by Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian
Roses have been around a very long time – there are fossils of roses dated 35-40 millions years ago that are thought to originate in Asia. The oldest identified rose is Rosa gallica, commonly called the French Rose; it can be dated back as early as the 12th century B.C. From early times, many varieties and classes of roses have graced gardens all over the world. There was a major turning point in rose history in 1867 with the introduction of the first Hybrid Tea rose, La France. Since then, many new roses have been introduced, including new classes of roses – including floribunda roses.
Dines Poulsen bred the first rose that would be later classified as a floribunda; his rose Rodhatte was introduced in 1912 and was a result of a cross between a hybrid tea and a polyantha rose. This was the beginning for this new type of rose – one that would make the Poulsen family name famous. Dine’s younger brother Svend took over breeding with the aim to produce roses that would be hardy in the cold Danish climate and flower throughout the short Scandinavian summer. His first achievement was the introduction of Else Poulsen and Kirsten Poulsen in 1924. The American company Jackson and Perkins (J & P), seeing the potential in this new type of rose, coined the name floribunda and introduced the class at the 1939 New York World’s Fair with their new rose aptly named – World’s Fair. They began an ambitious hybridizing program under the direction of Eugene Boerner, nicknamed “Papa Floribunda”, at J&P in Newark, New York. Boerner created some classic cultivars from the 1940s to the 1960 including Apricot Nectar, Lavender Pinocchio and Masquerade, all of which remained bestselling roses for years. He hybridized more than 60 floribundas in his lifetime — eleven of which received the All-America Rose Selections (AARS) award. Bill Warriner followed Boerner at J & P continuing to produce many award winning roses, and will probably best be remembered for his floribundas French Lace, Intrigue, Pleasure and Neon Lights.
The name floribunda means ‘flowering in abundance’ and true to their name – instead of having a single rose blossom at the end of a long stem, they have groups or “sprays” of blossoms. Some bear as few as three roses in a cluster, some five, seven or more. They are primarily landscape roses that bloom freely, almost continuously spring through fall. Their low height makes them ideal for borders, for lining walks and drives. They also mix well in beds with hybrid teas, providing a lower front row of color against the taller plants. Floribundas are versatile; an individual shrub will fit easily into almost any sunny border planting. However, they are perhaps most striking in mass plantings.
There are so many good varieties of floribundas to choose from in a kaleidoscope of colors including some really unusual ones like the very popular Hot Cocoa.
You can find varieties that are bicolored or striped, flower forms from singles to very full doubles. Some floribundas with high American Rose Society (ARS) ratings include Nicole (white, 8.9), Iceberg (white, 8.8), Europeana (dark red, 8.7), Sexy Rexy (medium pink, 8.7), Escapade (mauve, 8.6), Sunsprite (dark yellow, 8.5), Lady of the Dawn (light pink, 8.4), Playboy (red blend, 8.4), Showbiz (medium red, 8.4), French Lace (white, 8.1) and Betty Boop (red blend, 8.0),
Floribunda’s are not just a pretty face – many are extremely fragrant. Two popular cultivars, Sunsprite and Angel Face, have both won the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Medal Award – out of a total of only twelve awards given for all roses since the awards inception in the early 1960s. Sunsprite has a strong licorice fragrance, while Angle Face has a wonderful lemony perfume. Some of the very fragrant cultivars include the multicolored Sheila’s Perfume, dark purple Intrigue with its intense citrus fragrance, and the spicy, red and white striped Scentimental.
While floribundas are spectacular planted in mass, they can also be award winning at the exhibition table. Though not eligible for Queen of the Show, there are multiple classes that these roses can be entered and win. In our district in 2003, Impatient, Scentimental, Sheila’s Perfume, Playgirl, Playboy and Playtime won the most honors. There are plenty of varieties to choose from if you want to exhibit these great roses.
Floribundas are generally easy to care for – plant, water and feed them the same as your other roses; pruning may be lighter overall as the plants are generally smaller than hybrid teas and have more canes and stems to cut. I’ve even tried the hedge-trimmer approach with these roses and they do just fine!