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
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. 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
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.
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 multiflora
'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