A Little History Of Roses

Published: 02nd March 2009
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There cannot be many gardens, which do not have at least one rose amongst its list of plants, for few gardens would be complete without the beauty and fragrance of these splendid flowers. Blooming from spring until autumn, they have never lost their appeal and charm; they are as popular today as they have been throughout the centuries. All over the world, gardens devoted to roses have become places of pilgrimage. There are so many different kinds of roses to choose from, to suit tastes, gardens of any size, climate or aspect.

Most of us who grow roses are scarcely aware of the heritage, of which we are beneficiaries, because it has been through selective breeding throughout the centuries, which has given us the overwhelming choice of variety, colour, form, scent and growing habit. Two geographical groupings which, at first, developed separately, have had-both in their separation and in their ultimate combination-the greatest impact on rose history: The European/Mediterranean group of species and their hybrids, and the Oriental group of species and their hybrids.

The European roses are primarily the following: Gallicas, Albas, Damasks, Damask Perpetuals, Centifolias, and Mosses. The mainstream Oriental groups are Chinas and Teas. The European sorts-with one important exception-have only one season of bloom per year, while the Orientals repeat bloom more or less continuously. During the 1830s work continued in earnest on the breeding between the Oriental roses and the Europeans. It was the Englishman Bennett, a cattle farmer converted to rose breeding, who applied the laws of heredity of his previous occupation to the breeding of roses. Due to the laws of genetics, the first progeny of crosses between once-bloomers and repeatbloomers the next generation bloomed only once. As they were crossed with each other, however, and then back to the Chinas and Teas, repeat-blooming hybrids began to appear. These were crossed with Damask Perpetuals. More crosses with the new material were made as work continued in all groups of roses.

Never before the 1830's had such a diversity of disparate roses been available--and never since. Almost every available species, no matter how obscure, had varieties and sub-varieties of varying colour or form due to breeding of sports. A new group of roses appeared in the 1970s originated from crosses made between certain Old Roses and Modern Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. Combining the charm and wonderful fragrance of an Old Rose, with the colour range and summer-long flowering of a Modern Rose they drew together the outstanding voluptuous beauty of the Old but stretched out the flowering season, providing the modern gardener with the very best of both worlds. These are the English Roses, with strong fragrant blooms; even more fragrant than many of the Old Roses, with colours ranging from white, cream to shades of pink, yellow, apricot to peach, lilac to crimson, purple and many shades of mauve.

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