An Introduction to Old Garden Roses
There are many types of roses in the world of plants. Wild roses, which are truly wild roses, are not usually cultivated. Old garden roses are roses of horticultural origin that were established before 1867, when ‘La France’, the first of the hybrid tea roses, was introduced. Modern Garden Roses are the predominant roses of today. Modern roses are in active development today by hybridists unlike a lot of the old garden roses. Here at the Idaho Botanical Garden in the Jane Falk Oppenheimer Heirloom Rose Garden we feature roses bred and introduced before 1920.
According to fossil evidence roses are 35 million years old. The cultivation of roses began 5,000’years ago. It is believed that the rose origin was in Central Asia and it gradually spread over the Northern Hemisphere. Documents show early civilizations such as Egyptians, Chinese, Greek, Romans, and Phoenicians had been cultivating roses for 5000 years. In the western world the Gallica rose is one of the earliest of these cultivated species. The Alba, Centifolia, Damask, and Scots rose are also some of the first domesticated roses.
The China rose, Rosa chinensis, was introduced to the western cultures at the end of the eighteenth century. This introduction caused a huge change in the variety and characteristics of the gene pool. The Chinese had been cultivating and breeding wild roses long before western cultures. Chinese roses brought new colors to the rose world. Until these roses were introduced most roses in the western world were reds that faded to purple or mauve. The Chinese roses were a true scarlet red and they retained their color. They also were cultivating roses that were yellow and apricot. Chinese roses are dainty but some have a unique characteristic of darkening with age. Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’ opens yellow, and transitions to crimson red through gradations of orange and pink.
Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon, collected roses which she planted in the first recorded ‘rose garden’. Because of her interest, rose growing became fashionable and led to rose breeding. In 1867 a cross between a hybrid perpetual and a tea rose created LaFrance, the first of the hybrid tea roses.
Check out the American Rose Societies website http://www.rose.org/rose-care-articles/ for more information on Old Garden Roses. Throughout June look for additional posts about our collection of old garden roses. Don’t forget to stop by the Rose Garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden this month to see and smell the roses.