The pull of the English roses is very great, they are indeed brilliant roses, flowering normally for long periods of time, most with great scent and with fabulous blooms, they are indeed great garden plants and make a worthy addition to most gardens. so let’s make it clear, this isn’t a ‘knocking’ blog against them but a blog singing the praises of older roses, some having being bred over 500yrs ago and make equally great garden plants, that in flower, scentand disease resistance are at least equal to the English roses and in some cases, dare I say it better. It is also a blog questioning why, in some historic gardens, old historic rose gardens as being replanted with just the modern varieties. Yes I can see and understand the pull of having some newer ones within the collections but why replace the whole lot with newer forms? When, in both the historical setting and the beauty of some of the old varieties would fit in so much into the garden. Roses named in honour of historic figures, at age of the original rose garden, would help certainly in leading the eduction of visitors into the world at the time when the house and garden was possiblily at its greatest. Or even marking major world anniversaries like the battle of Waterloo, roses with roses like the ‘Empress Josephine’ and ‘Chapeau de Napoleon’, heroines like ‘Grace Darling’, or a couple of the great houses of England, Yorkshire and Lancastershire. Learning French history? French Revolution.? Adelaide d’Orleans’ may bring it to life even more. They are like a history and culture lesson mixed with beauty, scent, all in one little pocket.
But I hear you cry ‘ these ere old roses only flower once, what’s the point of having something that does nought for the rest of the year!’ It is true that some of the forms like gallica, centifolias and albas tend to flower just the once per year, sometimes a little Second flush in September. But mixed in amongst other roses and shrubs with longer span of interest or even grown as a small climber, it can come and give you a little splash of colour and scent that’s quite unique for these plants. It also gives you something to look forward to, a bit like your birthday, if you had one everyday during the summer, you would get bored wouldn’t you, birthdays are something to look forward too, watching the post everyday leading up to the big day, letting the anticipation slowly build up, just like going outside and seeing the buds forming, the colour, slowly creeping in and bang the day comes and the highly scented natural work of art opens but unlike our birthdays, this display goes on for 3 weeks of pure enjoyment. But also what about the 100’s of other forms of the heritage roses that flower all summer long, the Portlands, some Moss roses, Bourbons, Hybrid Perpetuals, China’s Tea roses , florundias and Hybrid Teas, yes yes you read the last couple right, floribundas and Hydrid Teas and been around and bred since the 1850’s and have some great old forms well worth trying, they will fill your garden with scent and flowers all summer long!
But but they are full of disease! What rot! No more than modern roses and indeed can be far less. Well admittedly you can buy supposed disease free roses, the first few years they are, but soon the fungus mutates and starts to infect the plant. Yes there’s the odd one that does grow a little weakly and do get a bit of disease but that’s the same with a lot of the modern roses. Some of the old roses like the Portland roses, Comte de Chambord, Rosa de Resht, Amande Patternotte, a lot of the once flowering roses gallica, centifolia, moss roses, alba roses are again pretty disease free, bourbon roses again are pretty tough and so are the hybrid pepetuals. Like all roses they will look a little worse for wear at sometime during the season, well apart rugosas, they are pretty disease free and they have lots of heritage rose forms like ‘blanc double de Combert’ and ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’. And if you prefer perfect leaves then it’s a programme of feeding, mulching and spraying to get the best of them.
So please please don’t just go to the local garden centre and pick up the lastest modern rose that the magazines and internet is praising to high heaven, take a little time, a little bit of research and choose a rose that have stood the test of time, entrilled thousands of people over hundreds of years with their beauty and try an old hertiage Rose, you may be pleasantly surprised
Footnote One of the excellent comments I received, I feel is worthwhile adding to the article and here it is
I couldn’t agree with you more, Tom! The old heritage varieties bring not only beauty but also grace and elegance to the garden. Their blooms are perfectly placed and poised upon the plant, and, if sensitively pruned, will arch out into natural arbours. True, many of the Austin hybrids are very beautiful, but their blooms seldom sit comfortably upon the bush. When it comes to Roses, “Big” isn’t always “Best”. One further point in support of the older Midsummer only flowering roses which you touch upon, and that is what I call “the joy of anticipation”. Nothing beats the pleasure of the first unfolding of that summers flowers following an 11 month wait. But if you can’t wait that long, then try ‘Comte de Chambord’; ‘Jacques Cartier’; ‘Rose de rescht’ ‘Salet’; ‘Mousseline’; ‘Indigo’; ‘Amada Paternotte’, ‘Reine des Violettes’; ‘Gruss an Aachen’ and its pink form aka ‘Irene Watts’ etc!
Go on. Give ’em a go!
Thank you very much 🙂