It is documented that the rose is older than human beings, with ancient fossils having been found in Europe, Asia and North America. Most likely the first garden roses were carried along trade routes from the Middle East to Europe. Roses have been cultivated in China for thousands of years and depicted in their ancient art.
Rome couldn’t grow enough roses to satisfy their decadent life style so they were brought in by shiploads from Egypt. Roses where used for table and home decoration as well as medicinally. All through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the rose was depicted in art and poetry.
Into more recent times France became a leader in rose hybridization, trying to create the perfect rose and later becoming the leading exporter of roses to the west. As more people became home owners with yards and gardens rose breeding became a very lucrative and competitive business. Rose shows, rose books and rose societies sprung up everywhere.
The old fashioned rose primarily blooms only once a year. You might think this is a limitation but remember quality not quantity. There are single roses, full petaled roses, old fashioned rose bushes and climbers. An old fashion rose is wonderfully hardy requiring a minimum of care to remain productive. Mostly free of insects and diseases they seldom need to be sprayed. Although usually pruned yearly they can withstand less. Many tolerate light shade and most have great foliage and lovely hips, rose hips that is.
Unlike many of the newer hybrids the old garden roses are full of fragrance. I fail to understand why anyone would want a rose that has no perfume, after all that’s what a rose is all about. Roses tend to be most fragrant on warm dry mornings. While some roses hold their scent within the petals, others spread it into the air. Plant an old garden rose in a garden flower pot for your deck and enjoy the perfume.
The old garden rose makes a good companion plant with other shrubs and perennials. Give them a fairly rich soil and fertilize regularly as they are heavy feeders. Mulch,mulch and mulch your rose beds. This will keep the weeds down and offer the roses protection. Give your old fashioned flowers a good clean up in the fall and mulch again for winter.
Probably my favorite species rose is glauca. They bear a small single mauve pink flower but best of all is their wine purple colored canes. Their leaves are tinted purple and they produce bunches of red hips. An extremely tough shrub with a beautiful arching shape.