by Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian
“A rose is a rose is a rose” is lovely poetry and evokes visions of wonderful blooms. Today, when most people think of a rose, they have a vision of a hybrid tea, roses they see in a florist shop or spilling out of a vase. Their classic high-centered beauty epitomizes the rose, and as a group this class eclipses all others in popularity. Beautiful Roses Made Easyauthors Terri Dunn and Ciscoe Morris says of hybrid tea roses, “these are the nobility of the rose world.”
Hybrid tea roses can be described as upright bushes growing to three feet tall or more with a vase-shaped profile that given the right conditions will produce blossoms from early spring through late fall. The plants generally produce one flower on a long stem, clothed in foliage with three to seven leaflets per leaf. The long, narrow buds open with their petals spiraling out in layers to blooms that may be single with only five to seven petals, or fully double, with a high-center point. An added delight for many varieties is an enticing fragrance. They have a broad range of colors other than true blue and black – white, pink, red, yellow, orange, apricot, russet, mauve, and even a pale green (both St Patrick and Lime Sublime start with a green tone that changes as the flower unfolds). Many have multiple colors, with one color on the top of the petal, another on the underside; some may be edged in one, with the body another; still others have marbling, spotting, swirls or even the “hand painted” mixture of colors to delight the eye. Not only are they beautiful and fragrant on the bush, they also last well as cut flowers and have been a staple for the floral industry.
Hybrid teas fall into the category of modern roses, and in fact the first hybrid tea rose, La France, developed in 1867, became the milestone for the distinction of old and modern roses. This rose, introduced by Guillot of France, stimulated little interest in the rose world. It was a cross between a hybrid perpetual and a tea rose and it didn’t lead to a rush to produce similar crosses. In 1880, English breeder Henry Bennett, after visiting French rose breeders, produced Lady Mary Fitzwilliam. He then crossed this rose with La France and introduced Mrs W J Grant which won a gold medal in 1883. Subsequent hybridizers developed many hybrid teas, most in the pale pink to red color range. In 1900, the firm of Pernet-Ducher introduced the first bright yellow hybrid tea, Soleil d’Or, that added yellow and orange to the range of available colors. From that time on, thousands of hybrids have been introduced into commerce, and captured the rose loving public’s attention. Of the eleven roses that have been inducted into the World Rose Hall of Fame, seven have been hybrid teas. Ten of the twelve roses to receive The James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Medal award were hybrid teas. When people speak of modern roses not being fragrant, consider the likes of Chrysler Imperial, Sutter’s Gold, Papa Meilland, Double Delight and Secret.
Early hybrid tea roses that continue to maintain interest include Mme. Caroline Testout (1890), singles Dainty Bess (1925) and Mrs Oakley Fisher (1921), the very fragrant Crimson Glory (1935), and prodigy Charlotte Armstrong (1941), and the world’s most famous rose Peace (1945). The next wave of hybrid teas introduced some roses with powerful fragrances – Fragrant Cloud, Mr Lincoln, Oklahoma, Sterling Silver and Tiffany; pure white blooms like J.F. Kennedy and Pascali and the brilliant orange-red Tropicana. The 1970s – 1990s produced award winning roses like Double Delight, Just Joey, Olympiad, St. Patrick and Touch of Class. Recent outstanding introductions include the beautiful pink blend, Gemini, the incredible apricot Marilyn Monroe and the velvety red Veterans’ Honor. Not only are these roses gorgeous, they have health, staying power, and can win plenty of prizes.
Up until recently, most hybrid teas were grafted, or “budded” onto rootstocks to help them to grow faster and more vigorously in their first few years. Now many growers, including powerhouses like Jackson & Perkins, are offering hybrid teas on their on roots. Hybridizers are also working on improving the overall health, vigor and disease resistance of the plants, improving bloom quality and holding power, creating new and unusual colors and blends and of course, fragrance; the new roses are likely to hook a whole new generation of rose lovers!
Double Delight, red blend, 1977, ARS rating 8.5; winner James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Award and the WFRS Rose Hall of Fame.
Elina, light yellow, 1984, ARS rating 8.7; a fabulous cut flower.
Fragrant Cloud, orange red, 1967, ARS rating 8.1; also a winner of the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Award and the WFRS Rose Hall of Fame.
Gemini, pink blend, 2000, ARS rating 8.1; winner of the ARS Rose of the Year.
Just Joey, orange blend, 1972, ARS rating 8.0; a WFRS Rose Hall of Famer, that produces dinner plate sized blooms.
Mr Lincoln, dark red, 1964, ARS rating 8.4; winner of the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Award in 2003, nearly forty years after its introduction.
Mrs Oakley Fisher, dark yellow, 1921, ARS rating 8.4; a lovely single bloom with very lush, healthy foliage.
Papa Medilland, dark red, 1963, ARS rating 7.7; another double winner – the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Award and the WFRS Rose Hall of Fame.
Peace, yellow blend, 1945, ARS rating 8.2 – the very first entry into the WFRS Hall of Fame in 1976.
St. Patrick, yellow blend, 1996, ARS rating 8.0; a gorgeous deep yellow bloom tinged with green.
Touch of Class, orange-pink, 1986, ARS rating 9.0; this incredible rose led the pack for exhibitors for nearly a decade with its classic high centered form.