Heirloom Old Garden Rose Bushes: What Are Old Garden Roses?

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By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

In this article we will take a look at Old Garden Roses, these roses stir the heart of many a long time Rosarian.

What are Old Garden Roses?

According to the American Rose Societies definition, which came about in 1966, Old Garden Roses are a group of rose bush types that existed prior to 1867. The year 1867 was also the year of the first introduction of a hybrid tea, her name was La France. The bloom/flower forms on these wonderful roses can vary greatly.

Some of the rose bushes in this group will not produce any further blooms after their initial spring blooming period. This group of rose bushes will, however, add further beauty to the garden with the formation of their rose hips. Many of the old garden roses are intense with fragrance that will lift the beholder to the Heavens upon visiting such a garden in full bloom.

Popular Old Garden Roses

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The most popular classes of Old Garden Roses are:

  • Alba Roses – These roses are typically very winter hardy and shade tolerant. Vigorous and well foliated rose bushes with blooms that are usually white to mid pink but are known as white roses, and their fragrance is truly intoxicating.
  • Ayrshire Roses – These roses appear to have had their beginning in Scotland. They are climber or rambler type rose that bloom once in late spring to early summer. These rose bushes will tolerate poor soils conditions, drought and shade. They are known to reach heights of 15 feet plus!
  • Bourbon Roses – Developed from the hybrid China roses, these roses hold the distinction of having been the first to have repeating bloom cycles. The Bourbon roses have a broad range of colors and bloom form that has made them most popular along with their beautiful fragrance, of course. They are susceptible to black spot and powdery mildew, so need to keep them sprayed with a good fungicide.
  • Damask Roses – These roses are most widely known for their powerful heavy fragrance. Some varieties of Damask roses are repeat blooming as well.  One variety from this line known for its fragrance is heavily cultivated in Bulgaria where its rose bloom oils are used as the foundation for rose perfumes.
  • Noisette Roses – These roses carry Southern Charm with them as they had their beginnings in the United States in Charleston, South Carolina by Philippe Noisette. A well known noisette rose was developed by Mr. John Champney, that rose being named “Champney’s Pink Cluster.” Mr. Champney developed this rose by crossing a rose named “Old Blush” that he had received from Mr. Philippe Noisette with a rose named Rosa moschata. Noisette roses have a varying range of colors to their nicely fragrant cluster blooms that are often double to very double. These roses have been known to reach heights of up to 20 feet tall.

It would take a book to tell about each one of these popular Old Garden Roses. I have provided just a taste of information above on some of these beautiful Queens of the Garden. Having one of more of them in your own rose bed or garden and experiencing these delights of old first hand is truly worthwhile.

Here are some names of the other more popular classes for further study:

  • Boursalt Roses
  • Centifolia Roses
  • Hybrid China Roses
  • Hybrid Gallica Roses
  • Hybrid Perpetual Roses
  • Moss Roses
  • Portland Roses
  • Tea Roses

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