Roses Are Plants Too!

Are Today’s Modern Roses “Real Roses”?

I was recently booked to speak at an event. I proposed the name of my talk to be “Beyond Knockout. The Next Generation of Garden Roses.” In it, I discuss some of the newer roses being released that are as every bit as easy to grow as Knockout – a rose general gardeners have fallen in love with. I’ve given the talk to rose societies and gardening clubs and they’ve enjoyed it.


From this event I got an interesting reaction from one person. They hoped I was going to talk about “real roses for the garden” and not things like those Drift Roses and the like.


Now, before anyone gets upset I perfectly understand the comment, the way it was phrased and take absolutely no offense at it. It’s quite true that many of today’s modern roses look, and grow, nothing like what many in the United States think roses should look like; a hybrid tea rose. To many rose lovers, while they appreciate how easy today’s modern roses are to grow, they don’t “look like real roses”.

Peach Drift doing its job to perfection in a garden border. Photo/Illustration: Conard-Pyle Company


I have no issue with that because after all taste is personal and I try hard to respect everyone’s individual likes in roses. Just because I personally don’t like a particular rose doesn’t make it a bad rose. My personal taste has nothing to do with it. If a rose does well in the garden and the owner likes it – it’s a great rose.


However, with respect, today’s modern roses are real roses, and they should all be respected for what they are and what their job is in the garden.


Don’t get caught up in what you think a rose should look like and subsequently disparage other roses, and rose growers, that don’t fit your personal vision. Instead, celebrate the fact that roses are the most versatile garden plant around. They come in all shapes from groundcover to shrub to climber to rambler. They come in every color of the rainbow except blue (get over it!) and almost all bloom from spring straight through fall. Name me another genus of plants that does that!


For our readers, if you are in a garden center buying roses like Drift, Knockout and other garden roses and someone makes the comment “those aren’t real roses” just remember this: While we have tens of thousands of different kinds of roses in the world today, God only made about 125 of them. Those are the original species roses. At that point I will surmise that he or she figured perfection was realized.


While those some 125 roses grow in all different shapes and sizes, the flowers for the most part are single petalled or have an old fashioned bloom shape. None of them look like hybrid teas. In fact, most of them look like – Drift Roses.


The defense rests your honor!


Happy Roseing

View Comments


  1. ljackbiltmore 08/30/2012

    couldn't agree more. In our garden so many people shoot directly for the nearest florist looking hybrid tea with a romantic look of expecting to be swept away in a fantasy world of fragrance, only to be completely let down by the lack of fragrance. That sense of let down is often followed by the question, "do youhave any roses that have fragrance?" At that point I usually send them or show them a roses that they would immediately recognize as a rose simply because it's not a hybrid tea. It could be a modern Floribunda, an antique tea, a new shrub, a david austin. All of these roses are different and not all look like the rose we imagine when we think of a rose. Sorry prom season and greeting card holidays. And can we possibly come up with a new designation among shrub roses? Lastly don't you think that we have come to a post-modern period in roses. If the modern era began in 1867 should it stand to reason that the way shrub roses are cultivated now that we have entered a new era is rose culture. Great article Paul.

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