Rose Types

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Kinds of Roses

In a recent publication (Modern Roses 10), over 16,000 different roses are identified -- that's a lot of Roses! Roses can be divided into several categories, or horticultural classifications. In the U.S., the categories generally used are those specified by the American Rose Society (ARS). There are currently over fifty official types, but there are only a few commonly seen.

Species Roses

These are the original wild roses, which mankind had no hand in creating. These grow in fields and byways all over the world in temperate climates. There are four disctinct subgenra and several varieties, which I'll just touch on here -- I'll expand this section when and if I get the time. A wierd rose fact: Wild roses were scarce to unknown in the southern hemisphere before commerce brought them there!

One of the species very familiar to people in the U.S. is 'Rosa multiflora'. Not a native, it was imported from the far East and did so well here, it is considered a noxious weed in many states! For a week or two in early summer, it is covered with small, fragrant, single white blossoms.

Many places also have one or more of the several single, pink wild roses like 'Rosa carolina' or 'Rosa virginiana'. 'Rosa rugosa' does well even along the sea in salt spray, and has deeply furrowed leaves and curiously thorny canes. The young canes of 'Rosa sericea pteracantha' have very large, translucent, ruby-red thorns. There are many more, but I'll refer you you to one of many of the good books on the subject for more information.

I started growing some species in 2001, R. sericea pteracantha and R. Glauca. Of course, we have R. multiflora and one or two varieties of single-flowered pink wild roses growing in and along the woods here.

Old Garden Roses

These are the roses great-great-grandma grew. Those that have survived until today are either special enough that they've stayed popular, or healthy enough to survive more than a hundred years of neglect. This broad category is then divided into several smaller categories, described below ( I got a bit carried away in this section...)

  • Alba

    Alba roses are very old, and very elegant, with white or pink blooms on a tall, upright bush with grey-green foliage. Albas are very hardy and disease-resistant and thrive even under difficult conditions. The blooms have a strong perfume which makes them good cut flowers. Albas, like Lilacs, only bloom once a year. Some representative Albas:

    • Alba Maxima
    • Alba Semi-plena
    • Félicité Parmentier
    • Maiden's Blush

  • Bourbon

    Bourbon roses date from the 1800s, and feature wonderful, full, fragrant, medium to large blooms of white, pink, or mauve. Most bourbons repeat bloom. Uunfortunately for us Northerners, they are not particularly winter hardy. Some representative Bourbons:

    • Kronprincessin Victoria
    • La Reine Victoria
    • Madame Isaac Pereire
    • Souvenir de la Malmaison
    • Zéphirine Drouhin

  • Centifolia

    Centifolia roses, literally "hundred petals", also known as the "Cabbage rose", are some of the oldest roses known (400 B.C.?). They were featured in many paintings by the Dutch Masters. The blooms are large and fragrant and appear once in the Summer. Some representative Centifolias:

    • Cabbage Rose (Rosa Centifolia)
    • Fantin-Latour
    • Paul Ricault

  • China

    China roses originated on the Chinese mainland, and are the only naturally occuring roses that bloom more than once a year. Their genes are part of every modern rose that reblooms. They are small, bushy plants that are disease-resistant, but somewhat tender. Some representative Chinas:

    • Mutabilis
    • Old Blush
    • Slater's Crimson China

  • Damask

    Damasks are another very old rose family which were grown in the Middle East since Biblical times and were brought to Europe by men returning from the Crusades. The flowers are very fragrant, and one variety is used in the production of attar of roses, a fragrant oil used in expensive perfume. Most are once-blooming. Some representative Damasks:

    • Autumn Damask
    • Kazanlik (the 'attar' rose)
    • Quatre Seasons

  • Gallica

    Gallicas are among the oldest roses grown in gardens, and were known to the ancient Greeks. Unlike most OGRs, they come in many colors (even stripes). Gallicas are generally very fragrant, bloom heavily once in the Summer, and do not grow very large. Some representative Gallicas:

  • Hybrid Musk

    Hybrid Musk roses have beautiful foliage, bear large, fragrant blooms throughout the summer, and are healthy, vigorous, and somewhat hardy. Some representative Hybrid Musks:

    • Ballerina
    • Buff Beauty
    • Cornelia
    • Grandma's Lace
    • Penelope

  • Hybrid Perpetual

    Hybrid Perpetuals produce huge, fully double roses with a wonderful fragrance. All Hybrid Perpetuals are repeat blooming. Some representative Hybrid Perpetuals:

  • Moss

    "Moss" is the term used to categorize a curious variation on Centifolia and Damask roses which were popular in Victorian England. The name comes from a distinctive fragrant moss-like growth on the sepals which is most apparent when the flowers are in bud form. Some representative Moss Roses:

    • Crested Moss (Châpeau de Napoléon)
    • Henri Martin
    • Nuits de Young

  • Noisette

    Noisette roses were the first roses bred in North America. They are mostly rambler types (long canes reaching eight to twenty feet) with very fragrant flowers. Some representative Noisettes:

    • Champney's Pink Cluster
    • Madame Alfred Carrière
    • Reve D'Or

  • Polyantha

    Polyanthas are small bushes with large quantities of small flowers. Most are winter hardy. Some representative Polyanthas:

    • Cecile Brunner
    • China Doll
    • Ellen Poulsen
    • The Fairy

  • Portland

    Portland roses are much like Damasks, but smaller and remontant. The flowers have an old rose form and a lovely fragrance. Some representative Portlands:

  • Tea

    Tea roses also originated in China, and are ancestors of the modern Hybrid Tea roses. They produce large flowers that sometimes weigh down the stems they're growing on, and are known for a delicacy of flower form and color that is not seen in modern roses. Most are fragrant, and somewhat tender. Some representative Teas:

    • Blumenschmidt
    • Sombreuil
    • Tipsy Imperial Concubine

Hybrid Tea Roses

These are the roses that the general public thinks of when they visualize a rose -- all florist roses are Hybrid Teas. Hybrid Teas, sometimes called Large-flowered Roses, have the classic "high centered" form and urn-shaped buds we all know and love. Some have a lovely fragrance as well, for example Fragrant Cloud and Mr. Lincoln.

The first Hybrid Tea, called 'La France', was hybridized in France by Jean-Baptiste Guillot in 1867, and many more have been bred since. One of the most popular of all time is 'Peace', introduced in 1942.

Unfortunately, HT bushes tend to be tall and gangly, and do not make good landscape specimens. They also tend to lose their lower leaves later in the summer, which accentuates the "sticks with flowers on top" effect. For this reason, HTs are best grown in groups of three or more.

HTs also seem as a group to be very susceptible to diseases and winter die-back. Many (most?) do not do well unless they are sprayed regularly.

That said, Hybrid Teas produce large and beautiful flowers, often on a long stem that looks great singly or in bunches. They also come a wide variety of colors ( not blue - there are no truly blue roses). They generally have thick, velvety petals. They are always remontant, and rebloom in varying degrees after the first summer flush. In rose shows, the very top prize winners, called the "Queen" and "King", are always Hybrid Teas. Many do well in spite of not being cared for (see my comments about my first rose in the introduction.) I grow a few myself, but then I'm "hard core" and dote on them with affection, fertilizer, and fungicides!

Some other representative Hybrid Teas:

Floribunda Roses

Floribundas, sometimes called "cluster-flowered roses", tend to be small and bushy plants, which often have the hybrid tea form, but the flowers tend to be smaller, and come in clusters at the end of each stem. They have the same variety of color as hybrid teas, and can be very fragrant. They also tend to bloom all summer.

Floribundas were bred from hybrid teas and multiflora or polyantha parents, which in successful crosses combined the best features of both. As breeders continue to cross and recross roses, it sometimes can be difficult to separate the hybrid teas from the floribundas.

Some of my favorite floribundas include Angel Face, a mauve semi-double rose with a heavenly fragrance and Brass Band, a real 'flower machine' with flowers in a coppery apricot blend.

Grandiflora Roses

Grandifloras are also cluster-flowered roses, and combine the tall growth characteristics of Hybrid Teas with the flower clusters of the Floribundas. Some grow even larger than Hybrid Teas. The prototype for this class was Queen Elizabeth, which grows to be a very large bush in this area. These have the same variety of color as hybrid teas, and can be very fragrant. They also tend to bloom all summer.

Some of my favorites include Melody Parfumée, another mauve blend rose with a heavenly fragrance and Solitude, which has striking orange-blend flowers.

Modern Shrub Roses

The large rose growers have been trying to get roses into the landscapers arsenal for some time, and there's many roses available that are bred to be low to zero care landscape shrubs.

Jackon & Perkins has been selling their Simplicity series for some time, and many of these have good reputations. Conard-Pyle sells a wide array of Meilland-bred shrubs, including the growing 'Meidiland' series. Most recently, David Austin has been fabulously sucessful at reviving interest in old-fashioned flower and bush form with his 'English' roses.

Some of my favorite shrubs include Graham Thomas, one of the most successful of David Austin's creations, which has golden yellow flowers with a wonderful honey fragrance and Cherry Meidiland, a pretty red rose with a white eye which never needs spraying and blooms almost constantly.

Climber Roses

Climbers are descended from rambler and Wichuriana roses, which grow long, lax canes and are once-blooming. These were crossed with the other hybrids to add flower form and repeat blooming capability. The result is a rose with long canes, which can be trained along a fence or trellis and produce a large bush with lots of blooms.

Climber Roses do not climb like a vine, but rather need to be trained along and secured to whatever they're climbing on. I use twine or something similar and tie loosely, to avoid damage to the cane. Some climbers also have canes which get very stiff as they get older, and therefore can only be trained while the canes are green and young. Don Juan is like this.

Many climbers only bloom on "old wood", i.e., canes that have been through at least one winter. Therefore, never prune a climber until after it has finished blooming. The exception to this rule is always prune away dead or diseased canes whenever you find them.

Many climbers only bloom at the tips of the canes if allowed to grow straight up. The cure for this is to train the canes sideways as much as possible, wrapping them around a pillar or trellis or along the length of a fence.

Sometimes a normal bush rose variety produces a spontaneaous mutation, or 'sport', which grows long canes but otherwise has the flower and habits of the original. These are typically named the same as the original, but with a 'Climbing' prefix, e.g., "Climbing Queen Elizabeth." These sports are interesting, particularly if the rose is a personal favorite, but most don't rebloom that well.

Some of my favorite climbers include Don Juan, a deep red rose with HT form that is very fragrant and Fourth of July, a newer rose with attractive red single flowers splashed with white and a nice fragrance. Nice climbing sports include Climbing Angel Face which blooms on old and new wood, and reblooms well, and Climbing Iceberg, a more traditional old-wood bloomer which has a huge flush of bloom in June.

Miniature and Miniflora Roses

Miniatures are just like normal rose bushes, but with smaller leaves and flowers. Most minis can trace their ancestry to the small China rose Rouletti, which came from Switzerland in the early 1900s. Minis are almost always grown on their own roots (as opposed to grafted), and available in small pots via mail order all summer long.

Most minis do not have a lot of fragrance, although there are some significant exceptions (the Scentsation series from Nor'east comes to mind.)

Minis come in both single and double forms, with some 'exhibition' varieties having an elegant HT form. There are almost as many flower and color variations as in the HT and Floribunda classes. Some varieties are extremely floriferous and there are even a few climbing minis.

Many or most minis are not very disease-resistant and need some spraying with fungicide to keep green and happy in humid climates.

After a number of miniatures were introduced, some varieties started to looked a bit like their larger brethern, and a gray area started to appear between the large mini and the small floribunda or polyantha . Breeder Ben Williams and a few others (who bred a few larger minis) lobbied for a new rose classification to address this situation. In 2000, the ARS finally approved a new classification, called 'Miniflora' roses (a trademarked name contributed by Mr. Williams.)

Some of my favorite miniatures include Sachet, a mauve semi-double rose with a heavenly Damask fragrance, Climbing Rainbow's End, a rose which goes through an astonishing range of color as a flower goes from bud to open bloom, and Mother's Love, which has pretty flowers of exhibition form.

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