Crash Course in Roses
Found by chance on the Ile de Bourbon (now called Reunion), near Africa, these heavily scented roses are known for the full, flat old-rose shape of their blossoms on large bushes with soft green leaves.
Pros Gorgeous, old-fashioned flowers; many bloom again in autumn; snob appeal for those seduced by fancy French names (such as 'Boule de Neige' and 'Coupe d'Hebe').
Cons Not very coldhardy; susceptible to black spot and mildew in wet climates or gardens with poor air circulation.
Scots Rose Hybrid
This exuberant group is only a step away from its wild roots as a species rose. The often single-petaled blooms appear once, early in the season, with a fountain of color on large bushes. Foliage is small, dark, and fernlike.
Pros Fairly carefree; wide, arching branches look right in wild or rural settings where they can have some room to roam.
Cons May spread underground; usually very thorny, so avoid it in tight spots or next to pathways; often bloom once.
This diverse category contains roses of mixed heritage that don't clearly fit into any of the major classes. Some experts designate shrubs as any of the above that grow over four feet tall. These hybrids are best for those who care as much about the form of the plant and its foliage as they do its blossoms.
Pros Big plants make attractive shrubs to anchor a flower bed.
Cons They take up a lot of room, so focus on reblooming varieties if space is tight.
Starting in the 1950s, rose breeder David Austin took a few old rose lines (for fragrance and form) and mixed them with modern hybrids (for repeat blooms and disease resistance).
Pros Good for small spaces; features the romance of old roses plus more continuous bloom.
Cons Some varieties are less vigorous and disease resistant than others; check with a local nursery to see which do best in your area.
This strange group features full blossoms and green hairs over its buds, which are covered in a sticky resin that's aromatic to the touch. Novelty-loving Victorians started breeding these roses for their genetic abnormality.
Pros Their oddness is an excellent conversation starter; highly scented.
Cons Most are onceblooming; fairly rare and may be hard to find at your local nursery. Check mail-order sources.
These scaled-down hybrids, which came to prominence in the 1930s, are the lapdogs of the rose world. There is a dazzling range of colors and shapes; many are less than a foot or so tall and have diminutive flowers and leaves.
Pros They do well in small urban gardens and in containers; attractive at the edge of the flower border.
Cons They need a lot of coddling if grown in pots.
These vigorous roses are climbing roses on steroids. They are known for their ability to cover small structures with ease. In early summer, ramblers create a sense of romance with the showiness of their display.
Pros Will cover an unsightly structure with a cascade of hundreds of blossoms.
Cons Need room to climb (so use only where there is space to go up); often have little scent; ability to rebloom is rare.
With their wrinkled (rugose) leaves, this is the rugged class most of us think of as wild beach roses. In fact, the free-blooming species came from Asia and was selected by breeders to add hardiness to cold-tender European hybrids.
Pros Scented flowers; excellent hips for jam and tea; can handle a variety of harsh conditions including cold, wind, and salt spray.
Cons May spread aggressively, so be careful in a small garden.
This old line of roses from China brought two things to early-20th-century breeders: reliable reblooming and the color yellow. They were called tea roses because the first varieties were often shipped across the ocean on vessels involved in the tea trade with Asia.
Pros Tend to have buds with high-pointed centers; some smell lightly of sweet tea leaves.
Cons Less cold-hardy than other roses, which is why these are classic roses for the South; stems are graceful but weak, so avoid windy situations.
A preacher in rural England bred this class of delicately flowered roses in the early 20th century. Honey-musky scents, subtle colorations, and generous sprays of medium-size flowers make it one of the most beloved groups of roses today.
Pros Always tasteful; the soft pastel colors go with everything; usually rebloom over the season.
Cons Some make loose, open shrubs in colder climates, or may climb in warmer zones, so pay attention to where you position them.
In the 19th century, HPs were the height of fashion with their large, full flowers that would have looked right at home on a lady's dress or hat. These hybrids were also loved for their repeat blooms (a great novelty for roses of that time).
Pros Lush, heavily scented flowers the size of your hand.
Cons Bush shape might be lanky and open; second bloom can be sparse.
This type of rose was found by accident in 1867. Soon the public was entranced by its high, tight buds and ability to flower over a long season. They remain the most widely grown rose and are the blooms we associate with cut long-stemmed roses.
Pros Flowers are pristine in bud, then looser in flower; climbing forms have longer limbs (called canes) for attaching to trellises or arbors.
Cons Bushes can be spindly and gawky, so they need pruning; may be prone to disease or fungi depending on climate.
Though some species hybrids resulted as intentional crosses, others developed by evolution or cross-pollination, without the hand of man. These roses reveal the simple, single form of their relatives: apples, raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. Over the years, they may have been crossed or manipulated by breeders to get bigger blooms or unusual colors. But as a group they are valued primarily for the simplicity of their graceful five-petaled flowers.
Pros Very easy to grow; bloom profusely early in the year, when fewer roses do.
Cons Most usually blossom only once a season; bushes can be large and lanky.
This offshoot of the hybrid tea emerged in the 1950s. It has clusters of smaller flowers on short stems. They are often used in municipal plantings because of their easy blooms and bushy growth.
Pros Clear, bright colors; may bloom all year in warm climates; disease resistant.
Cons May lack scent; the nonstop flowers can become boring; some gardeners find them too common and ordinary.