Outstanding Old Garden Roses

You may have heard the term old garden rose, but what exactly does that mean?  The category of Old Roses (OGR) can be confusing. The working definition of OGRs are classes of roses that were known before 1867. The category of Old Garden Roses was created in 1867 when the first hybrid tea rose ‘La France’ was introduced as a modern rose.

According to the American Rose Society’s “Classification of Roses,” the classification scheme reflects both the botanical and evolutionary progress of the rose.  There are three main groupings:

  • Species are often referred to as “wild roses;” they typically have 4 – 8 petals, are once-blooming and range in size from 2 to 20 feet.  They go by their proper Latin name. 
  • Old Garden Roses (classes in existence before 1867) flower form can be quartered, cupped, imbricated, or expanded, reflexed, globular or compact.  After an initial spring crop of blooms, some varieties may produce not more flowers for the rest of the year but do produce attractive hips.  The beauty of OGRs often relates to their heavy fragrance.
  • Modern Roses (classes not in existence before 1867) are free-flowering repeat bloomers with elegant shaped buds. They include a wide variety of flower forms, size, growth habit and colors. 

OGRs includes 22 different classes and all roses belonging to these classes are OGRs even if introduced after 1867. Some of the most common classes are:

Here are a few outstanding OGRs:

Alba Semi-plena, Alba, before 1754, ARS 8.9; semi-double, fragrant, white blooms, gray-green foliage on a tall bush with oblong, red hips in the fall.

Mutabilis, China, before 1894, ARS 8.8; pointed buds open into single, 3-inch blooms with five simple petals that change color from yellow aging to coppery orange, to rich pink, and ending with fiery red.

Complicata, Gallica, ARS 8.7; single, lightly scented, bright rose-pink flowers about 4 to 5 inches wide, with conspicuous yellow stamens.

Rose de Rescht, Portland, about 1880, ARS 8.7; small deep pink very double blooms with a strong and delicious fragrance, generally very tough and reliable.

Souvenir de la Malmaison, Bourbon, 1843, ARS 8.6; beautiful, cupped, 4-inch, delicate blooms of 70+ petals in a gentle, soft pink that open flat and quartered, extremely fragrant, World Old Rose Hall of Fame winner 1991.

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

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