We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.
~ Abraham Lincoln
Without doubt, roses are the unrivaled Queens of the Garden, and are probably the most popular and widely grown ornamental plant across the world. Choices range from loose casual ramblers, high and haughty hybrid teas, and charming miniatures.
We are especially fond of the old heirloom varieties. There is no other addition to a garden that can bring the richness, fragrance and connection to the past and the earth than roses descended from antiquity. They offer rich colorful blooms of a wide range of shapes from the flat opened five petaled ancient species roses, to the romantic densely ruffled cascades of cabbage roses.
It’s amazing that these roses have survived over the centuries. Following the introduction of the first hybrid tea rose in the mid 1800′s a quest began for ever more exotic grafted hybrid tea roses that left thousands of these ancestral roses to languish unattended.
History as it applies to roses seems to have now come full circle as gardeners are now eager for roses that do not require the constant attention and chemical treatments, and so descendants of the same roses that fell over Cleopatra’s garden walls, inspired the great classical poets, and graced the paths walked by Kings, Queens and Emperor’s can be enjoyed today.
It is mostly the tradition of passing along cuttings and plants to the next generations that has kept these wonderful old cultivars alive. As commercial interest in them has revived, horticulturists began to search for them in old overgrown homesteads and cemeteries.
Heirloom or Antique are terms generally used to described very sturdy, resilient roses that have strong natural disease and nematode resistance. The American Rose Society classes Old Garden Roses as those developed before 1867. ‘Heirloom’ is even more expansive and includes the ancient roses such as; Chinas, Gallicas, Damasks, Centifolias, Moss Roses, Noisettes, and Portlands, as well as early Hybrid Perpetuals and Mid Century Hybrid Crosses.
These endearing, beautiful plants bring charm and beauty that not only improves the view of the garden, but also have a way of lifting the spirit and touching the soul.