Introduced in 1868, Zephirine Drouhin is an old Bourbon rose that blooms in repeat waves from spring through fall. Repeat bloom may be sporadic until Zephirine Drouhin matures (3-4 years). Many climbers can disappoint the first year or two as they develop their root system. Be patient and the display will improve year after year.
Considered hardy to zone 5, Zephirine Drouhin is an excellent choice for gardeners in cooler climates who want to grow old roses. Zephirine Drouhin is tolerant of less than ideal soil conditions. Her good nature aside, providing the best growing conditions possible will result in better disease resistance. Deep/wide holes augmented with copious amounts of compost and a banana peel or two will pay handsomely. Proper planting technique is an investment in the future.
Zephirine Drouhin is somewhat shade tolerant, and fragrance is excellent. Regarding shade tolerance, don’t take this too far or you risk a lack of blooms and reduced disease resistance. In addition, the canes are nearly thornless. Growing 8′-12′ tall, Zephirine Drouhin is often grown as a climber on a trellis. Gardenweb has some excellent photographs of Zephirine Drouhin in full display.
I wish I could report that Zephirine Drouhin has excellent disease resistance, but this is not the case. Mildew especially can be a problem in areas of the country prone to such. My recommendation is as follows: If you are a committed rose gardener, then most likely you are spraying regularly. The problem for many gardeners is that they simply want a beautiful rose or two in their garden and for various reasons do not have time nor interest in plant coddling. If you fall into the second camp and want to try an old rose, Zephirine Drouhin is a worthy candidate. However, I would have very little patience with this rose (or any other) that didn’t exhibit good health right from the start.
Reports of a particular rose’s good health or lack thereof are so often regional. Rose gardeners on the Californina coast may have trouble with mildew, whereas gardeners in the humid southeast may fight blackspot. What happens for most us is that the optimal growing conditions for the disease actually exceed the optimal growing conditions of the rose.
I wouldn’t really fight these things. Experiment. Celebrate your successes. Excise the failures and move on. If you are confident you provided the best growing conditions you could and it didn’t work out, recognize it is not your fault. We understand that growing palm trees in arctic climates is a no-go. Roses are seductive in that they hang around and the diseases that plague them are insidious and often unseen until it is too late.