Veilchenblau was introduced in 1909 with claims that here, at last, was the blue rose. Alas, it is not blue: rather, the flowers open purple and pass through shades of lilac and mauve and then to pale lilac grey – but, in that last stage, it is as close to blue as any rose gets. I am assured you can, sometimes, see the odd old flower that could be described as blue without bending the truth too far. I am yet to see it.
The pigment that makes flowers blue, delphinidin, is absent from the rose. Mauve roses look that way because of the breakdown of the red pigment, cyanidin, in combination with tannins. Purple and lilac roses are just reds and pinks suffering from premature old age, and no amount of crossing them will make them any bluer than they are.
Veilchenblau has heads of small flowers, opening to reveal a lilac and white eye and occasional white streaks on the petals. They are small, semi double and incurved, and show prominent yellow stamens. The flowers remain on the bush a long while so there is a pleasant mix of colours at any one time. It flowers early in the season, with no repeat flower. The scent, while not very strong, is fresh and pleasing.
The plant is thornless, with light green leaves. It roots very easily from cuttings and is sometimes used as understock.
Descriptions of Veilchenblau say it grows anything from 3 metres to 10 metres. I don’t know about that. Mine sends up long arching canes (about a metre long) from the base. It does not get any bigger than the length of these canes. It is, otherwise, strong and healthy.
This is one of the few roses that does well in light shade. In shade, the colour is softer and the blue tones more convincing.
Veilchenblau is classified as a Rambler which is a subclass of the Old Garden Rose. It is in the Rosa multiflora style. A critical feature of Ramblers is: their branches only flower once and should be removed entirely to make way for the new shoots from the base that will bear next year’s flowers. This is important to remember when pruning – rather than cutting back, old canes should be removed completely.
Veilchenblau was introduced by Schmidt of Erfurt.