Roses Are Plants Too!

Let’s Start Grouping Roses Into “Friendlier” Groups.

This rose’s job is to grow, gracefully over a door. It does it well therefore it’s a great rose!
This rose’s job is to grow, gracefully over a door. It does it well therefore it’s a great rose!
When I first began in roses more years ago then I care to put in print, I quickly learned the two major groups roses were put into. These were old garden roses and modern roses. 
 
Within the old roses were the old, old roses that were spring flowering like the purple hued Gallicas, green/gray foliaged Albas and the Centifolias of Redoute paintings. Then there were the “newer” old garden roses carrying the genetics of the repeat flowering China Roses. Bourbon roses pouring forth perfume and Hybrid Perpetuals on long stems made their way into rose catalogues. Tea Roses showing hints of the high centered, pointed bloom form of the Hybrid Teas to come we’re also widely available. 
 
Modern roses consisted of, among others, “Papa Floribunda?, Gene Boerner’s creations, the Miniature roses created and honed to perfection by Ralph Moore and the wildly popular Hybrid Teas, which came into their own with the introduction of the great rose ‘Peace’ from the breeding house of Meilland.
 
While this was a convenient way to “group” roses and one I also used for many years, I’ve noticed it seemed to spark heated debates among rose lovers as to which are better. Thusly two gladiatorial camps emerge – old roses versus modern roses with each camp insisting their preference was the best.
 
All of which just adds divisiveness to what is a lovely hobby – rose growing.
 
To the point I was once selling old garden roses from my old nursery at a Rose Convention, only to be put in my place by a rather snooty rosarian who insisted I wasn’t selling “real roses”. Fortunately she was in the minority. But, it illustrates my point, and I’ve seen the same in the opposite direction.
 
Over time I’ve come to worry less and less about what is old and what is new. I do like to know a little about the individual classes in each group because I find it interesting historically. Yet, more and more I don’t find it particularly important from a rose growing standpoint.
 
Instead, I now think of roses in terms of what is their job in the garden. Why do we grow a particular rose and what do we expect from it. I’ve come to think of roses in the context of why do we grow them thusly I think of them as either Garden Roses or Exhibition Roses or Cut Flower Roses.  Each group containing different shapes, sizes and varieties. Within all three groups can be varieties old as time itself or modern creations yet to be released. All are beautiful in their own right, and when successful at their “job” are stars of any garden. And most importantly, each group rewards the rose grower by being in tune as to why that person grows roses.
 
For me it also drops the divisiveness simply because each group needs unique characteristics from its varieties. What is important for one group might not matter much in another. Because of this there is no group better than another. Each group excels at doing its specific job. And each group should be respected for doing so. And so should the grower!
 
Garden Roses need varieties that are disease resistant with good foliage. Yet, flower form is not important because it’s a gardeners personal choice and will not be judged in a rose show.
 
Exhibition roses need excellent flower form and while good disease resistance is a plus, it’s not as important. End of the day the blooms will be displayed in a vase and judged mostly, and sometimes wholly, on their own.
 
Cut flower roses simply need to consistently bloom on time so we have long stem roses at the florist for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. They are raised in greenhouses so their ability to withstand what nature throws at them is not particularly important.
 
For me personally, looking at roses in these groups makes it easy for to admire all roses that are good at their “job”; regardless of my personal feelings about that “job”. I fully admit I’ve never exhibited roses in my life as I am a lover of garden roses. Yet I have utmost respect for the skill that goes into exhibiting and I have utmost respect for rose varieties that excel at it. It may not be anything I would ever grow but that’s not the point. Since it’s great at being an Exhibition Rose it’s a great rose and I tip my hat to it.
 
A particular garden rose may not be to an exhibitor’s taste but again, that’s not the point. The point is if it excels at its job of being a garden rose, then if never wins Queen of Show who cares? It’s not its job to win prizes in a rose show. Since it’s great at being a Garden Rose it’s also a great rose.
 
Ditto for cut flower roses. If it produces great long stem roses like clockwork then it is fulfilling its job to perfection. That also makes it a great rose.
 
I’d like to suggest that before you look at a rose and judge it through your own prism of being a garden rose grower, rose exhibitor or cut flower grower, you take a moment to ascertain what that particular varieties job is.
 
And if it does it’s job well then it’s a great rose in anyone’s book. And the person growing it is a great rose grower!
 
Happy Roseing
Paul
 
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Comments

  1. PaulineMary 07/23/2012

    Hi Paul,

    This makes so much sense! Love your blog.

    Paul, could you please recommend a "garden rose", tough, disease resistant, repeat blooming, fragrance a bonus, that will grow into approximately 2X2 or 3X3 foot floriferous ball? We have looked at Bonica roses, but they seem to sprawl about 6 foot wide, and that's too big for our little garden. I love the idea of old roses, but not sure which ones would do the job.

    Many thanks for your help, and looking forward to reading more of your columns.

    Pauline

  2. PFZimmerman 07/30/2012

    Hi Pauline,

    Where do you live?

  3. PaulineMary 08/06/2012

    Hi Paul,

    I live on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada, on the edge of a small lake. Our soil is sandy, and drains quickly. The garden exposure is full sun.

    I believe we are zone 8, although given how changeable the climate has been over the last couple of years, who knows any more. We had an endless cold and rainy spring, then a cool summer until about 10 days ago, when the temperature shot straight up. Yesterday it was so hot in my kitchen that the cream I was whipping for ice-cream turned to butter. Must be a challenge for the plants.

    Thank you for your response so far; I'm very much looking forward to exploring the subject further.

    Pauline

  4. PFZimmerman 08/10/2012

    Hi Pauline,

    I'm going to bring your question to the attention of Brad Jalbert of Select Roses. He lives just outside Vancouver and can really help you far better than I can. He knows your climate very well!!

  5. PaulineMary 10/12/2012

    Paul,

    Talked to Brad, who is knowledgeable and a nice guy. The only problem for me is that they do not ship to Vancouver Island. Fortunately I discovered a terrific nursery, with oodles of lovely, healthy roses. This is the family-owned Dinter Nursery in Duncan.

    http://www.dinternursery.ca/ 250-748-2023

    Their resident rose experts, Cathy and Liz are lovely, and I now have 8 lush white Meidiland roses, several glossy yellow and two red ground-cover roses, a sweet Honey Perfume floribunda, and sturdy David Austin Falstaff climber. A Gertrude Jekyll pink shrub and purple Munstead Wood are on order for next spring.

    Looking forward to enjoying the show next summer, and thank you again for your help.

    Warmest regards,

    Pauline

  6. PFZimmerman 10/13/2012

    Wonderful. Glad you found some great roses and rose help!

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