May was the month of the rose, symbol of pure love and fiery passion. The rose is a flower of enduring fascination, inspiring poets, artists, musicians and especially generations of botanists and breeders worldwide. The latter have created many new varieties with unique characteristics and colours; varieties that continue to fulfil the dreams of millions of flower lovers globally.

Emanuele Orazio Fenzi and the “Montecito” rose

When one thinks of roses, the gardening traditions of great English and French breeders quickly come to mind, but Italy has also played a notable role in the creation of new rose varieties, including climbers. Emanuele Orazio Fenzi was an important Italian botanist and breeder during the late eighteen, early nineteen hundreds.

It was from a young age that Emanuele Orazio Fenzi, banker and enterprising businessman (involved in building the first electric trains in Fiesole and steam trams in San Casciano and Greve in Chianti), was fascinated with the plant kingdom. So much so that he became a member and then secretary of the Tuscan Horticulture Society, founded in Florence in 1852 by the Accademia dei Georgofili. It was at the end of the eighteen hundreds: an era of grand national flower exhibitions, during which Emanuele found the perfect opportunity to collect, study and research plants from all over the world.

His passion for botany endured, even when he had to leave for America after the collapse of the Fenzi Bank. Emanuele started his own business in California and continued to work as a breeder with seeds from as far as China and India. 

The “Montecito” rose (after its namesake, the Californian city) is one of the most celebrated and appreciated of Fenzi’s creations. Originating from R. gigantea seeds, it is a hybrid with Rosa brunonii Lindl. (R. moschata) x Rosa odorata var. gigantea Rehder & Wilson.

A wonder to behold at Vignamaggio

The Montecito rose, a climber very similar to the Rosa gigantea, is reminiscent of the R. brunonii in its fragrance. It has tapered buds and large, single, five petalled flowers that change colour as they mature, from white to a yellowish cream.

The “Montecito” blooms extravagantly once in spring. Vigorousity being its distinguishing characteristic, this rose can reach 30 metres in height, growing at an exceptional rate and very quickly covering supporting structures with its delicate foliage and slightly elongated stems.