Providing Horticultural Knowledge and Products for over 30 years!

Durable Old Garden Roses

    “But 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 Rosa 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 to giants.

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 in reaction.

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 C. 

Commercially 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. 

China Rose - 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 foliage. 

Rosa chinensis 'Slater’s Crimson China' - one of the earliest introductions from the Orient 

Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora' - Green China Rose 

Noisette - 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.

Polyantha Rose - Hybrids of Rosa chinensis and Rosa multiflora

'Caldwell Pink' - It's ever-blooming, compact, disease-resistant, tolerant of alkaline soil and does very well in containers. 

'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 and long-lived. 

‘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 hedge rose.

'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.

Tea Roses - 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 flowering

‘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 Tea Rose

The botanical images on this site were produced by The Photon Hunt.

Thank you for visiting!,
Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores