful like a bush brimming with roses. Lovely!

    1. I would have to agree, Suzanne!

  9. Wow, the color of those Gallica Roses is superb. I have never even thought before of a particular kind of rose being the oldest of all the roses. That is interesting. I am beginning to realize that plants and flowers have quite a bit of history and narrative to them. Thanks for opening my eyes to this, Ali.

    1. It is funny the directions gardening can take you in! Everything is interlinked!

      1. That is a great reminder! Sometimes when I think about learning how to garden well, it seems really overwhelming. But I think that when I just start, one thing leads to another thing which leads to another, and pretty soon, I have learned all this stuff without realizing it.

      2. Absolutely. What I love about gardening is that one thing naturally leads to another. Flow.

  10. Val says:

    I planted y Tuscany Superb last autumn when it was covered in leaves, they dropped in the winter and now all the growth is at the top and its a bit top heavy, will leaves eventually come through on the rest of stems i have had to support it with canes

    1. Hi Val, yes, that is the growth habit of the gallicas. You can refresh the whole shrub each year by pruning out a third of the stems right down to the ground in late winter/early spring. Choose any dead, dying or diseased stems first, and then the oldest stems from there. This will stimulate fresh new growth of stems over the next year. In the autumn, prune back any long whippy stems to two thirds of their length to keep a nice neat shape, and to prevent wind damage over winter.

      1. Val says:

        Thank you so much for the advice, this will be really helpful going forward over the next 12 months

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