The Harkness firm was established in 1879 in Yorkshire, and very quickly developed a reputation for quality roses that remains to this day. Jack Harkness, who passed away in 1994, began developing new roses for the company in 1962, and improved roses' health by introducing genes from various wild rose species. Early successes were with hybrid teas (which are roses designed for cutting, with one bloom per stem), and then later with floribunda roses, which are significantly shorter than hybrid teas and possessing multiple flowers, making them appropriate for growing at the front of mixed beds.

Harkness roses are widely grown in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Perhaps part of the reason for his relative obscurity in the United States (with some notable exceptions) is that he started hybridizing when David Austin did, and already had such a phenomenal reputation that marketing to America was not in the forefront of his thoughts. Despite that, I personally have grown High Hopes, a wonderful climber, and Jacqueline du Pre.

Jacqueline du Pre

This absolutely stunning shrub rose was named for the renowned cellist who died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 42. A more dazzling tribute would be hard to imagine. This rose, which is a shrub that grows four feet feet and four feet wide, blooms in clusters of 3-5 with white three-inch blooms with rose-colored centers and a petal count of 15. It is very upright and is an enthusiastic bloomer. Although simple, it is very elegant and stylish. It is also one of the first roses to bloom in spring, and it blooms for many weeks. The scent is amazing. It is hardy in zones 5 to 9.

My only caveat is that it dislikes pruning. And it is best in a sunny position.

jacqueline du pre rose

Margaret Merrill

This beautiful rose, hybridized in 1977, is already close to legendary. Exceptionally fragrant, it has 3 1/2 inch blooms with 29 petals. This cluster-flowered semi-double rose is 4 feet by 3 feet. In fact, it was rated number 1 for fragrance by England's National Rose Society, ahead of all the Austin roses. It is also said to bloom continually. It is hardy in zones 5 to 9.

The only confusing thing about this rose is that it is sometimes referred to as a shrub and sometimes as a floribunda. As someone who failed with every floribunda I ever tried to grow, I would love to get this clarified, but I am unable to do so.

Margaret Merril rose

High Hopes

Introduced in 1992, this exquisite and delicate modern climbing rose can reach 10 to 12 feet, with a petal count of about 20. This rose was recommended to me by Pickering Nursery. The color is a combination of pink and salmon, and has hybrid tea type flowers. The buds are very beautiful, and they open with high centers. I found it to be healthy, and it repeated well, blooming summer into autumn. I found numerous references to the hardiness of this rose in USDA zone 6a, but I grew it successfully in zone 5a.

It has three to five flowers per cluster. It has a wonderful delicacy.

High Hopes rose

Creme Abundance

This stunning floribunda rose, hybridized in 1999, has a reputation for producing its scented light cream flowers, complete with honey-colored centers, in large numbers. Each bloom has about 40 petals, and are produced in clusters of 5 to 9. If this rose is well-fertilized it is a bloom machine, and blooms from spring to fall. It receives excellent reviews from those who grow it, only partially because it is very disease resistant.

It possesses a strong citrus fragrance and the diameter of the flowers is 3.5 inches. It grows to about 35 inches. There seems to be some dispute about the zone. It is listed in places as hardy to 6b but there are several individuals in zone 5 who have grown it in the ground with success. I should note that it is very successfully grown in containers. It is recommended as a good rose for cutting gardens.

There are several Abundance roses with similar characteristics: Red Abundance, Apricot Abundance, Amber Abundance and so on. But when Peter Harkness wrote a book about the beat roses in commerce, Creme was the one he referenced.

Cream Abundance rose

Compassion

Bred in 1972, and with a reputation as being extremely disease resistant, this hybrid tea possesses a strongly upright habit, and blooms from late spring to late summer. The bloom cycle has been described as profuse and continuous. It can also be grown in a very wide range, with a zone hardiness between 5 to 10. Like many climbers, it can also be grown as a shrub. It possesses 4 inch double blooms that are a mixed shade of apricot, gold and copper and they are produced in clusters. It is so beautifully scented (I have read honey mixed with peach) that it has won several fragrance awards. Its reviews by numerous buyers are some of the best that I have ever encountered.

It blooms in clusters of three to five flowers, with a petal count of 35. It grows 6 or 7 feet tall and five in feet wide. It also is a very good flower for cutting.

Compassion rose

Penny Lane

Rose of the Year in England in 1998, when it was hybridized, this rose is noteworthy in that it was the first continually blooming climber to ever receive this distinctive award. This wonderful rose has fully double 4 inch blooms in clusters one to five with great charm and beauty. They are also very fragrant. Their honey/champagne/apricot colored blooms blush prettily to pearl in hot weather. Sometimes they are borne individually and sometimes in sprays.

Eight to ten feet high, and six to seven feet wide, this rose is advertised as being hardy in a large range of zone - from 5 to 10.

Penny Lane rose

Irish Hope

This very fragrant, continually blooming rose, hardy in zones is actually a white rose that blushes yellow, making it quite unusual. Hybridized in 1998, this rose (which gets enthusiastic reviews from those who have grown it is 4 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide. It was hybridized in 1998. It has 4 inch flowers with frills on the petal edges.

It also is very highly rated for disease.

Irish Hope rose

Easy Does It

For something completely different, I offer this floribunda rose. Enormously popular for its ease of growth and disease resistance under most circumstances, my research garnered more kudos for this rose than any other. It has the colors of peach, mango and orange, is three feet tall and has frilled flowers. The petal count is 25 to 30, and the flowers are up to 4 inches across.

For a Harkness rose, it's like a wild party. The repeat bloom is continuous. It is the only American Association Rose Selection for 2010. It is three feet tall and three feet wide, and is variously sold as a zone 5 to zone 6 rose. It was hybridized at some time before 2006.

Easy Does It rose

Easy Going

The amazing thing is how different this rose is from Easy Does it! It is a discovered rose, found on Harkness' grounds in 1996 and introduced in 1998. It stood out because it was, in the middle of a group of orangey apricot Living Easy roses, a golden apricot rose which, although rather thorny, remained disease-free all season (hence the name it was given). It is also very upright, which in my experience makes it much easier to fit into smaller gardens and borders.

A floribunda, it blooms in clusters with ruffled double blossoms that are 4 to 5 inches across, with 30 petals. And apparently tough as nails!

Easy Going rose

And, for reference, here is Living Easy, the rose from which Easy Going sported.

Living Easy rose

I have found that Harkness roses have added a unique beauty to my garden. I hope that you will try one or two and see if you agree.