Eric’s Pet Plants: Dublin Bay Rose (Rosa x ‘Dublin Bay’)

dublin bay rose, aka blaze improved and don Juan

Deep red is a magnet for the eye, says Eric, and the deep red climber called Dublin Bay is also a magnet for the nose. (Those dark edges come with maturity; they're not visible on younger flowers.)

One problem with going on vacation is that you’re not there to photograph your favorite rose when it’s at its peak, but that hasn’t stopped our friend Eric from resuming his series on pet plants with a shout-out to Dublin Bay, a real landscape workhorse: long blooming, trouble free and (unlike most low-maintenance roses) delightfully fragrant.

Dublin Bay Rose (Rosa x ‘Dublin Bay’)

By Eric Larson

I have had more questions about this plant than a zookeeper during elephant mating season.  It is sited perfectly to provide an entrance ‘wow’ as you come off the street on Mansfield, admittedly not our best first impression.

If you can look past the dump area that grounds maintenance uses for organic waste, a thirty yard dumpster, a five yard dumpster, another container for storage of tools, the sand and salt mixing area with metal and canvas canopy, you will raise your eyes to the completely charming and very assuming Dublin Bay Rose.

This wonderful rose blooms for more than six weeks, which is very unusual for a climbing rose. I don’t spray it; I don’t prune it; I don’t pamper it – I hardly even tie it to the fence (although I will this week, I promise). It rewards my benign neglect with nothing short of extraordinary blooms of the deepest red.

Did I say that is also fragrant? When you cut a bouquet of these roses, you won’t be sneaking up on anybody. They extend their presence into the room like a queen sending her entourage ahead of her. The darkly scented aroma is a favorite in our household, because it takes a queen to know one. That queen being my lovely wife, of course. Photos of Dublin Bay won’t do it justice until they get a ‘scratch-and-sniff’ option on the computer.

Dublin Bay, like all roses, prefers full sun, well-drained soil and good fertility.  Like most climbing roses, it will grow pretty rampantly up and to the side. Unlike many roses of any kind, it seems to enjoy a life unfettered by the debilitating effects of fungal and bacterial problems.  As I mentioned earlier, if there is a truly carefree rose, it is Dublin Bay.

The rose is a member of the eponymous Rose family, Rosaceae, which includes a wide array of plants from apples, cherries and similar fruits to raspberries and other brambles, from hawthorns to the lovely little potentilla. There are about a hundred genera within its ranks, and almost three thousand species.

Most species in the genus Rosa are native to Asia, with a few from Europe, an even smaller number from North America and a very few from northwest Africa. Then there are numerous cultivars and hybrids of rose adding to the genetic pool, creating a botanical nomenclaturist’s nightmare  – or job security, depending on your viewpoint.

For instance, if you google Dublin Bay Rose, you’ll get alternate names, including ‘Improved Blaze’ and ‘Don Juan.’ I prefer ‘Dublin Bay’ for some reason, don’t ask me why.

The naming of plants, especially specific cultivars, is complicated.  If you “discover” a sport or a variant genotype of a plant, you can name it. But that same sport may have already been discovered and named by someone else, setting up a potential Jerry Springer-type conflict.

Speaking of naming rights, James Thurber wrote a wonderful piece about a woman whose husband studied insects.  She complained that his colleague, a botanist, named wonderful flowering plants after HIS wife, while her name gets immortalized on some creepy crawly thing.  Ah the foibles of our species.

Dublin Bay takes the summer off, but blooms again in autumn. The flushes of bloom in June and September, common to many roses, seem to be a phenological indicator of Homo Sapiens’ need to ritualize our relationships. Nice to have roses for the wedding.

I have ours planted next to a ‘Paul Thirion’ lilac. This year they ended up blooming at the same time, which is unusual (although it was at the end of the lilac season). The deep purple-to-red buds on the Lilac opened to light purplish-pink double flowers, with the climbing rose blooming its accustomed deep red.  Some color wheels might start spinning uncontrollably, but I thought it was stunning. If I do say so myself.

bush of dublin bay, don juan. improved blaze rose

Syringa ‘Paul Thirion’ can be glimpsed behind Rosa 'Dublin Bay' in this companion planting. Below is the foliage of a narcissus, which we will soon cover with mulch. This is the best way that I have found to hide the unsightly Greely Lab backside.“ No, this plant does NOT make your rear end look big.”

Disclaimer: The opinions and thoughts expressed within these columns are not those of Yale University, Marsh Botanical Gardens, or Leslie Land. They are personal reflections on life, plants, humankind and the daily miracles that come my way.

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  • ‘Dublin Bay’ sounds like a ‘must have’ plant. That leads to every Northern New Englander’s favorite question: how hardy is it? Will it withstand our Zone 4/5 winters? Thanks for sharing!

  • Eric Larson Said,

    Cindy, I admit that my zone 4-5 gardening experience is somewhat limited, but I can tell you that Dublin Bay will probably need some winter protection in your area to thrive. Being a climber, this means siting it in a protected microclimatic situation, protected from the worst of the winter winds and cold: south side of house or other heated structure. It would be worth it though. There is some question about the synonyms or pseudonyms ‘Dublin Bay,’ ‘Don Juan’ and ‘Improved Blaze.’ We got ours from Forest Farm, and they are very reliably accurate in the plant nomenclature of what they send, so look for ‘Dublin Bay,’ despite what my article says about other names used for the same plant.

  • Tatiana Said,

    That was going to be my question too – but dang it, our zone 3 will kill it for sure.

    What a great paean to a beautiful rose!

  • Seamus Said,

    I have 22 Dublin Bay roses planted at the end of each row in my vineyard.what an amazing display every summer. They flower for months
    This year i discovered a Sport of Dublin Bay, its pink.
    Ive grafted some buds on fortuneana rootstock.

    Wow, Seamus, that is so cool! We’ll be rooting for the buds to take and thrive. The display sounds beautiful…gotta ask: where are you? Best, Leslie

  • Theresa Said,

    I googled “Dublin Bay Rose” and found your site. A Dublin Bay was the first rose I planted in my garden, I can’t remember when but it was in the 80s. I’ve never fed it, only pruned it to control its size (it’s growing way over the roof of my garage) and find that it thrives on this neglect. It grows on the south=west facing wall of my garage so it is protected, but during last winter the temperature went down to -15 and didn’t get higher than -5 for three weeks. Dublin Bay flowered beautifully in the summer as usual. Some years ago my neighbour took some cuttings, they all took and then she moved house and took cuttings from her Dublin Bay which all flowered true last year.
    My plant is rooted in a gravel path so it doesn’t have to compete with anything else and also therefore has good drainage – this is a very wet area and shouldn’t really be good for roses.
    Why did I google it? I couldn’t believe it when I noticed yesterday (29th Feb) that this years shoots are already several inches long!

    That’s amazing, Theresa. What a terrific, encouraging story!… Except maybe for the part about the (implied) unusual warmth of your winter. It’s happening all over the place, so I guess we can all be together hoping fervently we don’t get a run of super-cold in April or early May.

  • seamus Said,

    Im in the South West of Australia Leslie

  • seamus Said,

    The buds of the Dublin Bay sport have both taken and are thriving:)

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