In the exceedingly vast world of Roses, the Heritage or Old Rose is the elite. These Roses are very sought after by the true Rose connoisseur. Roses introduced prior to 1867 are considered Heritage Roses and are deemed of historic importance. They are, for the most part, the ancestors of all our current favorites. But many of them have been lost through time. This is why there are many Heritage Rose groups and societies all over the world diligently searching for, collecting, preserving and doing research on these unique and unerringly beautiful Roses in an effort to keep them around for future generations of Rose enthusiasts.
Heritage Roses fall into two categories, the first being the old European Roses who find their origins in species native to Europe and western Asia. The old European Roses include the Albas, Centifolias, Damask, Gallicas and Moss roses. Most of these are particularly cold hardy without winter protection and they usually flower only once in the spring.
The other category consists of the China, Bourbon, Damask Perpetuals, Hybrid Perpetuals, Noisettes and Teas all coming from or in part created with East Asian roses. Because of their wonderful repeat blooming characteristic these roses were often used to hybridize with the European Roses. Most of these are not nearly as cold hardy as the European roses and therefore most of them require some winter protection in the coldest zones.
Hybridizers of the nineteenth century crossed these two kinds to create a vast number more of these Heritage Roses many with the desirable repeat blooming habit and cold hardiness characteristic. Let us take a look at each in turn.
The Old European Roses.
This is the White Rose of York famous for England’s War of the Roses. Though everyone knows Alba means white some of these come in delicate shades of pink as well. They bloom in spring and the flowers can be single to fully double. The long lived plants have an upright, vigorous growth, the canes green and attractive and the leaves are greyish green and disease resistant. Garden cultivars to look for are the white “Alba Semiplena” and the pink varieties “Great Maiden’s Blush”, “Celestial” and “Konigin Von Danemark”.
These are the Cabbage roses immortalized in many Dutch paintings. Typically these have larger petals surrounding densely packed smaller ones, hence the reference to cabbage. Very prickly stems grow up to 6 feet tall but arch gracefully due to the many, extremely fragrant blossoms weighing them down come spring time. “Rose des Peintres” is a rich pink. The upright “Paul Ricault” is a deep pink. For a smaller plant growing less than 3 feet try the dwarf cultivar “Petite de Hollande” or “Rose de Meaux”.
The perfume industry’s favorite, the Damask Rose blooms only in spring on six foot long, prickly canes with grey green foliage. A blush pink cultivar “Celsiana” is readily available, “Leda” is white with a bit of crimson and “York and Lancaster” have petals blended white with pink.
Also called the French Rose, Gallicas have very fragrant flowers in colors from pink, red , maroon and even purple on 3-4 feet high plants. The leaves are usually rough and dark green and the stems have many prickles. Historical cultivar “Red Rose of Lancaster” also called the Apothecary Rose, is a cherry red semi-double bloom. “Tuscany” has crimson flowers with golden stamens.
The Moss rose is not truly its own class but certain roses within the Damask and the Centifolia rose groups who have moss-like glands which smell like Balsam and cover the buds, stems and leaves. On the Centifolia the moss is velvety smooth but the Damask is prickly. Flowers are wonderfully fragrant and come in pink, red, and white. “Nuits de Young” is a dark red, “Muscosa” is white and “Comtesse de Murinais” is a greyish purple.
The East Asian Roses.
Plants are 2-4 feet high with pink or red flowers, less than 3 inches across growing in clusters. Still available for purchase of the original Rosa Chinensis is “Old Blush” and the red “Agrippina”.
A hybrid between Rosa Chinensis and Damask, The Bourbon Roses more readily available are the highly fragrant magenta pink “Madame Isaac Pereire” and the cherry red semi-double flowering “Ragged Robin” sold mostly for hedge planting.
A cross between Damask and China Roses, these generally resemble Centifolias and Gallicas. Most popular sold are the crimson “Duchess Of Portland”, the bright pink “Jacques Cartier” and the crimson purple “Rose du Roi”.
These roses were the best back in the nineteenth century for cold hardiness and for big vigorous growth. Require more feeding and watering than the average tea rose and susceptible to rust. Flowers are 6-7 inches across full and very fragrant. The white “Frau Karl Druschki”, the cherry red “General Jacqueminot and the rose pink “Mrs. John Laing” are still sold.
Cross between Musk and China roses, Noisette grows like a shrubby climber. “Chamney” has small pink blossoms in clusters. Requires a milder climate. “Alister Stella Gray” is yellow and “Reve d’Or” is a buff apricot.
Teas are almost ever-blooming, particularly tender and long lived. Flowers come in pastels and vary in form. “Belle of Portugal” is a rampant climber with pink blooms. “Marie van Houtte” is a soft pink and yellow and “White Maman Cochet” has creamy white and pink blossoms.
Perhaps only the true Rose connoisseur will appreciate the history behind these marvelous Heritage Roses but every lover of the rose can see what beauties they are. For a touch of history and elegance in the garden the Heritage Rose is the one to seek. To make the search easier visit Heirloom Roses.