Roses have been a favorite flower and landscape plant for thousands of years. But, according to some rose authorities, the characteristics that created and maintained that popularity are frequently missing in the modern roses offered today. Antique roses are finding new friends these days because they tend to be tougher and long-lived.
The definition of an antique rose is a bit fuzzy. Some authorities consider only roses produced prior to the introduction of the first hybrid tea in 1867 as being old. Many others consider any rose that has an “old rose look” and is 50 or more years old as a candidate.
Antique roses have been overlooked, however a renaissance afoot to restore the older varieties to their rightful place in the garden. Their historic interest, tenacity and form should make old roses as indispensable to today’s gardens as they were for centuries before.
Probably the one factor that has most discouraged people from growing roses is their demanding spray schedule and frequent short life. It seems that breeders during the past 75 years or so have concentrated on developing bright colors and beautiful bud form while overlooking shrub appearance, disease resistance and longevity.
Antique varieties tend to be more resistant to diseases. Many show a strong tolerance to black spot, a fungus that can devour a modern rose left untreated. Often these roses are found surviving unsprayed and unattended at abandoned home sites and rural cemeteries.
A common misconception about old roses is that they only bloom in the spring. It is true that some of the old roses are once bloomers but hundreds of varieties that bloom and re-bloom from early spring until late fall. Many of these make attractive small- and medium-sized shrubs that are highly effective as hedges, ground covers and shrub masses.
Another plus for the old roses is their historical associations. The old roses grown in Texas are vegetatively propagated, which means that the rose plants sold are part of an actual plant that could have been admired by Pliny, cultivated by a Chinese emperor, grown at Malmaison by Empress Josephine, or carried West by an American pioneer woman. It is this tie with the events of human history that makes the old rose the ultimate antique: unlike a painting or a piece of furniture, the old rose is a living testament to history and to man’s quest for beauty.
With the growing interest in water conservation and Xeriscape plants, it seems logical that antiques should once again be utilized as landscape plants. Any plant that has survived unattended in Central Texas cemeteries for more than 100 years should certainly be considered well-adapted and drought-tolerant.
The following is a list of a few old roses arranged by color family.
|Reds and Pinks
Salmon and Corals
Peaches, Coppers, and Oranges