The first Noisette was found on a plantation in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1800s.
In case you are wondering how to pronounce "Noisette", here's some friendly advice. Ruth Knopf, an authority on Noisettes, once told me, "Southeners should not speak French. It is not that they are unable to, but they should not." As an example, the correct pronunciation of Noisette is "Naw-zay." Like many others, I pronounce it as "Noo-sette," even though I know that is incorrect. If I lived in New Orleans where there are many French-speaking people, I might pronounce it correctly. But there is not much French spoken around here in this part of Texas.
Back to the history. The owner of the plantation was a man named Champney, who took a China rose and crossed it with a Musk rose. Champney was trying to get a fragrant rose that bloomed repeatedly. He took one of the new roses, and gave it to his neighbor, Phillipe Noisette. Noisette liked the rose so well that he sent a seedling to his brother in France. The new rose caused quite a stir in the rose world. Many rose hybridizers used the rose in their breeding programs. The first Noisette was named 'Champney's Pink Cluster'. It is a lovely rose, and one that I grow in my garden (see photo at left).
Noisettes as a rule are extremely fragrant. They will also grow in more shade than most roses. Many of them are known as climbers, and some can attain heights of more than 20 feet!
When I began collecting roses, the Noisettes appealed to me because they are so fragrant. Noisette Roses have thin, fragile petals. Thin petals generally mean the fragrance is strong. The color palette of the Noisettes is pastel; they are in varying hues, of apricots, yellows, whites, and pinks Some are red, but those cultivators are found in Europe. My friend Rozanna who is known in some circles as "The queen of Noisettes" (I am just the princess) wanted a red Noisette, so she imported from France a rose that was described as being red. That rose has the ponderous name of 'Reine Olga Von de Wurtenberg'. When the rose bloomed, she was disappointed to find it was pink, not red. She explained to me that the color which we think of as being a shade of pink, was once considered to be red.
One of my favorite Noisettes is 'Blush Noisette', which is a seedling of 'Champney's Pink Cluster', and a fine rose in its own right. It has a marvelous fragrance, which to me is very important in a rose.
Another from my collection is 'Camellia Rose'. It is a darker pink than many of the Noisettes, and it will grow as a climber if given support.
Many of the Noisettes are only hardy to USDA Zone 7, so they are largely grown by people in the warmer zones. But with protection they can often be grown in colder regions. I know of a woman in Quebec, Canada who insists on growing 'Alister Stella Gray'. She brings it inside for the winter, but it is planted outside for the rest of the year. In Canada it does not get as large as it does in Texas, but it does grow and bloom for her.
'Moulton Noisette' is another rose that I adore. The flowers are large and white. When the temperatures are cool, the rose is often stained with pink. The flowers have a wondful scent, similar to that of honeysuckle.
There are a number of sources for Noisettes. A mail-order nursery that I often use is Vintage Gardens; another good source is Ashdown Roses. Both of the nurseries have a good variety of Noisettes and both are listed in the Garden Watchdog along with other sources of antique and species roses.
So if fragrance is a factor in choosing a rose for your garden, Noisettes can not be beat...being gorgeous, too is just icing on the cake.