“Belle of the Ball," “Prettiest Girl in the Room (vase),” “Scene Stealer,” “Everyone’s Favorite” – all apply to ‘Madame Hardy’. Graham Thomas writes, “This variety is still unsurpassed by any rose.”
Thomas mentions the bloom's perfect shape and goes on about "just a suspicion of flesh pink in the half-open buds, emerging from their long calyces, and the flowers open cupped, rapidly becoming flat, the outer petals reflexing in a most beautiful manner, leaving the center almost concave, of pure white, with a small green eye."
Elaborate frilled buds almost always appear in threes. I've found that once the leader blooms, the two side blooms don't mature into flowers anywhere near as showy as the first, even when deadheaded. I used to think this was a loss – but that's conventional thinking – the buds are a wonderful decorative feature, especially in arrangements. I haven't tried pinching out the leader to force a pair of blooms.
The shrub tends to be willowy or even lanky, throwing up tall new canes just as it begins to bloom. The beautiful light green leaves are dry and papery. That may sound strange – I don't know another way to describe them.
Here's the first bloom and the fresh new growth I mentioned. For several years, once the canes were strong and as long as they were going to get, I'd twine them together into loops. Click for a picture shown in my pegging article. This would increase bloom and keep the shrub looking tidy.
After last year's bloom I decided to sacrifice the long canes as greenery for arrangements – they are spectacular as a filler. I was tired of the loops and cut the shrub down to less than three feet – another way to keep it neat. In some parts of my garden, I don't have room for runaway roses.
The result was armloads of heathly blooms that I was able to take to The Celebration of Old Roses. White sweet peas were blooming at the time and I used them as a filler .
It turned out so nice I mourned the thought that I hadn't taken a picture – I thought I'd harvested all the blooms. But no, a few days later there were more sweet peas, plus the little white bucket of blooms shown above.
In this arrangement, the sweet peas went in first and pretty much filled the vase, the MH stems, with most leaves removed, were then easy to place into the fragrant pillow of sweet peas.
Here she is all by herself – not too shabby. An interesting thing about the blooms is that they tend to just naturally face forward in a bouquet – all those sweet green eyes!