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Mississippi Old Garden Rose Society

Roses are classified into three groupings:  Species (i.e., wild roses), Old Garden Roses (classes in existence before 1867) and Modern Roses (classes in existence after 1867).

What is an Old Garden Rose? To history it is a rose being of a class in existence before the year 1867. Why 1867? Simple. This is the year a rose named “La France” was introduced. La France is considered to the be the first Hybrid Tea. It is the offspring of the Hybrid Perpetual “Madame Victor Verdier” with the Tea rose “Madame Bravy”. The hybridizer was Guillot and what marked La France as being different from other roses was the high centered blossom we associate with Hybrid Teas of today. The name Hybrid Tea in fact comes from a wedding of the classes of the parents of La France. A Hybrid Perpetual and a Tea rose.

Notice I use the words “class of roses” in existence before 1867. This means that even though say a particular Bourbon (a class of Old Garden Rose) was introduced after 1867 it’s still an Old Garden Rose. In fact it’s possible that an Old Garden Rose could be hybridized and introduced to the growing public today.  The rose breeder Paul Barden comes to mind.

Class of roses also brings us to the other part of the definition of Old Garden Roses. Modern Roses refer to Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Miniatures etc. Sub classes within the label “Modern Roses”. It’s the same with Old Garden Roses. To put it plainly, Old Garden Roses are not a class of roses but rather a group of classes that fit one definition. That definition is the class was in existence before 1867. So if you hear folks speak of Old Garden Roses then launch into Bourbons, Albas, Damasks, Teas and so on relax. They are only talking of the classes of roses that make up the group Old Garden Roses.

Old Garden Roses have the following classes of roses are within this grouping:

Alba Roses
The Albas and their hybrids are known as the “White Roses” of Shakespeare, though their blossoms range in color from pure white to shades of pink. They are vigorous, hardy and very disease resistant. Their sprays of blooms are fragrant and occur only once in a massive spring display. Many carry large red hips through the winter. Bluish foliage and upright growth habit make them a fine backdrop for other roses. They are to take some shade in the garden.

The Centifolias were made famous by the Dutch painters of the 17th century. Referred to as the “hundred-petaled” roses, or Cabbage Roses, they are one-time bloomers noted for the fullness and size of their flowers. Normally tall shrubs with arching growth, several are compact with smaller
blossoms. All are very hardy. 

Hybrids of Rosa damascene, these are among the most ancient of garden roses. Cultivated by the Romans, they might have died out in medieval times had it not been for the European monasteries that grew roses for medical purposes. They are known for their Old Rose fragrance and the June
flowering which produces an abundance of blooms sufficient for making large quantities of potpourri. Damask tend to grow in an upright and airy form, until the weight of the blooms causes the canes to arch into mounds of fragrance.

Like the Damasks, the Gallicas were known from ancient Rome, and survived the fall of that Empire by becoming naturalized wherever they had been planted. Extremely hardy, they tolerate poor soil and neglect. They have full, dark green foliage which turns a beautiful dark red in the
fall; once-blooming, compact bushes averaging 4 feet in height. They are also known as Mad Gallicas.

Moss Roses
The Moss Roses are sports of the Damasks and Centifolias, bred mostly in the mid-eighteen hundreds, though the type was recognized as early as 1696 in France. Named for the mossy appearance of the buds and sepals, they are very hardy roses with a stiff, upright habit and a fragrant piney scent.

The Bourbon Roses first appeared in the early 1800’s on the Isle of Bourbon (now Rèunion) in the Indian Ocean. They were the probable offspring of the China and Damask Roses used to edge farmers’ fields. They bear large, full fragrant blooms that generally repeat throughout the season.  Most are hardy in Zone 5, though some can survive in colder climates with winter protection.

Hybrids Perpetual and Portlands
Favorites of the Victorian era, the roses in this class are mostly repeat bloomers with large, full flowers and exceptional fragrance. They are hardy plants that grow into sturdy, upright bushes. 

China, Tea and Noisette Roses
These were introduced from the Far East by sea traders in the 1700’s. Though somewhat tender (not hardy in cold winter areas), they brought repeat bloom qualities, the pointed bud form and a wider range of colors to rose breeders. The first Hybrid Tea Rose, ‘La France’, was introduced in 1867 and marks the dividing line between Old Garden Roses and Modern Roses. We carry a few for historical purposes and for rose growers who live in warm climates.

Reference:  Roses are plants, too!  What Is An Old Garden Rose?  Fine Gardening Magazine

About Old Garden Roses