White is also far more aesthetically problematic than one might assume. I mean, basics the world over have gone crazy planting swathes of Iceberg Rose along their post and rail driveways, but someone should have told them a lack of positive colour doesn't mean an easy fit in the landscape.
It's pronounced glahrms, apparently. First, a semi-rambling word about white roses in general. You can skip this bit if you just want the shit on Glamis Castle.
White isn't my favourite colour and I'm not 100% enthusiastic about its stealthy creep into our garden, largely on the back of an increasing appreciation of older varieties. I plant them in spite of all that tasteful pallor.
Genetically, colour in roses can be completely or incompletely dominant (i.e red + white can result in red, white or pink). But with blanc featuring so heavily in the enormous Rosaceae family (roses, berries, apples etc.), you'd think it would be easy enough to breed a decent white rose. Or that this embarrassment of ancestral riches should have endowed any offspring with the rustic health of those progenitors, but no.
White is no guarantee of a quality plant. Wish I'd known that a couple of years back.
Despite the drawbacks, some people are all about a white rose, no matter what. If you're one of them, you've probably been pointed in Glamis Castle's direction. It's a David Austin baby from his middle period and I'll get to the significance of that later.
Though of limited sillage, their scent is strong and ever-presentt; R always leans over them and says 'peanut butter'. I would personally describe Glamis Castle's scent as a classic rose myrrh, serving a warm confusion of marzipan/almond notes, vintage suede, egg nog, touches of tonka, high violet and fresh elderflower. You may detect a funkadelic leaning in this combination and you're dead right about that, so if myrrh gives you cat's bum face, Glamis Castle doesn't belong in your trolley.
GC's flowers are a deeply-cupped and slightly ruffled joy, containing enough petals to provide that gracious vintage payoff without looking contrived, slutty or overstuffed. They are a pretty neutral, saturated white, sort of like milk bottle jubes, rich and selfy, neither glaringly brilliant nor disappointingly dingey. This wonder is probably achieved via the dense, matte texture of the petals, their substance producing a white that plays well with other hues, looking dirty alongside only the purest, coldest iterations of this same colour.
The flowers resist rain well, flopping slightly when hammered but they don't usually ball in our situation.
It springs from the loins of the yellow Graham Thomas, and Mary Rose, a tall pink that's usually a good doer, and from whence GC's lovely scent probably derives. I grow both parents. That beguiling white skipped a generation through the floriferous Mary Rose, which features The Friar and the surpassingly beauteous Ivory Fashion in her immediate lineage.
And now for the negatives.
Glamis Castle is an amazingly shitty plant, holistically speaking- a typical DA spotty herbert of the period. It is puny and unsatisfying, mine clocking in at around 90cm after many years. Half of that is rangy, leafless twig-leg, bristling with the sort of thorns that hole your clothes from the other side of the fucking garden.
I've pruned with its gawky frame in mind, trying to minimise the effect to no avail, and now I just basically dead-head and let it be its bad self. The messy crown consists of smallish dark green leaves, remarkable only for their ability to explode utterly into rust/blackspotaggedon immediately upon leafing out at the end of winter.
And yet I do not kill it with fire. I really should, because there's no excuse for harbouring manky hos like GC. Luckily, most of my other plantings were selected for health and prosper in spite of this Patient Zero lurking in their midst.
Like a dozen other David Austin shitbirds I could name, Glamis Castle survives on the basis of two things; paradoxical charisma and hardcore myrrh. There it is, utterly ratchet but still blooming away a week out from the shortest day. Its flowers are divine and quite plentifully supplied in spite of well, everything. They so beautifully reconcile the other colours in a nice fat bunch (see below). And who can stop a myrrh freak from getting their taste? We just never fucking learn.
Seriously, don't plant Glamis Castle. I wish I hadn't and will probably summon the impetus to bin it... one day. It needs spraying to be at all presentable and no rose is worth contaminating our struggling biome with that garbage. If you're determined to plonk it in your spray-free garden, you need to be sure your other roses/susceptible plants can weather the persistent disease burden. But there are other, less problematic whites and strong myrrhs out there.