- Since many of them are old European roses never oranged up in color by contact with yellow China roses or distorted in shape by the China's pointy buds and long centers, they tend to be more beautiful than anything more modern, in my opinion, in both color and shape.
- We are talking insanely vibrant magentas and rose pinks and pristine whites and flesh pinks and crowded blossoms that sometimes are quartered and sometimes look as if they were sliced off by a knife.
- They tend to explode into bloom in June in my part of the world, rather than judiciously doling out the blossoms over a long season.
- They tend to be finished blooming by the time the one truly annoying rose pest, Japanese beetles, arrive. This is why I prefer albas and gallicas to the even tougher rugosas, which do repeat. Some rugosas, like 'Sarah Van Fleet' are super-pretty, but rendered disgusting in July in my part of the world by Japanese beetles.
- My repeat bloomers never repeat bloom anyway. Maybe it's me. Maybe that vicious but gorgeous rose in my yard labeled 'New Dawn' was mislabelled…and is really its more vigorous but once-blooming parent 'Dr. Van Fleet.'
- Once-bloomers, without that China parentage, tend to be so much hardier in a cold climate than, say, David Austin roses or anything else you are likely to pick up at Lowe's.
My absolute current favorite among my once-blooming pets is the 'Russelliana' climbing my front porch, a rose that dates to the early 19th century, if not earlier. Its blooms are relatively small, but there are so many of them in such a striking magenta and they are so stuffed with petals on such a healthy plant, well, it's pretty amazing.
Even more amazing than the rose itself, however, was my friend Julia from Atlanta writing down the name 'Russelliana' when she came to visit me last weekend. Atlanta–where they can grow what I consider TRULY gorgeous old roses like Duchesse de Brabant and Marechal Niel–teas and noisettes too sensitive to survive above the Mason-Dixon line.
"Can''t you grow nice repeat-bloomers?" I asked her in astonishment, assuming my preferences had everything to do with severe upstate winters.
"Oh, they're never as healthy," she said dismissively. "I'm ordering YOUR rose." Case closed. Once bloomers are the best.