Portland roses apparently originated from natural crosses between Damasks and Chinas. Autumn Damask and Slater’s Crimson China are reputed to be the parents of the first Portland found near Paestum, Italy. The progenitor, Duchess of Portland, also known as Portland Rose, is dated about 1800 and is red. This rose was taken to England and France where hybridizers pounced upon it and produced many more. The Portlands were very popular in the mid 19th century before the advent of the Hybrid Perpetuals and they are still popular among OGR enthusiasts.
They are important in the development of modern roses as they, along with the Bourbons and Hybrid Chinas fathered the Hybrid Perpetuals, the parents of our modern Hybrid Teas. Indeed, Rose du Roi, an outstanding red Portland, is said to be the progenitor of the first and many more Hybrid Perpetuals.
Portland roses are vigorous growers for the most part but do not get unduly large as a general rule; they are a nice garden size. Their distinguishing characteristic is the blooms “on the shoulder,” that is, blooms with extremely short stems between the bloom and the first foliage. The blooms seem to rest on the foliage. The range in color from white to pink to red to purple with no yellows or oranges.