Old Garden Roses
do I weave too many roses in my wreath, Glaucus? They tell me it
is thy favourite flower.”
“And ever favoured, my Nydia, be it by those who have the soul of poetry:
it is the flower of love, of festivals; it is also the flower we dedicate
to silence and to death; it blooms on our brows in life, while life be
worth the having; it is scattered above our sepulchre when we are no more.”
Edward G. E.
Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, Book III, Chapter IV
That which we call a rose was
well known to the ancients. The Greeks and Romans admired their floral
beauty and fragrance. They cultivated them around their homes, consumed
rhodomel (honey of roses) at decadent feasts, bathed in rose water, and
immortalized them in verse and art. At the eastern extreme of Eurasia,
specifically in the hilly, limestone terrain of west central China, "rhodophilia"
took root even earlier.
Accidented topography gives
rise to a great diversity of habitats. Barren, rocky summits stand in contrast
to lush bottomlands. In the northern hemisphere, north slopes are more
inhospitable to tender vegetation than south-facing ones. The aridity of
nearby sun-baked west slopes shocks those viewing them from the moist and
verdant seclusion of an east slope.
In Yunnan and Sichuan, the
highly-fractured landscape is home to the greatest concentration of species
and forms of wild roses on the planet. From antiquity, comely forms of
chinensis and Rosa gigantea were selected for propagation around
homes and temples. Centuries of further selection and hybridization yielded
more sumptuous blooms, in more colors, and borne on plants from dwarves
The first introductions to
Europe of China Roses were ‘Slater’s Crimson China’ (1792) and ‘Parson’s
Pink China’ (1793). These are still grown and admired in sunny climes
where limestone forms the bedrock.
On of the great horticultural
mysteries that perplexes gardeners in central Texas is the longevity of
shrub roses in country cemeteries and around the decayed ruins of old homes,
as opposed to the short and disease-ridden life of newly-purchased modern
roses. A rose is a rose is a rose. Right? Unfortunately not.
The indestructible heirloom
roses passed from generation to generation in San Antonio, Austin, and
the adjacent Hill Country are usually derived from species originating
in the limestone hills of central China. They are propagated from cuttings
and grown on their own roots.
Their sickly kin have invariably
been propagated by grafting or budding onto a convenient rootstock. Convenient
for the propagator, that is. The mass-produced grafted or budded roses
from the West Coast or east Texas are given a rootstock that thrives in
well-drained, sandy soils of acidic reaction. Inconveniently for us, our
soils have poor internal drainage due to a high clay content and are alkaline
Aha! The mystery is no more.
Rosarians, to be successful in this zone, need to grow own-root roses descended
from limestone-loving species.
Another drawback of many
modern roses is their utter lack of fragrance. For too many years, rose
breeders concentrated their efforts on perfecting the floral form, as well
as delaying the loss of petals as the blooms age. Often, the roses most
highly touted by garden writers and the horticultural press were vegetal
invalids requiring hothouse cultivation and the removal of lower, secondary
buds to allow the topmost bud to develop properly.
Grafted or budded Hybrid
Tea roses, grown by some of our central Texas brethren in raised beds of
sandy soil, require specific pruning in mid-February. Hardy roses grown
on their own roots do not need such drastic pruning. They are best grown
like shrubs, with thinning of their oldest shoots (canes) accomplished
after their spring blooms have faded.
The fruit of a rose is called
a hip. In some varieties, the hips are borne profusely and are quite showy,
especially when colored a vivid red. Even the more demure pink hips can
appeal to connoisseurs of callipygian forms. In most cases, rose hips are
edible when made into a jam or jelly. They are said to contain Vitamin
Available Old Roses & A Few Modern Ones
Antique roses, old garden
roses or old-fashioned roses are three names for a group of extraordinarily
beautiful flowering shrubs and climbers for our alkaline-soil landscapes.
Unlike the modern hybrids, these are longer-lived because they are on their
own roots. Many of them are more disease-resistant and have the fragrance
that was bred out of so many of the newer selections. They also do not
require frequent, drastic, and specific pruning.
- Rosa chinensis (Includes some back-crosses
with Rosa X odorata)
Rosa chinensis 'Archduke
Charles' - a red China Rose
Rosa chinensis 'Cramoisi
Superieur' - A long survivor of tough Texas weather. It's a very fragrant
red China Rose.
Rosa chinensis 'Grüss
an Teplitz' - yet another red China Rose
Rosa chinensis 'Hermosa'
- An old variety in the southern US.
Rosa chinensis 'Louis Philippe'
– a red China Rose
Rosa chinensis 'Minima' -
Sometimes sold as, 'Highway 290 Pink Buttons'.
Rosa chinensis 'Martha Gonzalez'
- Perfect for a dwarf hedge or as a potted specimen or as a mass planting.
Its mostly single, red flowers occur almost year-round.
Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis'
- The Butterfly Rose - Some call it, Rosa X odorata 'Mutabilis'
-The petals improve with age, going from yellow to pink to red.
Rosa chinensis 'Old Blush'
– also known as, ‘Parson’s Pink China’ - This variety has been known to
Europeans for almost 220 years and was grown in China for centuries before
its "discovery". There is also a 'Climbing Old Blush'
Rosa chinensis ‘Old Gay Hill’
- Very much like 'Martha Gonzalez', only taller'. The, intense, scarlet
flowers appear for 9 to 10 months over the semi-evergreen and disease-resistant
Rosa chinensis 'Slater’s
Crimson China' - one of the earliest introductions from the Orient
Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora'
- Green China Rose
- Derived from a hybrid of ‘Champney’s Pink
Cluster’ and Rosa X odorata
‘Blush Noisette’ - Bears
double, pale pink flowers in fall.
‘Jeanne d’Arc’ - A semi-double
white-flowered climber, its blooms are especially abundant in the fall.
‘Madame Alfred Carriere’
- the pale flowers fade to white
‘Maréchal Niel’ -
an ethereal pale yellow bloom with great fragrance
Rêve d'Or - A fragrant,
yellowish climber with a peak floral display in the fall.
- Hybrids of Rosa chinensis and Rosa
'Caldwell Pink' - It's ever-blooming,
compact, disease-resistant, tolerant of alkaline soil and does very well
'Cécile Brunner' -
The traditional 'Sweetheart Rose', known as a 4' shrub or 20' climber.
They bloom for 9 months in sun or semi-shade. It is very disease-resistant
‘Climbing Pinkie’ – An indestructible
rose for our area.
'Clotilde Soupert' – Ever-blooming
and almost thornless. The white to pale pink flowers are filled with dozens
and dozens of petals. It's fragrant and remains under 4'.
‘La Marne’ - An outstanding
'Marie Daly' - A pink-flowered
mutation of Rosa X polyantha 'Marie Pavie'.
'Marie Pavié' - Wonderfully
fragrant white flowers grace these 3' to 4' plants. It is useful for hedges,
mass planting or containers.
‘The Fairy’ - Bears double
pink blooms. There is also a climbing form of this shrub.
- Hybrids of Rosa chinensis and Rosa
gigantea. Hybrid Teas are Tea Roses hybridized with Hybrid Perpetuals
‘Altissimo’ - Hybrid Tea
with elegant, single red flowers.
‘Bon Silène’ - a beautiful
old rose with pink blooms over a long period. It's fragrant and thrives
in this area
‘Duchesse de Brabant’ – A
popular and carefree Tea Rose.
‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’
- Rosa X odorata ‘Pseudindica’ - a spectacular climber renown for its spring
‘La France’ - Introduced
in 1867 as the first Hybrid Tea Rose, its pink flowers are double.
‘Madame Joseph Schwartz’
- A white sport of ‘Duchesse de Brabant’.
'Maman Cochet' - Beautiful
in form, fragrance, flower and foliage. It is of compact shape' with very
few thorns and dark green, substantial leaves.
'Mrs. B. R. Cant' - Can grow
quite large, up to 8' in diameter. This 1901 introduction is found in many
San Antonio gardens.
'Mrs. Dudley Cross' - A thornless,
old Tea Rose. The fragrant blooms are a peachy-pink grading to yellow.
‘Sombreuil’ - a large, white