Rose Variety Margaret Merril

By David Marks
Margaret Merril is the only rose variety I have in my personal garden at the moment. All the other rose varieties I recommend in these pages have been grown on my allotment.

This says very much about this particular rose variety. For me, it is the best of all the floribundas.

It is astonishing that the RHS have not given it an AGM, but then again, their list of AGM roses has often been out of date and selection is based on criteria which are very unclear.

BACKGROUND

The Margaret Merril rose was bred by Harkness in 1977. The source of the name is a bit of a mystery. It was said to be named after an Oil of Olay beauty advisor who, many years ago, answered questions concerning women’s health and looks. Further investigations revealed that this was simply a nom de plume and no such person actually existed.

Flowers of the rose Margaret Merril
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It has won many awards, some of which are shown below:

Geneva Gold Medal 1978.
Monza Gold Medal 1978.
Royal National Rose Society Edland Fragrance Award 1978.
Rome Gold Medal 1978.
New Zealand Gold Medal & Fragrance Award 1982.
Royal National Rose Society. James Mason Medal 1990.
Auckland Fragrance Award 1992.

APPEARANCE

By all standards Margaret Merril is a very beautiful rose bush. Under most conditions it grows to somewhere around 1.2m (4ft) high with an
average spread of 60cm (2ft). It grows upright with no sign of spreading or drooping.Rose flowers are mostly produced in clusters although you may find the occasional single stemmed rose. See the picture below for clusters of new buds.

Clusters of rose buds on the Margaret Merril rose
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Colour of the flowers is variable from pure white to pink / white. The cooler the conditions, the more tinged pink will be the flowers. Individual flower size is around 3in / 8cm. In the centre of each fully opened rose, gold stamens are clearly visible.

The rose Margaret Merril
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As the flower buds develop they have the pointed appearance of a Hybrid Tea rose (see picture below) but when fully opened the flowers flatten out (see picture above).  Margaret Merril is repeat flowering from mid June through to mid October however, there are normally two distinct flushes of flowers each year.

However, now in its third year, the first flush shows no signs of slowing down flower production in mid July.

Young bud opening on Margaret Merril rose
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The flowers have a strong, delicious, citrus scent to them. Some say they can also detect a spicy scent. They are held high and upright by the strong stems, no drooping at all.

The mature foliage is a mid to deep green and semi-glossy. Some new foliage is initially a light burgundy colour turning to green after a week or so (see picture below).

Young burgundy foliage of Margaret Merril rose
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PESTS AND DISEASES

Margaret Merril is a very healthy and quick growing rose. It is not completely immune to black spot but this is completely controllable if you follow our instructions on controlling black spot which can be found here.

HOW TO PRUNE A MARGARET MERRIL ROSE

Prune a Margaret Merril rose as follows:

  • Remove all stems which show any signs of disease or damage. Cut them back to ground level or back to a main stem.
     
  • Remaining stems should then be pruned back to 30cm / 1 ft from ground level. This will allow you to get a good view of the structure of the rose bush.
     
  • Now prune the rose bush so that it has five or six stems arranged equally apart roughly in a circle from the centre of the plant. These stems should ideally be growing out from the centre of the bush.
     
  • Compromise may be required but the idea is to keep the centre of the rose bush open and have the branches growing outwards. This is to allow air circulation to the centre of the plant and avoid infections.
     
  • When selecting stems, make sure that you remove stems which are touching or nearly touching another stem. Where stems are touching, they will rub off the outer bark and allow infections to enter.
     
  • Green stems are healthier than browner stems so remove the browner stems and leave the green stems.
  • When selecting the stems to remain, don’t leave spindly stems. Your are looking to have five or six stems which are at least the thickness of a pencil, hopefully thicker.

Floribunda rose before pruning
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Floribunda rose before pruning

Floribunda rose after pruning
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Floribunda rose after pruning

CULTIVATION RECORD FOR ROSE MARGARET MERRIL

PURCHASE
Bought from Crocus.co.uk in March 2018.
Delivered within 1 week, excellent packaging, rose in perfect condition.
Price £14.99, 4 litre pot. Field grown, sent as potted up plant to help keep the roots hydrated.

CULTIVATION
Planted in heavy clay soil (personal garden) within a week of delivery. West Midlands.

2018

  • Rose was left entirely to its own devices, no spray, no feed etc.
  • Produced a single flush of flowers followed sporadically by more flowers. Not a large number of flowers.
  • Around July some black spot spread from base leaves upwards.
  • Minimal pruning in December.

VERDICT 2018
A disappointing first year but a total lack of care, because of personal circumstances, was thought to be the key reason for this.

2019

  • Late February, applied fish blood and bone fertiliser (two handfuls).
  • Cleared up any visible fallen leaves.
  • Early March applied layers of newspaper on the soil around the rose and covered with wood chip layer.
  • Early March to June sprayed with Roseclear at three weekly intervals.
  • Stopped spraying mid June.
  • A very impressive first flush of flowers (both number and quality) was produced from mid June to mid July.
  • A small number of flowers were produced sporadically after that. Leaves were 100% clear of black spot.
  • A good second flush of flowers produced in early September.
  • A third flush started to appear in late October but the flowers were damaged by frost in early to mid November.
  • The plant remained very healthy throughout the year although black spot did start to appear on the lowest branches around mid September. Not particularly noticeable.

Flowers of the rose Margaret Merril
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VERDICT 2019
This variety recovered entirely from the lack of care in the first year. A beautiful display of flowers in two main flushes. Almost completely clear of black spot.

NOTES 2019
At the end of the first flush of flowers, the plant was about 75cm high. It then split as far as further growth was concerned. The left hand half of the plant grew to 1.2m high (the right hand half stayed the same height) and it was from this higher growth that the majority of the second flush of flowers appeared. The reason for this is unclear.

See the picture below which shows the uneven growth and also the third flush damaged by frost in November.

Margaret Meril rose, lopsided growth
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2020

  • Late February, pruned this rose according to the instructions for pruning a floribunda rose. The before and after pictures are shown below:

    Floribunda rose before pruning
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    Margaret Merril rose before pruning

    Floribunda rose after pruning
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    Margaret Merril rose after pruning

  • Cleared up and burnt any visible fallen leaves. Surrounding ground covered in cardboard and then mulched with clippings from a recently pruned Hypericum shrub.
     
  • 4th April 2020
    Sprayed with Roseclear. Looks to be growing well.
     

  • 30th May 2020
    Sprayed with Roseclear.
     

  • 10th June 2020
    First flowers appear. Some buds were hit by a bad late frost in May and they never developed correctly, but still a very good display and plenty more buds present waiting to open. The mulch over a layer of cardboard has kept the soil moist even though May was very dry.

First flush of flowers 2020, Margaret Merril rose
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Margaret Merril June 2020

20th July 2020
The first flush of flowers can be considered to be finished although 7 or 8 blooms still remain. All the flowers have been held high with no signs of drooping even in adverse weather conditions. In our opinion the sheer volume of flowers produced and the long flowering time of the first flush of flowers mark out Margaret Merril as a truly outstanding rose.

6th September 2020
A stunning second flush of flowers started a few days ago. In between the first flush and this one, several flowers have almost always been present. The beginning of black spot is appearing on the very lower leaves but this is hardly noticeable.

VERDICT 2020
Stunning performance again in 2020. In 2019 we wrote above that the plant had uneven growth. This was not the case this year, growth was even all around.

SUMMARY OF ROSE MARGARET MERRIL

HEIGHT: 1.2m (4ft)

SPREAD: 75cm (2ft 6in)

ROSE TYPE: Floribunda, repeat flowers in clusters and singly over the summer

FLOWER COLOUR: White to very light pink

FRAGRANCE: Citrus, strong and truly delicious

LEAVES: Light burgundy when new, soon turning to mid/deep green, semi-glossy

THORNS: Some but less than many other varieties

UK HARDINESS: -20C

USDA ZONES: 8b to 4b

DISEASE RESISTANCE: Good. Can suffer slightly from black spot but totally controllable if our
care regime for black spot is followed.

GROWING CONDITIONS: Full or partial sunlight (four hours or more sun)

SOIL CONDITIONS: Almost all soil conditions except dry or water-logged soils

CONTAINER GROWING: Can be grown in a container but not best suited to it

BREEDER: Harkness 1977

AWARDS: Many awards although, astonishingly, not an AGM

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