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The rose has many faces. From the sculpted form of the hybrid tea rose to robust, fully packed, cabbage roses to the simple, crepe-paper blooms of single roses, the form of the rose is as diverse as it is divine. Modern roses first appeared with the first Hybrid Tea rose, 'La France,' in 1867. Antique or old garden roses are generally those that were introduced prior to 1867.


A rose by any name is a beautiful addition to a garden. With a tremendous variety in color and form, one will fill every desire. Old roses are subtle and muted, ranging from white to red (and all shades in between) and lovely creams, yellows, and light coppers. Modern roses share the same color palette as old roses, but you’ll also find brighter colors such as orange, crimson, coral, and fuchsia.

The history of the rose reads like a dossier from the foreign service. The queen of flowers was planted in the gardens of the Greeks, Romans, and Babylonians. Rose species from China and Persia eventually rambled westward to Europe (and then to America). In literature, the rose was used by poets and writers to symbolize purity and romantic love. Yet the rose also was an icon of war. During the 15th century War of the Roses, the House of York white rose and the House of Lancaster red rose were used as emblems by the two warring factions. Eventually, the war ended when a marriage joined the houses and, in a symbolic gesture, the Tudor Rose (the York and Lancaster rose) was developed. This red-and-white rose represented the unity of the two families.

Lean close and breathe deep
It’s a universal reaction: When anyone beholds a rose, he or she leans in closely to catch its fragrance. You don’t find such intimate interaction with other flowers. But the rose is enticing for more than its physical beauty. The rose has an essence. According to the famous English rosarian Graham Stuart Thomas in his book, The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book, the rose became such a beloved flower because of its scent. “I have no doubt myself that it owes its perennial popularity to its scent; it was for this priceless quality that it was originally cultivated….”

And although the scent of the rose is an extraordinary one, the appeal of the rose transcends even its physical qualities. If there were an illustration of the term romance in the dictionary, it would have to be of the rose. Poets have strewn the petals of this lovely posy through lines of their verse. From Shakespeare to Robert Burns, the rose has come to embody the elegant, the pristine, and often the unattainable. It’s the perfect metaphor. The rose has a beautiful fragrant flower and a thorny stem—and that about covers all the aspects of love, from the agony to the ecstasy.

Antique roses for all!
No flower embodies the spirit of romance more than a rose, and no rose graces the garden with more beauty, flower power, and fragrance than antique varieties. Old-fashioned roses complement any garden and fit into even the busiest gardener’s schedule with their no-fuss, low-maintenance care requirements. These cheerful bloomers unfurl flower after flower to smother canes with breathtaking, fragrant beauty.

Picking roses:
There’s an antique rose to fit every gardening style, from formal to cottage. The hardest part of growing old-fashioned roses isn’t planting, pruning, or care—it’s deciding which ones to grow.

Shrub. This category is the catchall of old-fashioned roses. Some plants may grow as freestanding bushes; others can be trained to pillars or kept clipped to thrive as shrubs. There’s a plant here that will satisfy even the most picky gardener. Variety is the hallmark of shrub roses. You’ll discover rambunctious ramblers, high climbers, and tidy bushes in this group of bloomers. Our favorites offer fragrance in gorgeous flowers. Many shrub roses make excellent informal hedges. Use roses of the same type, and arrange them in a double row, zigzagged to keep the proper amount of space between plants. Prune plants back hard the first year or two, and you’ll be rewarded with thick growth next season.

Polyantha and floribunda. These roses pack flower power in ever-blooming bushy plants that are perfect used as specimens, hedges, or container plants. Polyantha roses bear smaller blooms; floribundas have larger blossoms. Both types bear flowers in clusters. These ever-blooming types will grow as showpieces in the garden, unfurling flower after flower all season long. Many polyantha roses—‘Marie Pavie’, ‘Excellenz von Schubert’, and ‘The Fairy’—thrive in containers. Plant floribundas, such as ‘Betty Prior’ or ‘Kirsten Poulsen’, for colorful, fragrant hedges.

Rugosa. The beauty of rugosa rose blossoms is rivaled only by the plant’s rich, deep-green, crinkled foliage. The leaves of these beauties are highly disease-resistant, and the plants boast excellent winter-hardiness and salt-tolerance. The thorny canes bear a heavy load of blooms in spring and again in fall if dead flowers are removed. If dead blossoms remain on the canes, bright orange hips will form. In fall, the flowers fade to orange hips that are a favorite among birds. Rugosa roses can quickly overtake small spaces because they’ll send up suckers from the base of the plant, so place rugosas where they’ll have room to spread. Underplant them with perennials, such as catmint, lavender, or lamb’s-ears.

Tea. For Southern hospitality, no rose can compare to a tea rose. These exquisitely scented bloomers thrive in Southern growing conditions, blending disease-resistance with a nonstop flower show. With their hybrid tea heritage, tea roses make excellent cut flowers. This disease-resistant beauty thrives in Southern heat and humidity, blooming stubbornly throughout the entire growing season. Flowers unfurl with a rich fragrance and open on long stems that are perfect for snipping and placing into vases. If your Southern garden has room for only one rose, make it a tea. Choose from this trio of classics and you won’t go wrong: pink ‘Duchesse de Brabant’, crimson ‘Madame Antoine Rebe’, or yellow ‘Perle des Jardins’.

Climbers and ramblers. These roses defy gravity by crawling and sprawling up and over supports and trellises. The canes may bloom more than once a year, depending on the variety. Climbers can scale supports to heights of 30 feet; ramblers can fill many roles in the garden, from ground cover to fence or wall covering.



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