Plant of the month – July 2018 – Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’

Order: Rosales           Family: Rosaceae           Subfamily: Rosoideae            Genus: Rosa

Type: Perennial          Propagation: Seed, plant propagation, cuttings, grafting

Native to: Mostly Asia, some Europe and North America

I love roses, especially the ones who live in my garden. Yet few are the ones who manage to create an attachment as strong as the one I feel for my ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’. It was love at first sight and my passion never abated, even after all these years. Yet he is not easy to love. The word temperamental comes to mind: not too much sun or the petals will bleach in disgust; not enough food and it will drop down two sizes in protest; every so often it will decide not to open its buds after all and every now and then it will take on the latest fashion of black polka dots on a mid-green foliage background. And yet, and yet… the deep crimson purple and the divine perfume, the double structure giving a peep of the orange-yellow stamen when it feels like it, the velvet petals, thick and smooth… Everything about this doctor speaks to me of the perfect dream rose. Even the name is dark and mysterious. It implies that the good doctor is dead and that he is remembered fondly… Who was this regretted Docteur Jamain and what happened?

I found some answers in a delightful article written by Darrell G H Schramm for the American Rose Society. I remember reading it a while ago and loving the poetry and playful passion with which it was written. The article is no longer online but Crystal, from the society, was very kind to send me a copy. Thank you Mr Schramm for your beautiful words.

Alexandre Jamain was born on the 18th of March 1816. He was the son of Dupuy Jamain, a French horticulturalist who also had a rose named after him. His father’s occupation is probably how our Docteur developed a taste for roses and might also be how he came across François Lacharme (1817-1887), the French “rosieriste” behind the Roses Noisettes series. Docteur Jamain seemed to have many talents when it came to medicine: starting his career as a generalist, he wrote essays and pamphlets and books about surgery, ophthalmology and conditions of the scrotum. Quite a range. He died on the 12th of December 1862, aged only 46 years old. I can find no record of what happened to cause this early death. François Lacharme bred the rose in 1865, three years after the doctor’s death. What noble deed inspired a man who never named a rose after himself to name his most beautiful creation after our doctor?

‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ is a good candidate for a north-facing wall, as it doesn’t need much sun and the deep claret colour tends to fade when overexposed.

The flowering starts in May/June and gently keeps going until September/October, a few flowers at the time. It is a bush but can also be trained as a climber, up to 3 metres with support. The almost thorn-free stems are flexible so it can be trained in any way you like.

Rarely have I seen such a velvety rose and the scent will make you weak at the knees. It is a perfect rose scent, rich and voluptuous, heavy yet fresh. You get one sniff and you go “mmmhhhh”, you just can’t help it.

So yes, ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ is a bit of a drama queen and will need some care to thrive. Then again, who doesn’t? Its shadowy beauty is reward enough, as I am reminded every time I gaze at him in admiration and its exquisite perfume is brought to me on a random breeze…

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