Old Roses


Old Roses

     Recently, there has been a great surge of interest in old roses. These consist of all the classes that were in existence before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose called “La France” appeared. Gardeners of today are in love with the disease resistance, wonderful fragrance, hardiness and old-fashioned flower forms of the many beautiful varieties that are now widely available.

Alba Roses

     Albas comprise an ancient group of roses that have been in existence since classical times and were widely grown in the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes. They are thought to have been brought to Britain by the Romans. A natural hybrid between the damask rose and rosa canina, they are tall, shrubby plants, disease proof, and extremely winter hardy. Although they bloom only once a year, in the late spring or early summer, they are very vigorous and pest resistant. aThe word Alba means white, but this lovely rose also comes in shades of pink. Albas have a tall, slender and upright growth habit reaching heights of 6 to 9 feet. They are wonderfully fragrant and have distinctive grey-blue green foliage. They have an ability to grow well even in the most difficult of situations, including light shade. However, they do require dormancy in the winter. Albas can be trained to grow as climbers, and appreciate some pruning of the longest and oldest canes once grown into a mature bush. This will result in new canes being produced from the bottom of the bush. Some Albas have showy autumn hips.

    Examples of Alba roses:
    • Felicite Parmentier
    • Small Maiden's Blush
    • Semi-Plena
    • Queen of Denmark
    • Celestial
Damask Rose

     The Damask rose also dates back to ancient times. It seems that it originated from the Eastern Mediterranean, and was introduced to the Europeans by the Crusaders. Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, and Romans all grew this extraordinarily fragrant, perfume-like rose. Although Damasks are thought to have a mixed parentage, it is likely that they originated from a natural hybrid between the Gallica rose and a wild rose species. They are quite hardy, very thorny and have a rather lax and arching growth habit reaching 3 to 7 feet. To show off the lovely pink or white blooms of the Damask rose, staking may be necessary. Most varieties only bloom once a year, and require good fertile soil if they are to look their best. Damask roses are pruned after flowering.

    Examples of Damask roses:
    • Madame Hardy
    • Ispahan
    • Semi-Plena
    • Celsiana
Gallica Roses

     Gallica roses are the oldest cultivated species that is still available today. Grown by the Persians as early as the 12th century B.C. they were also loved by the Greeks and Romans. These most ancient of roses have in some way influenced the development of all other families of roses. Empress Josephine's famous rose garden at Malmaison was mainly comprised of Gallicas. Even though they bloom only once a year in early summer, they give an amazing show. They are heavy bloomers and almost all Gallicas are fragrant. They are fairly hardy, and quite tolerant of poor soils. They have a strong, dense and upright growth habit of 4 to 5 feet. However, they are quite prone to mildew and have a tendency to spread by underground suckers. This can be annoying for the smaller garden; growing a variety that has been bud grafted onto an understock will alleviate that problem. Gallicas come in many shades of pink, deep red, purple, marbled and striped with white. In the fall you will be rewarded with beautiful, round, red hips. Mature Gallicas will benefit by pruning out some of the old wood to encourage new growth, and by shortening all the other canes by 1/3.

    Examples of Gallicas roses:
    • Charles de Mills
    • Complicata
    • Rosa Mundi
    • Apothecary's Rose
    • Belle de Crecy
    • Belle Isis

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