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Information Panels : Garden Roses

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Author: RNDr. Jiří Žlebčík

Man's relationship to roses has gone through several continual stages. At first, it’s been only interest in a plant with distinctive fragrant flowers. Later shrubs have been transplanted close to human settlements. And than they’ve been selected according to color and shape of the flower and growing has developed including propagation like bud-grafting. Much later breeding has started. At the beginnings it’s been focused on flowers, but later growing habit came along together with blooming season and health.



Growing and Distribution History

The first evidence of human interest in roses can be found on coins, murals or clay slabs from 4-6 thousand BC Mesopotamia and Altai. Later there were archeological records depicting roses from Persia, Egypt, India and China. A certain proof of growing roses in culture; not just in the wild; could be multiplication of petals, there were 5 or more of them depicted. On Crete in era of 1600 BC there were murals or clay vessels showing up to 16 petals or Turkish sites from 5-7 BC, where roses were depict with 50 or even 100 petals (Hundred Petaled Rose, Rosa x centifolia). In Greece, where roses were brought by Alexander the Great, has been the original Indian name for rose ‘vrad’ changed to ‘vrodim’ and later to ‘rhodon’. Today we have a special field of botany called ‘rhodologie’ dedicated to roses. Also Rhodos Island has its name after roses. Romans evolved growing of roses on a big scale. They had a term ‘rosarium’ for summer celebrations and for rose gardens (same as today). It is known that roses were laid heavily on floors or dried and stuffed in pillows. They built greenhouses for winter growing of them and the rose oil was about six times the price of gold at that time. After the demise of the Roman Empire, they were mostly Arabs in 8-10th century spreading the glory of roses. But Europe discovered roses from Orient later during Crusades and France has become the center of growing. First roses in central Europe has been brought by Turkish in the 16th century.

History of Rose Breeding

Basic significance for first varieties of roses have a few species: Gallic Rose (Rosa gallica), next one was Musk Rose (Rosa moschata), Dog Rose (Rosa canina) and hybrid species of not very clear origins like Damascus rose (Rosa x damascena) White Rose (Rosa x alba) and Hundred Petaled Rose (Rosa x centifolia). The breaking point in possibilities for new rose varieties occurred at the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon’s wife Josephine gathered all know roses of that time in Malmaison garden near Paris. This caused great admiration of contemporaries. A new era of intentional breeding, meaning pollination, has started. Its possibilities have been enlarged by probably repeated introduction of China Rose (Rosa chinensis). Historical groups of roses have arisen fast, but most of them disappeared after better ones have come up.

So in 1812 Noisette Roses appeared (Rosa moschata x R.chinensis) with full but soft flowers and only in white, pink and yellowish color. Bourbon Roses (Rosa chinensis x R. x damascena semperflorens) have exotic origins. They were discovered coincidentally in Indian Ocean in 1817 on  Reunion (Bourbon) Island belonging to France. Bourbon varieties were shrubs or climbers, some of them resembling Tea Hybrids, but they weren’t frost hardy. We have in our collections a famous cultivar ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ from 1843. Another important group of historical roses are Bengal Roses with little thorns derived from China (or Cyme) Rose (R. chinensis syn R. indica) at the beginning of the 19th century. They’ve been continually cross-breed with European roses until 1838 when the origins of Tea Hybrids were laid. This term comes not from a color but a fragrance of flowers, which were full and shortly peduncular. But the flowers, as well as flowers of previous historical roses, were missing saturated yellow color and their frost hardiness was low. For this, a sure breeding success was a vigorous climber with pale yellow flowers called ‘Maréchal Niel’ (1864). It is frost tender, but it’s been a very popular greenhouse rose for a long time. You can still see it locally growing at the Konopiste Castle today. In the second half of the 19th century Remontant Roses became the most famous. As the name shows, a second blooming season of lower intensity in autumn have been accomplished and they’ve been quite frost hardy, too. The first real typical Remontant Rose was ‘La Reine’ from 1842, but the most famous and grown until today was ‘Frau Karl Druschki’ (1901).

There are many other levels of rose breeding but where the desired yellow color came from? It happened only after a difficult crossing with the Austrian briar or Persian Yellow Rose (Rosa foetida) from Asia Minor in 1900 by French breeder Pernet. These roses were long considered as a special group and called Pernetianas.

Recent Practical Classification of Roses

Division of garden roses into separate groups is not purposeless, but it has a great significance for the right planting and treatment. In the collection in Chotobuz garden the groups have been planted separately. Their labels include: name, breeder and date if introduction.

Grandiflora Roses

A big group of large flowered roses is further divided into hybrid tea roses and large flowered floribunda roses.

  • Hybrid Tea Roses
    Plants reach 50 to 120 cm height (rarely even 150 cm), roses have several strong and upright canes. There are 1-6 full flowers of different colors on each stem, they have 9-15cm in diameter. They have intensive fragrance. Blooming season is the whole summer, but in August there are only a few good flowers. Hybrid tea roses were created by cross - breeding tea roses with hybrid perpetuals. The first cultivar is mostly considered a light pink ‘La France’ from 1867 and the first tetraploid one in this group was ‘Mme. Caroline Testout’. But the classic hybrid tea rose is the worldwide most famous and the best seller of all times ‘Gloria Dei’ from 1945. 
  • Large Flowered Floribunda Roses This is a smaller group of roses similar to hybrids tea roses, but having more flowers in the inflorescence. The year of creation was 1954, as cited, when famous and   popular pink rose ‘Queen Elizabeth’ was introduced. But there have been other roses of mentioned characters to be found before, so they can be add to this group, too.

Multiflora Roses

Roses from this group have very different characters and it is necessary to divide them with more detail descripttion. All of them have two things in common – they rebloom from June to September and have no fragrance.

  • Floribundas

Roses are of lower growth from 50 to 120 cm, mostly having 4-9 flowers in the inflorescence. Flower diameter is 6-9cm. The first cultivar was considered pale pink ‘Gruss an Aachen’ from 1909. But typical floribundas are yellow ‘Friesia’ and pink ‘Kimono’ or red ‘Pussta’.

  • Polyantha Hybrids
    These roses reach 50 to100cm, have smaller flowers than floribundas with a loose center quite often, 4-7cm in diameter. This smaller group came from cross-breeding hybrid tea roses with polyanthas. The first one was pink-red ‘Rödhätte’ from 1911 but a newer typical red one is Czech ‘Romance’.

  • Polyanthas
    They are 50-120cm tall, inflorescence carries tens of single flowers having only 2-5cm (rarely 6cm) in diameter. This group has its roots mostly in hybridization of Rosa multiflora and R. wichuraiana. The oldest cultivar is white ‘Paquerette’ from 1875, but there are still new ones appearing until today. The typical polyantha is ‘Margo Koster’ and its mutations.

Shrub or Landscape Roses

Upright shrubs reach from 1,2m (rarely only 80cm) up to 4m. Flowers can be small and single resembling original botanical wild roses or they can be similar type as hybrid teas. Shrub roses flower at the beginning of summer or they can bloom repeatedly until autumn. Many of them have decorative hips, which can stay on. To improve landscape roses, many botanical species have been involved in the breeding like Rosa wichuraiana, R. rugosa, R. canina, R. spinosissima, R. rubiginosa.

There are a few smaller groups within shrub roses, which are very different and sometimes they can be listed separately in catalogues. 

Hybrid Rugosa
It is important to separate these roses from hybridization of Rosa rugosa in term s of esthetics and requirements. They can be identified by foliage with different shine. They belong generally to the most hardy roses like cultivars ‘Blanka’ – white, white with pink rim ‘Jablonovy Kvet’ or pale pink ‘Dagmar Hastrup’ and deep pink ‘Ruskin’.

Hybrid Centifolia
Centifolia roses really have large amount of petals crowded in the flower. They have very strong fragrance, too, but flower only at the beginning of summer and no more. Their low maintenance and frost hardiness are considerable. A few outstanding cultivars are ‘Capitaine Basroger’ with interesting shade of deep purple or sometimes remontant ‘Rose des Quatre Saisons’ and very low growth perform Rosa centifolia minor.

Moss Roses
They are actually centifolias with
pedunculated glands on the flower stem and calyx. One to notice is very mossy one ‘Chapeau de Napoleon’

English Roses
These roses have significant star quadratic flower structure. And more, they add the forgotten strong fragrance to modern cultivars. Color-wise there are also impressive yellow to orange represented. In our collection in Chotobuz, there are e.g. ‘Emanuel’ or ‘Golden Celebration’ and ‘Charles Austin’.

Climbing Roses

Canes reach at least 150cm in length, but mostly they have 3 or more meters. Roses don’t climb, they lean and they need to be trained along trellises or fences. Flowers are of a different size (3-11cm) and a shape (single or full). Sometimes; mostly abroad; these roses can be divided into two sub-groups: ramblers – having extremely long , thin and flexible canes and they flower only once at the beginning of summer (e.g. deep pink ‘Excelsa’) and climbers – with shorter and sturdier shoots, which repeat blooming throughout the year and their flowers are quite big (e.g. ‘Sympatie’). Roses indicated as climbing are mostly mutation of an original cultivar (commonly hybrid tea) having longer canes (e.g. pinkish yellow ‘Climbing Gloria Dei’). In local climate they get frost-damaged quite often and have little flowers. Special attention earns for sure a hybrid species Rosa x kordesii (Rosa rugosa x R. wichuraiana), which was a basic one for many nice and healthy climbing roses (e.g. ‘Dortmund’)

Groundcover Roses

These low roses (maximum 80cm – 1m) spread sideways or lay on the ground (procumbent) and form dense growth suitable for covering wide areas. Flowers are small (2-8cm) mostly single and in rich clusters. The growing habit separates them from polyanthas and hybrid polyanthas. Groundcover roses are often used in public landscapes and are today intensely hybridized.

Miniatures, Mini-flora or Patio Roses

They are mostly 30-40cm tall, sometimes just 20cm or even 70cm. Flower diameter is 2-6cm and they flower throughout the whole season. Greater attention from breeders to this group of roses was paid since 1930. Nowadays it is often to find tiny roses with lots of bud in a container for sale. But they have a short-term purpose as a present and aren’t suitable for outdoor growing. Good cultivars for gardens can be: white ‘Para-Ti’, pink ‘Degenhard’, orange ‘Colibri’, light red ‘Vatertag’ or red ‘Alberich’ and ‘Coralin’, deep red ‘Botond’ and ‘Scarlet Sun Blaze’, purple ‘Cupido’ and a very nice one variable in color ‘Baby Masquerade’.


Translation: Marketa Machackova