Competitors For 'Iceberg's Lofty Throne

Rosa 'Moondance':
Rosa 'Moon Dance'

Hybridizers have been trying to come up with an improved version of 'Iceberg' for a while.  I'll review the candidates and see if any of them measure up. 

'Iceberg' has just a couple of flaws--the  flowers could be a little better shaped; they tend to be loose and raggy, and the canes could be a little better foliated.  But that is more than offset by rapid and generous repeat, excellent Rust resistance, and  tolerance of neglect.  Because of those virtues, here in Southern California, 'Iceberg' is a superb landscape shrub that sells by the tens of thousands. 

Since it does sell by the tens of thousands, an improvement on 'Iceberg' is something of  a Holy Grail.  Hybridizers have been prompted by sales to attempt to improve upon it.  Has anyone succeeded? 

Rosa 'Glamis Castle':
Rosa 'Glamis Castle'

I'll leave aside 'Knock Out' completely.  It's the 'Iceberg' of anywhere east of the Rockies, but it's rather a poor performer here, and I'm discussing white blooms only. 

Rosa 'Lion's Fairy Tale':
Rosa 'Lions Fairy Tale'

I'll compare 'Iceberg' with 'Fabulous!' (Zary, 1998), 'Pure  Perfume' (Zary, 2004), 'Moondance' (Zary, 2007), 'Bolero' (Meilland, 1994), 'Lions Fairy Tale' (Kordes, 2002), and 'Glamis Castle' (Austin, 1992).

'Fabulous!' and 'Moondance' have  'Iceberg' as a parent.  'Pure Perfume' is an offspring of 'Fabulous' and so has'Iceberg' as a grandparent. 

Plant Appearance
Several are quite good in terms of graceful growth:  'Glamis Castle', 'Moondance', 'Lions Fairy Tale', and 'Bolero' are all good looking plants, with 'Glamis Castle' probably the best. It doesn't like hard pruning, so let it alone except for light shaping.  'Pure Perfume' is  acceptable.  'Fabulous!' can be a little awkward, but still beats out 'Iceberg'.

Rosa 'Fabulous!'
Rosa 'Fabulous'

None of them quite measure up to 'Iceberg' ,but 'Bolero' comes close, followed by 'Glamis Castle' and 'Fabulous!' with the rest following.  None of them could be considered stingy with their flowers.  Where 'Iceberg' particularly shines is the ability to bloom and repeat rapidly on less attention. 

Rosa 'Fabulous!'
Rosa 'Fabulous'

Rust Resistance
The two best are 'Fabulous!' and 'Lion's Fairy Tale'.  Neither has been quite as good as 'Iceberg', but they are both acceptable.  'Glamis Castle' is fairly good for rust, but mildews and seems more  vulnerable than average to anthracnose.  The absolute worst is 'Pure Perfume', which rusted continuously in this garden, even during drought conditions.  'Bolero' rusts rather badly in winter, but is decent the rest of the year. 

The only rose with a really memorable fragrance is  'Bolero'.  The  rest have little fragrance, if any.   'Pure Perfume', is a misnomer; despite its name, it had only a mild fragrance in this garden.  

Rosa 'Pure Perfume':  beautiful flower, mild  fragrance, poor rust resistance:
Rosa 'Pure Perfume'

Bloom Form
'Pure Perfume' is the clear winner.  'Bolero' and  'Glamis Castle' are close  runners up, with 'Fabulous!' just behind.  The others are acceptable; all are an improvement over 'Iceberg', but 'Moondance' and  'Lion's Fairy Tale' are only slightly more  interesting than 'Iceberg'. 

Rosa 'Lions Fairy Tale':
Lions Fairy Tale

'Lion's Fairy Tale' is well foliated and the leaves are particularly attractive, being a very deep dark green that contrasts beautifully with the white flowers. Call that one the winner. All of the others are an improvement over 'Iceberg' in terms of quantity and quality of foliage, though 'Iceberg' has the advantage of being able to better hold on to what foliage it has due to its superior rust resistance.

'Iceberg' will have touches of pink in cool weather, as will 'Bolero' and 'Glamis Castle',  and 'Lions Fairy Tale'.  'Moondance' begins as a very pale yellow and whitens as it opens.  'Fabulous!' is a pure, snowy white.

Tolerance of  Neglect
'Iceberg' clearly wins here, though 'Fabulous!' is close. 

'Bolero' may be the loser on this point because it is slow to establish and is a smaller plant  than the others, though it is hardly a weak grower, as its repeat is quick. 

Rosa 'Bolero':
Rosa 'Bolero

Rosa 'Fabulous!':
Fabulous is

If fragrance is essential, 'Bolero' is the clear winner. It has less than perfect rust resistance, but the strong citrus fragrance and repeat are excellent, and the flower is beautiful. A superior white floribunda in the Austin style.

'Glamis Castle' has charms, but a few drawbacks--a tendency to mildew, very short-lived flowers, a surplus of nasty thorns, and a fragrance (myhrr) that not all enjoy. I happen to like the myhrr fragrance, since it resembles licorice to this nose, but not all people like it.

For the virtues of Rust resistance, 'Fabulous!' comes closest to 'Iceberg'. It's also extremely beautiful in bloom, the flowers longer-lasting than others, and the flushes are large. I like this rose a lot; it falls down only in a slight awkwardness of growth habit and a lack of fragrance. Its virtues more than make up for that. I conclude however with one very serious disadvantage: availability. It was withdrawn too soon after introduction. What a shame, for it is so good in so many ways.

The others have their good points, but not so distinctly as do 'Bolero' and 'Fabulous!'.  'Moondance' is promising, but it started out its first year here with  rust, which is not a good sign.  I've only had it eight months, so it may improve significantly as it establishes.

Despite the competition, 'Iceberg' still wins out on the ease-to-beauty ratio.  The search for a white floribunda/landscape rose better than 'Iceberg' shall continue.


  1. If you are looking for a white that blooms as much as Iceberg, but hangs the flowers on a better plant, try Pillowfight. Flowers are slightly smaller than Iceberg, but in greater abundance. And it does repeat just as quick.


  2. Thanks Kathy! 'Pillow Fight' looks like a good one. How is the Rust resistance?

  3. How about Starry Night? It's a lower bush and a single flower, but if you are looking for a luxuriant white rose (you can hardly see the beautiful dark green glossy leaves), continuously in flower, self-cleaning, and resistant to almost every ailment, you can't do better than this. I had thought of planting a lot of Iceberg here in Kashmir (India), but now I'm going for Starry Night. Give it a try there in California. I think you'll love it.

    1. Hi Sarz, 'Starry Night' was a weak grower here--I have seen it do better in other climates. I hope it does well for you!


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