Rose types FAQs

What is meant by a single, a semi-double, and a double rose bloom?

Strictly speaking a single rose flower should have only five petals, but the term is often used for blooms that have rather more than this and that ought to be known as semi-double. Both the single and semi-doubles almost always open wide to show off their stamens. One cannot set an exact limit on the number of petals in a double rose; there may be as few as 20 or as many as 100 or more. In some cluster-flowered and most large-flowered varieties the petals of double roses form a high, conical centre, with the outer petals reflexing (turning back).

Why does the number of petals vary from one variety to another?

This is a natural phenomenon, in which, however, man has played a part. When two different five-petalled wild roses interbreed, a new rose (hybrid) with more petals than either of them may be the result. Further crosses will produce more petals still, and the extensive hybridizing carried out by rose breeders over the years has resulted, among other things, in the very double roses of today.

What is a cabbage rose?

The term was coined to describe a group of ancient roses known as the centifolias. The word ‘centifolia’ means 100 leaves (early gardening writers often wrote of leaves when they meant petals), and there may well be 100 petals or more in the very double centifolia blooms. As these are globular at first and some of them very large, many people thought they looked like cabbages.

What is a moss rose?

These were popular roses in Victorian and Edwardian times and were sports from the centifolias. They resemble them in every way except that their flower stems and buds are covered with green (sometimes brown) glands, which at a distance have some resemblance to moss.

What is a rose sport?

This is a mutation—a deviation from type. It occurs when a rose variety, owing to a genetic change (which may well be a throwback to earlier generations), grows one or more shoots which differ from the rest. They may either produce flowers that are different in colour (as was the case in 1962 when ‘Chicago Peace’ sported from ‘Peace’), or they may have so much extra vigour that the rose becomes a climbing version of a bush rose. The word ‘Climbing’ in a rose variety listed in a catalogue always refers to a sport. Examples include ‘Climbing Iceberg’ and ‘Climbing Cecile Brunner’, sports respectively of a cluster-flowered (floribunda) variety and a shrub rose.

When were the first bright-yellow roses introduced into gardens?

In 1910, when ‘Rayon d’Or’ was put on the market by Joseph Pernet-Ducher, a French nurseryman and rose breeder. Until that time there had been only a few bright-yellow wild roses and some pale, creamy-yellow tea roses grown in gardens. All other Western varieties were white, pink, red, mauve, maroon, purple, or a mixture of these. After years of trying, Pernet-Ducher managed to cross a Persian wild rose, R. foetida persiana, which was of the brightest yellow imaginable, with a hybrid perpetual, and the yellow garden rose was born. The Persian rose, incidentally, was very susceptible to blackspot. This was little of a problem in gardens before the cross was made, but the weakness was passed on to a greater or lesser extent to many modern roses.

What is a tea rose?

Tea roses came from China about the middle of the 19th century. They, like other China roses, were recurrent, but they had much more refined flowers than the hybrid perpetual roses then fashionable in the West. A cross between the two types produced the first hybrid tea, ‘La France’, in 1867. The name tea rose is supposed to derive from their scent, said to resemble that of a newly-opened crate of tea.

Why are the names for classes of roses being changed?

Most of the early classification of roses into different groups was done in a very haphazard way, through lack of knowledge and of proper international co-ordination between the various authorities in different countries. The result has been confusion for the average gardener, some of the names used being very misleading. In addition, breeding between the various rose groups has made it progressively more difficult to tell which is which: it is, for instance, very hard to tell whether some modern roses are large-flowered floribundas or small-flowered hybrid teas.

The World Federation of Rose Societies therefore decided to introduce new, more descriptive names to replace some of the old ones, although these are not yet accepted by everybody. 264

How does the new classification work?

Take floribundas to start with. These were called hybrid polyanthas before they were known as floribundas; later, because of their constantly developing form, which changed both their flower shape and habit of growth, the group had to be subdivided into three types. The majority were still called floribundas; those with larger flowers resembling those of the hybrid tea became known by the clumsy name of floribunda, hybrid tea-type; and the exceptionally tall ones with big flowers were called grandifloras (although this name was not very widely used in the United Kingdom). Under the new classification, all these will be called cluster-flowered roses. Hybrid teas, in which often there is one large flower per stem, are now called large-flowered roses.

Most of the traditional group names such as gallica, damask, alba, and centifolia are retained because they are unlikely to have new and different-looking varieties added to them; but collectively they are to be known as old garden roses. The term shrub rose is now applied only to varieties outside these old groups which have been raised since the late 19th century. Climbers, ramblers, and miniatures remain as group names, but species roses are now known collectively as wild roses.

Can I grow wild (species) roses in my garden?

Yes—if you do not mind that their flowering period is so brief. Perhaps the best wild rose is ‘Canary Bird’, from China, which gives a more spectacular and longer-lasting display than most. Others which can be recommended are R. x dupontii (white), R. moyesu ‘Geranium’ (red, with fine hips later), ‘Golden Chersonese’ (yellow, very early), R. virginiana (pink, with fine autumn foliage colours), and R. glauca (syn. R. rubrifolia; pink flowers and purple-grey leaves).

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