‘Madame Alfred Carriere’, an old garden rose, can take a lot of abuse when it’s grown in the right climate. A Noisette, it really doesn’t like the cold, which may reflect the fact that the Noisettes were initially hybridized in a mild climate. The first Noisette was probably created in South Carolina by John Champneys, in 1802, when he crossed a Rosa moschata with Parson’s Pink China. He gave seed to Philippe Noisette, who in turn sent some to his brother in France. Louis Noisette and his descendants developed the Noisette line—‘Blush Noisette’ was the first—and they introduced Mme Alfred in 1879.
Although ‘Mme Alfred’ is officially a repeat bloomer, the big show is in springtime; the rest of the year there’s just a smattering of blooms—soft, creamy white double blooms with a hint of a blush. Right now, my neighbors stop and ask me what it is and where they can get one. I bought mine from Heirloom Roses, which grows and sells own-root roses and ships them in four-inch containers. These slips are small and benefit from a little babying for the first year, but after that—wow! These own-root roses are tough, and you never have to worry about suckers. Any cane growing from the base of an own-root rose is the rose you planted, not root stock.
‘Mme Alfred’ can clamber up a twenty-foot wall with no problem. I grow it along my front fence, and instead of pruning it, I just take the hedge clippers to it every so often, keeping it roughly eight feet tall and letting it twine through and over the pickets for about ten feet. Almost thornless, with soft, whippy canes, it’s easy to train. I have a flowering pear tree on the other side of the front walk; one branch arches over the walk and reaches out for the white rose. Sometimes I think about letting it go up into the pear tree, the way my ‘Blush Noisette’ climbs up through another tree. And then I remember the deep disapproval of the knowledgeable man who prunes my trees. He says frostily, “Vines and roses should never be allowed to climb trees.” Thus, so far, Mme Alfred stays on the fence. One of these days though, I might “forget” to clip it back. I think those white roses among the new green pear leaves would be quite a sight.