It can be difficult to find the most useful line to take when reviewing a time-tested classic. Everyone already knows Compassion is a great rose and this has been objectively established for some time now, so... um.. yeah. Then again, the factors underpinning Compassion's polymathic excellence aren't as widely appreciated as they should be. She's been around since the early 70s and that period of rose fashion has been tumultuous in the extreme, with many perfectly good plants dropping out of commercial circulation- we've all been distracted by successive waves of overhyped contenders that flashed their floral tits, so to speak. But while they faceplant into disfavour and oblivion, OGs like Compassion remain staples of the successful garden. I'm here to tell you exactly why that is.
Anyway, Compassion is one of those versatile in-betweeny roses, forming either a tall bush or a climber/espallier subject, depending on how she is trained. There's no point trying to constrain her size, though. She's a big Sasquatchy bitch and needs shrubs and larger perennials to provide sympathetic company. Pruned conventionally, she will stand on her stout cherry-tinged canes up to around the 2.5 metre mark before requiring any support (we live in a windy coastal area so I'm confident about that). When pegged out or arranged on a fence, I'm unsure of her maximum potential dimensions, although I have seen an old plant go 3 metres in either direction in a bot garden somewhere.
Compassion is endlessly vigorous and incredibly forgiving of shit pruning jobs, sprouting away from all points and putting out enough slightly olive-green HT foliage to cover our worst mistakes. Her open, upright structure makes her a great prop for the smaller clematis and honeysuckles and she won't shade out anything growing around her feet.
It's easy to take Compassion's flowers for granted because they are so consistently present and unbothered by climatic travails. But they're certainly worthy of gratitude. They begin as tight, violet-pink scrolls in the classic Hybrid Tea manner, holding on to that graceful twist for a long time before finally blousing out to reveal a golden heart and anthers, along with burnished coral, amber and apricot shading.
They can hold for a couple of weeks in the vase on stems that are always strong enough to support them; that is only something you miss when you're cursing a saggy fistful of droopy, petal-dripping DAs. They seldom ball or rot on the plant and keep their lovely colours for many days, even in our ruinous UV. Compassion offers a weird assortment of bloom presentations, ranging from single stems to huge cauliflower trusses that will open in obliging succession. I sometimes do a bit of disbudding on the latter to tighten their schedule in the vase, but there's no need to manage her production as her petals drop cleanly and all flowers will open in due course.
Though she is thoroughly remontant all the way through from mid-spring to mid-autumn here in Zone 9, with little to no downtime, Compassion always insists on a rest during our fairly trifling winters. It makes pruning easier.
Fragrance-wise, I rate her highly within her somewhat dodgy category; the tonality of her perfume is closely coupled with her colours, having a sweet and warmly classical true rose character, with none of the unpleasant plasticky notes than so often fuck up the Hybrid Tea nose experience.