Originally published in A Passion for Roses, 1997
Much has been said and written about that Grand Dame of roses, DAINTY BESS, and with good reason. Her large blooms are delicious in their elegant simplicity, rich coloring and beautiful fragrance. She comes by her good looks naturally. being the daughter of the classic KITCHENER OF KHARTOUM and the legendary OPHELIA. But, she has produced an even lovelier daughter with the help of the great tea or hybrid tea, LADY HILLINGDON.
Ellen Willmott is a name we all know as a great plantswoman, garden designer and for her monumental book, The Genus Rosa. Her rose should be as well known. Her growth is a bit more upright than the fair BESS', being more in the mold of a traditional hybrid tea. Like those of LADY HILLINGDON, the new shoots are a rich plum tinted green that mature a dark, matte green. From these well clothed, straight stems, small clusters of pointed buds are borne.
They begin life as a pale, blush lemon and pink, colors sometimes remaining in the open flower in cooler weather. The blooms flare widely, stretching out their wavy, ruffled ivory-white petals with wine-red brown stamen. There is even fragrance, while not as intense as that of her mother. Due to her coloring, Roses of Yesterday and Today called DAINTY BESS, "a real brunette of a rose". Well, if BESS is a brunette, ELLEN is a brown eyed blond.
As a garden plant, she is an improvement on her mother. She is taller, with much better posture. Her clothes are cut from a finer cloth and are much tougher and impervious to disease and damage. She will even put on as spectacular a show as DAINTY BESS. Her strong, stiff stems make her an easier rose to cut and enjoy. She roots easily and grows very nicely without the aid of artificial vigor.
The only reason I can suggest for her comparative obscurity is the fact she isn't "pink", but please don't let that prevent you from getting to know her. Once introduced, she will be an intimate friend. You'll have to look a little harder to find her as none of the major commercial suppliers has seen fit to offer her for many a year. But she's waiting at four California sources: The Rose Ranch in Salinas, Sequoia Nursery - Moore's Miniature Roses in Visalia, Roses and Wine in Cameron, and Vintage Gardens in Sebastopol.