The History of the Rose

This year, I am focusing on my most favourite flower of all, the rose, and in particular Old or Heritage Roses, whose scent, form and softer colours are far superior in my eyes to the modern rose. Each month, I will feature a particular rose group one week and a favourite rose garden on another week. The rose in the photograph below is a species rose: Sempervirens rose Adélaide d’Orléans.bloghxroses20reszdimg_9330 There are so many reasons that I love old roses : I love their variety of form from single to double, cupped and globular, quartered, quilled, ruffled, pinked, mossed and even button-eyed; their softer muted colours; their superb fragrance, which varies from damask and myrrh to the scents of clove, apple, lemon, nasturtium, orris and violet; their toughness, Old Roses resisting many of the modern rose ailments like black spot and mildew; their adaptability and versatility, allowing a multitude of uses in any part of the garden; their low maintenance, requiring little or no pruning; and their fascinating history, of which I will now proceed to give you a taster!bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-27-12-54-53bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-11-10-02-56Roses belong to the Family Rosaceae, so are closely related to apples and crab apples, pears and quinces, plums and cherries, nectarines and peaches, hawthorns and rowans and even blackberries and strawberries. The photos of rambling rose Rosa rubus (photo 1) and Rosa canina (photo 2) above are excellent examples, showing the similarity of the simple five-petalled rose flowers and leaves to their botanic cousins. The genus Rosa has 150 species, which have been divided into 4 subgenera: Hulthemia (Simplicifoliae, including R. persica); Hesperhodos (R. stellata); Platyrhodon (R. roxburhii) and Rosa, which has 11 sections :

1. Pimpinellifoliae (including R. foetida, R. spinosissima, R. hugonis, and R.ecae)

  1. Gallicanae (including R. gallica, R. damascena, R. centifolia, R. centifolia muscosa, R. richardii, and the Portlands)
  2. Caninae (including R. alba, R. canina, R. eglanteria, R. glauca and R. villosa)
  3. Carolinae (including R. carolina, R. nitida, R.palustris and R. virginiana)
  4. Cassiorhodon ( Cinnamomeae : including R. moyesii, R. rugosa, R. blanda, R. fedtschenkoana, R. kordesii, and the Boursaults)
  5. Synstylae (including R. arvensis, R. brunonii, R. dupontii, R. filipes, R. moschata, R. multiflora, R. phoenicia, R. sempervirens, R. setigera, R. wichuriana and the Hybrid Musks, Polyanthas, Floribundas, Multiflora Ramblers, Modern Climbing roses and Modern Shrub roses)
  6. Chinensis (including R. chinensis, R. odorata, R. gigantea and the Bourbons, Noisettes, Teas, Hybrid Perpetuals and Hybrid Teas)
  7. Banksianae (including R. banksiae and R. fortuniana)
  8. Laevigatae (R. laevigata)
  9. Bracteata (R. bracteata)

11. Gymnocarpae (including R. gymnocarpa and R. wilmottiae)

Here are some more photos of Species Roses:

Box 1 : Canary Bird (Rosa xanthina); Rosa foetida bicolor; R. webbiana and Geranium (R. moyesii)  

And in Box 2 below: one of my favourite species roses, the Rugosa Roses: Madame Georges Bruant; Scabrosa; Frau Dagmar Hastrup; and the divinely-scented Roseraie de l’Haie.

Roses are endemic to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America (Alaska to Mexico), Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with the greatest diversity of species in Western China. I will be discussing the wild Species or Botanical Roses next month, but basically these were the original roses before humans started cultivating roses. See this link for a complete list of species: The photo below shows a late rose, covered in early Winter frost in our old garden in Armidale!bloghxroses50reszdimage-260 There are three major historical periods in the development of the rose as we know it today. The first is early rose cultivation up until the 1800s. Rose breeding exploded during the 19th century, with the introduction of oriental roses to the West and finally, the age of the Hybrid Teas and Floribundas of today, with further breeding to combine the best features of the old and the new, as well as to enhance production.

Fossil evidence dates the rose back to the Oligocene Period, 35 Million years ago. Fossilized leaves were found in North America (Oregon, Colorado and Alaska), France, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Japan. Garden cultivation of the rose began 5000 years ago, probably in China. The rose was grown in the gardens of the early Chinese dynasties of 3000 BC and roses of considerable hybridity are depicted in Chinese paintings from the 10th century on. Roses were frequently mentioned in records from the Middle East 2000 to 3000 years ago. The Mediterranean place names ‘Syria’ and ‘Rhodes’ both translate to the word ‘rose’. The Minoan frescoes (1800 BC) at Knossos, Crete, depict the blooms of Rosa richardii, thought to be one of the oldest cultivated garden roses. Gold rose pins were also found in the Mochlos tombs on Crete. Wreaths of the Damask-like rose, the Holy Rose, Rosa sancta, were found in Egyptian tombs. To the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the rose was a symbol of love, beauty and youth and it was frequently mentioned in their literature and mythology. They used the rose petals for confetti at festivals and celebrations, as we still do at our modern weddings, as well as in the production of rosewater and attar of roses for the perfume industry, potpourri and herbal medicine. In Ancient Greece, Herodotus described double roses, thought to have been Rosa damascena, growing in the gardens of Midas in 445 BC and Theophrastus (372-287 BC), the father of botany, gives detailed descriptions of their propagation from cuttings rather than seed and the benefits of pruning to encourage more flowering. Roman nobility extensively cultivated the rose in large public rose gardens, south of Rome, as well as in heated greenhouses to force blooms. It is thought they mainly grew Rosa damascena (Summer Damask) and Rosa damascena bifera (Autumn Damask), as well as a form of Gallica. The poet Martial (40-102 AD) laments the high price of roses in Winter, when the Romans imported the Autumn Damask, also known as Quatre Saisons (photo below), a cross between R.gallica and R. moschata, which flowers twice. They imported huge amounts of these roses from Egypt and the Middle East to maintain their Winter supply.bloghxroses20reszdimg_9496 The Arabs also loved the rose, spreading it from Syria to Spain and India and depicting it in Persian art, including tiles, porcelain, tapestries and carpets. Damask roses are still extensively grown today in Kazanlik, Bulgaria and Turkey for the perfumery industry and for the production of rose oil and potpourri. The rose below is Ispahan from Turkey.bloghxroses20reszdimg_9259 After the fall of Rome, roses continued to be grown in monastery gardens for Christian holy festivals and medicinal purposes. The rose became an emblem of Christianity, its five petals associated with Christ’s five wounds and the red rose symbolizing the blood of Christian martyrs. Rosary beads were developed in the 13th century for use in prayer and were originally made of dried rose petals, ground into a paste and slowly hardened. Roses were also depicted in the borders of illuminated books and stained glass church windows of the time, as well as in Renaissance art, like Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’.

Rosa gallica officinalis is known as the Apothecary’s Rose and it was the major rose used for medicine and as a source of rose oil in England before the introduction of the Damasks by the Crusaders in 1254, who brought this rose back from Damascus, hence its name. The red Gallica Rose was also the symbol of the House of Lancaster, while the White Rose, Rosa alba, was that of the House of York, in the War of Roses in England in the 15th century. After the war, the fusing of these symbols of the Houses of York and Lancaster resulted in the Tudor Rose, the emblem of England today. I will be discussing the Gallica roses in more depth later, but here are photos of two very famous historic Gallicas: Rosa Mundi, a striped sport (or mutation) of R. gallica officinalis and the velvety red Tuscany Superb.bloghxroses50reszdimage-240bloghxroses50reszdimage-205 By the end of the Middle Ages, the rise of the merchant class and the development of horticultural commerce in the Netherlands had a major impact on the development of the rose. Up until this time, roses were propagated by cuttings, suckers, runners and a small amount of grafting and there were only some tens of rose cultivars. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Dutch started growing roses from seed, sexual reproduction allowing for much greater variation. In 1596, Gerard’s catalogue listed 16 roses, as compared to 225 carnations and 437 tulips. Between 1580 and 1710, there were over 200 new rose cultivars and a whole new group of roses, the Centifolias (photo below is R. centifolia), whose lush fragrant blooms were frequently depicted in the paintings of the Dutch Masters, alongside equally lush voluptuous women! In the 17th century, roses were in such high demand that their blooms, and rosewater itself, were considered legal tender and used as barter or payment.bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-11-08 Mosses, a mutation of Centifolias, which resulted in the stems and sepals being covered with a fine moss, also developed. A famous example is the Crested Moss, also known as Chapeau de Napoléon, because of the similarity of its heavily-mossed sepals to Emperor Napoléon’s tricorn hat. See the section below on Empress Josephine. Mossing is also seen in other class roses like Quatre Saisons Blanc Mousseux, a sport of Damask rose Quatre Saisons, seen below.bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-09-08By the 18th century, there were approximately 100 different types of roses in basically five broad classes of Old European Roses: Gallicas, Albas (1st photo below is Alba Maxima), Damasks, Centifolias and Mosses, all of them sharing the following characteristics: hardy and cold resistant; once flowering in Spring (the exception being the Autumn Damask, which flowered twice); fragrant, double or single flowers, with a muted and limited colour range of white, pink and red; generally deciduous; and resistant to black spot and rust, though some get mildew in warmer climates. There were also the Species Roses, also known as Wild or Botanical Roses, but more about them later. The 2nd photo below is another favourite Species Rose belonging to the Wichuriana Ramblers: Albertine.bloghxroses50reszdimage-211bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-16-09-47-07By 1800, the French had become interested in rose breeding, fuelled by Empress Josephine at her chateau at Malmaison. She aimed to collect all the available roses of the time (she grew 250 different roses) and encouraged breeding and hybridization by French breeders, especially Dupont and Descemet, who developed several hundred new cultivars. Josephine commissioned Pierre Joseph Redouté to paint her roses in watercolour and he published ‘Les Roses’ in 1824. The 19th century was the golden age of rose breeding in France. By the 1820s, there was a huge range of roses: every species had its own unique array of cultivars. Another prominent French rosarian was Jeanne Pierre Vibert, who inherited Descemet’s nursery stock, 10 000 seedlings and hybridizing records and went on to produce hundreds of new roses between 1816 and 1851. By the 1850s, there were 1800 different types of roses.The photo below is Chapeau de Napoléon.bloghxroses20reszd2014-11-22-14-26-37And then the whole situation exploded with the introduction to the west of the China (R. chinensis, previously known as R. indica) and Tea Roses (a cross between R. chinensis and R. gigantea) from the East. The four Stud Chinas, as they came to be known, were :

Old Blush, later known as Parson’s Pink, a pink form of R.chinensis, planted in Holland in 1781 and England in 1793;

Slater’s Crimson China (photo below), also called the Bengal Rose, a red form of R. chinensis, transported to England in 1792 from Calcutta by the ships of the East India Company, which also carried tea, a possible reason for the name ‘Tea Rose’;

Hume’s Blush Tea Scented China, R. indica odorata, named after Sir Abraham Hume, who sent the rose to England from the Fa Tee Nurseries in Canton in 1810;   and

Parks Yellow Tea Scented China, collected by John Parkes on an expedition to China for the Royal Horticultural Society in 1824.bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-14-31Hermosa below is a small continuous-blooming China Rose, bred in 1840.bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-45-51The introduction of the oriental roses set the rose breeding scene into a frenzy. Not only were these new roses repeat or continuous flowering, but they also had glossy green foliage and blooms with bright distinct colours and a supposedly slight tea fragrance, another reason for the future rose class ‘Tea Rose‘, which developed from them. The Chinas quickly became fashionable in the warmer parts of Europe, but unfortunately, they were not very robust in the colder Northern European zones, where they often had to be grown in glass houses. Mutabilis below is a classic example: Peter Beales describes its size reaching 90cm by 60cm wide in the United Kingdom, but I have seen bushes over 2 m high and wide in Australia’s warmer climate. bloghxroses50reszdnov-2010-253bloghxroses20reszdimg_1983 The first crosses between the once blooming Old European roses and repeat blooming roses also only bloom once, but once crossed with each other, then back to Chinas and Teas, they produce repeat blooming hybrids. Suddenly, there were lots of new classes of roses, which flowered two to three times in a season, but were hardier and more compact than the Chinas. The new rose types included:

Bourbon Roses, from the island of Réunion, once Isle de Bourbon, in the Indian Ocean, resulted from natural crosses between Parson’s Pink (China) and Quatre Saisons (Autumn Damask), both division hedges on the island. Seedlings and cuttings were sent to Paris in 1819 and 1821 and gained immediate popularity (their heyday was 1830-1850), with their strong arching growth and lush, fragrant, reblooming flowers. Up until the mid 19th century, there were few good climbers, so the Bourbons filled this niche, as well as being the most continuously flowering shrub rose of the time. I love their cupped globular blooms, opening out flat and quartered, and their fragrance is superb! Two very famous examples below are Madame Isaac Pereire (one of the strongest rose scents) and Souvenir de la Malmaison, both growing in my old and new gardens and both of which I could not do without!bloghxroses50reszdimage-236bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-07-10-50-42: The continuous flowering Portland Roses developed at the end of the 18th century from a cross between R. gallica officinalis and the Autumn Damask, R. damascena bifera, and were named after the 2nd Duchess of Portland (1715-1785).blogvsrg20reszd2014-10-19-13-12-50: The Boursaults, an evolutionary dead end, of which only a few types survive, was thought to have developed during the Napoleonic Era (1799-1815 ) from a cross between an early China and R. pendulina, the Alpine Rose, but studies of its chromosomal count, have disputed this. The rose above is Morletti, bred by Morlet in France in 1883. It is one of the few Boursaults to survive.bloghxroses50reszdimage-201: The Noisettes are one of my favourite rose groups, hence my header tab photo of one of my favourite Noisette roses Desprez à Fleurs Jaunes (photo above). They developed at the same time as the Portlands and Bourbons. John Champney of Charleston, Carolina, crossed Parson’s Pink (China) with R. moschata, to produce a large sturdy shrub with clusters of lightly fragrant pink blooms, which he called Champney’s Pink Cluster. His neighbour, Philippe Noisette, grew some of the seeds, producing a smaller plant with larger clusters of double flowers, which he called Blush Noisette, then sent seeds and seedlings to his Parisian brother, who used them extensively in hybridization in 1815. Within 10 years, French catalogues listed hundreds of Noisettes with repeat and continuous flowering blooms of a colour range from white to crimson and purple. The Victorians used Noisette roses extensively to cover walls and pergolas until the turn of the century, when newer hardier climbers from different backgrounds superseded them. Another favourite Noisette is Madame Alfred Carrière, which we grew over our front entrance arch in our old garden (photo 1), as well as the main pergola in our new garden (photo 2).bloghxroses50reszdimage-246bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-17-09-56-40 A cross between Noisettes and Parks Yellow Tea Scented China produced the Tea-Noisettes with a tendency to climb and smaller clusters of larger yellow and near-yellow blooms. Lamarque 1830 was one of the first of this type. bloghxroses20reszdimg_0413 I love the golden yellow Noisettes. We have yet to build an arch for Alister Stella Gray and Rêve d’Or, seen in the photos below.bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-16-09-46-38bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-08-15-21-14 : Tea Roses, closely related to Chinas (possibly an early cross between R. chinensis and R. gigantea) and also hailing from the Orient, became very popular with the Victorians as well, but were not totally hardy in the cooler climate, being far more vigorous in the warmer Australian climate. They have slender weak stalks, so their heads often nod, and high pointed centres in bud. Adam and Devoniensis are both Teas, growing on our main pergola.bloghxroses20reszdimg_1848bloghxroses20reszdimg_0731Between 1920 and 1940, Australian breeder Alister Clark (1864–1949) used R. gigantea in his breeding program to produce many Teas, which were ideally suited to Australia’s sunny dry climate. See photos below of Cicely Lascelles 1937 , Baxter Beauty 1924 and Nancy Hayward 1937. bloghxroses20reszdimg_9468bloghxroses20reszdimg_4796bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-17-23: Hybrid Perpetuals were developed from crosses between hybrids of Chinas, Bourbons and Noisettes with Autumn Damasks. The huge recurrent fragrant blooms had a full colour range, except for pure white or yellow, but had a tendency to fungal disease. Thousands were released over the next 60 years, until they were replaced by hardier Hybrid Teas in the 1890s and only the best Hybrid Perpetuals survive.bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-18-19-35-08Hybrid Teas are a cross between Hybrid Perpetuals and Tea Roses. The photo above is Heaven Scent and has a typical high-pointed bud, frilled petals and a divine scent! M. Guillot bred the first hybrid tea rose, ‘La France’, in 1865, while Henry Bennett, was working along similar lines in the UK with ‘Lady Mary Fitzwilliam’, the second Hybrid Tea. These new roses were bushier plants with more beautiful foliage and more abundant blooming of better shaped flowers. They had a high pointed bud and the warmer, though muted, colour range of the Teas, but they were tender, with their flower heads nodding on the stems like Teas. In 1900, Pernet-Ducher crossed the deep yellow R. foetida persiana with Antoine Ducher, a purple red Hybrid Perpetual, then recrossed the resultant seedling with R. foetida bicolour, producing Soleil d’Or, a gold Tea, the first of the Pernetianas, now classified as Hybrid Teas. The Pernetianas were combined with Hybrid Teas to produce the hybrid Hybrid Teas of today. The use of R. foetida gave these roses their sturdy growth and improved health and glossy leaves, though unfortunately also their susceptibility to black spot. Lolita below is a typical Hybrid Tea with a high pointed bud and beautiful warm orange-gold tones.bloghxroses20reszd2016-10-29-17-12-24bloghxroses20reszdmidmar-2014-136 Further crosses between Hybrid Teas and R. wichuriana have rectified this situation to a certain extent, though it is still a problem for many Hybrid Teas. Since then, Hybrid Teas have been selected for reliable recurrent blooming, a high centred bud, multi-petalled flower forms, a long cutting stem with a strong neck and disease resistance. Just Joey below is one of the world’s favourite roses, inducted into the Rose Hall of Fame in 1994.bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-23-15-13-08Today, there are at least 29 groups / classes of cultivated roses and over 30 000 cultivars, with Hybrid Teas and Floribundas being the most common rose type of the 20th century and 3000 new cultivars being registered each year. Floribundas started as Dwarf Polyanthas. In 1862, the cluster-flowering R. multiflora ‘Polyantha’ was introduced from Japan and in 1869, in Lyons, France , Guillot fils crossed an unknown hybrid China with seed from a low-growing, semi-double form of this Multiflora to produce the first Polyantha, Paquerette 1875 with its many clusters of small perfect buds. These small compact bushes (1 to 3 feet) were perfect for bedding plants and were very popular in their day. Dwarf Polyanthas were crossed with Hybrid Teas by Poulsen of Denmark, in the 1920s, to produce the Hybrid Polyanthas, renamed Floribundas in the 1950s. Their flowers are half the size of those of Hybrid Teas, but the clusters are larger, with 10 or more flowers on each stem, providing massed colour throughout the Summer. Hybrid Teas and Floribundas have been interbred so much, that it is now difficult to separate them genetically. They are now called Cluster-Flowered Roses (Floribundas) and Large-Flowered Roses (Hybrid Teas). Lavinia Evans (photo 1) is a Polyantha, while Queen Mother (photo 2) is a Floribunda and a Patio Rose.bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-25-09-42-49bloghxroses50reszdapril-016 Two more groups, developed in the 20th century, are the Hybrid Musks and David Austin’s English Roses. Between 1910 and 1930, Joseph Pemberton crossed two roses of R. multiflora/ R. moschata parentage, Aglaia and Trier, with Teas, Hybrid Teas and Hybrid Perpetuals to produce Hybrid Musks, long-flowering shrub roses with clusters of flowers, equal in amount to the Polyanthas. Cornelia and Penelope are two of my favourites!bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-03-10-04-21bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-06-13-09-14David Austin has combined the best of the old and the new with beautiful cupped and quartered full old-fashioned blooms, which repeat-flower constantly. They form the basis of my Moon Bed and include Jude the Obscure, William Morris and Golden Celebration (last 2 photos) : bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-22-17-03-14bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-17-09-52-09bloghxroses20reszdimg_4487bloghxroses20reszd2016-11-01-13-27-29I also grow Alnwick and Fair Bianca in the Soho Bed.bloghxroses20reszd2016-10-29-17-08-08bloghxroses20reszdimg_0467Other modern rose groups include the Kordes (Germany) and Guillot Roses (France). Maigold and Frühlingsgold are Kordes Roses and can be bought from Treloars in Victoria.bloghxroses20reszdimg_9505bloghxroses50reszdimage-259We saw many Guillot Roses at Walter Duncan’s home, The Heritage Garden, but now Knights Roses (South Australia) are the Australian agents. I loved Walter’s rose arch (photo 1) and would dearly love to find a spot for Sonia Rykiel (photo 2).bloghxroses20reszdimg_9419bloghxroses20reszdimg_9491Today, commercial production of roses centres on providing ornamental plants for domestic and industrial landscaping, flowers for the cut flower market and the perfume industry (rose water/ attar of roses/ rose essential oil), and rose hips for food (rosehip jam and syrup) and medicine (high vitamin C content), though I think some of the Species Roses still have the best hips!bloghxroses50reszdapril-036bloghxroses50reszdimage-192bloghxroses50reszdapril-028 As florist roses are increasingly grown, then shipped from developing countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda in Africa and Colombia and Ecuador in South America, post-harvest longevity is becoming increasingly important, and new varieties are being bred for longer vase life, as well as thornless stems to promote ease of handling and sorting. The ethics behind rose production in developing countries is a whole separate subject in itself, as I discovered in my floristry course and one which I may explore in a later post. For a taster, see: back to current breeding! Most of the work is directed towards increasing production. For example, soil-less cultivation, efficient nutrient usage and the ability of cultivars to grow on their own root stocks, a much cheaper alternative to grafting. Genetics is also playing a much more prominent role, not only to confirm ancestry, but also in genetic modification. Experiments have investigated increasing resistance to powdery mildew and other diseases, increasing resistance to temperature, increasing the shelf life of roses and resistance to shock over long transportation, increasing the adventitious rooting of cuttings and increasing fragrance, lost during conventional breeding. Experiments are also being done to control colour at a genetic level, in order to create unique colours and eliminate the need for costly dyes. And then, there is still the questionable long-held desire to produce a blue rose, the Holy Grail of rose breeders! Because there is no blue in the rose gene pool, genetic engineering has been used to introduce the blue pigment Delphinidin, found naturally in violas and delphiniums to a white rose, resulting in a lavender-mauve rose called Applause, which was released for sale to the public in Japan in 2009 and America in 2011 after more than 20 years of research by a collaboration between two companies:  Florigene, a Melbourne-based biotechnology company and the Japanese Suntory Group. See:  I have to say that I’m happy enough with my mauve Hybrid Tea, Lady X (above) and for total originality, my obscure green China Rose, Viridiflora!bloghxroses20reszd2014-10-19-13-44-18For the rest of the year, I will be describing each of the different rose groups in depth with examples from our garden, starting with the Species or Botanical Roses, then progressing through the Old European Roses to the multitude of hybrids, which developed from them, culminating in the modern Hybrid Tea rose of today.

5 thoughts on “The History of the Rose

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