Rose types and varieties
Overview of different types of roses with names and pictures
There are many types of rose plants and thousands of rose varieties. Different types of roses come in various sizes, shapes and colors so every grower can choose his favorite.
Roses are woody, flowering perennials in the rose family, which also includes fruit trees (apple, pear, plum, cherry,...). More than 100 native species of roses are known to date, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Growers divide roses mainly by their growing habit into shrub roses, climbers, ramblers, groundcover roses, miniature roses and tree roses. In addition, roses are also divided according to their type into three main groups: wild roses, old garden roses and modern roses.
This type of roses includes native species found wild in nature and are often referred to as botanical roses. They flower from spring to early summer, and most varieties have single flowers. The best known species include rosa canina, rosa gallica, rosa chinensis, rosa pimpinellifolia, rosa arvensis, rosa carolina, rosa californica, rosa rugosa, rosa multiflora, rosa glauca...
Old garden roses are varieties that were bred before the introduction of tea rose hybrids in 1867. Their advantages include disease resistance, a more distinctive fragrance and natural beauty. Among the best known old roses are:
Alba roses or "white roses" originated from the species rosa arvensis and are one of the oldest cultivated old garden roses. They bloom once a year in late spring/summer with fragrant, white or faintly pink flowers. They are climbing roses with vigorous growth.
Centifolia roses, also known as cabbage roses or Provence roses, were bred in the 17th century in the Netherlands from several species of roses including the Damascene rose. Their blooms feature a large number of flower petals arranged in a spherical shape. They flower once a year.
Damask roses are among the oldest cultivated roses, having arrived in Europe from the Middle East as early as the 13th century. Summer damask roses bloom during the summer months and autumn damask roses bloom later in the autumn. They are characterized by their vigorous growth and the distinctive fragrance of their flowers.
Portland roses are named after the Duchess of Portland in Britain, who in the 18th century first successfully cultivated roses that bloomed several times a year. The ancestors of Portland roses are thought to be the Gallic rose and the Damask rose. Portland roses have a shorter, bushier growth habit and their main flowering season is summer, but they also flower to a lesser extent in autumn.
The original tea roses come from oriental cultivars of the species rosa chinensis and rosa gigantea. They get their name from their fragrance, which is reminiscent of Chinese black tea. Tea roses are available in many pastel colors from white and pink to apricot and yellow, which is not common for native European roses. A typical feature of tea roses is distinctive look of their flower petals, which curl outwards from the center as they mature, creating the characteristic rose shape that is now widely used by florists. Their flower stems are flexible and therefore the flowers tend to droop. Original tea roses have a strong climbing habit and are not resistant to severe frosts.
Bourbon roses originate from the eponymous island in the Indian Ocean that is now known as Reunion. The ancestors of this type of rose are considered to be the Damask rose and the Chinese rose (rosa chinensis), which were often used as hedges. Bourbon roses have strong semi-climbing growth and bloom repeatedly on purple stems.
Noisette roses were first bred in South Carolina from the cultivars rosa chinensis parson's pink and rosa moschata (flowering in autumn). The result is this vigorously growing climbing rose that produces huge numbers of small pink flowers from spring to fall.
Chinese roses were bred for centuries in East Asia from the native species rosa chinensis, and they only reached Europe in the late 18th century. Because they bloomed more times a year than European roses and had a different, interesting flower shape, they became the basis for many other rose hybrids. Their disadvantages were a weaker flower fragrance and a higher sensitivity to cold. Chinese roses are very similar to tea roses, with the biggest difference being the curled flower petals of tea roses.
Perpetual hybrids come from crossing Chinese roses with European varieties (bourbon, noisette, damask, alba...). They get their name from their multiple flowering periods, which comes from their Chinese rose heritage, and their shape and frost resistance comes from European roses. Perpetual rose hybrids were the most popular roses in Victorian England. Because of their limited color palette (white, pink, red) and the unreliability of repeated flowerings in one season, they were eventually eclipsed by modern tea hybrids.
Tea rose hybrids became the most popular roses of the 20th century and are still one of the most cultivated species today. They were created by crossing perpetual hybrids with tea roses in the second half of the 19th century. In 1867, the 'La France' rose was introduced as the first representative of a new class of roses: a milestone in the creation of all modern roses. Tea hybrids have received genes from both perpetual hybrids and tea roses, maintaining characteristics from both older varieties. Their flowers are large and nicely formed with a central bud, and one stem is usually topped with a single flower (this is the shape most people think of when they think of a rose). The stems are sturdy, upright and have few leaves. The popularity of tea hybrids in gardens is currently declining, mainly due to the difficulty of growing them (susceptibility to disease, lower hardiness), but they still remain the first choice for the floriculture industry and florists.
The name polyantha comes from the Greek words 'poly' (many) and 'anthos' (flower), which describes this type of rose: a bush covered with a flood of small (an inch/2.5 cm) flowers. Polyantha roses originated from a cross between the Asian species rosa chinensis and rosa multiflora and were brought to Europe in the late 19th century along with tea hybrids. Polyanthas are shorter and denser in stature, whether compact shrubs or climbing, and they produce a profusion of small flowers in shades of white, pink and red from spring to autumn. Polyantha roses in good condition can be almost entirely covered in flowers, which is appreciated in garden design even today. Polyantha roses are also disease resistant and do not require much care.
The floribunda roses were created by crossing polyantha roses with tea hybrids, making a new group of roses that bloom as profusely and persistently as the polyanthas, while at the same time having the shape and flower colors of the tea hybrid roses. Typical floribundas are sturdy shrubs that are shorter and denser in stature than the average tea hybrid, but compared to polyanthas they are less dense and more prone to spreading.
After breeding floribunda roses, the next logical step was to backcross them with tea hybrids, resulting in grandiflora roses, which inherited characteristics from both ancestors. Unlike floribunda roses, grandiflora roses have one flower on each stem or bloom in small clusters, and they're slightly larger. The shrub versions of grandiflora are taller in stature than both tea hybrids and floribundas and have clusters of 3 to 5 flowers per stem, similar to floribundas.
English roses do not represent a separate group of roses, but growers often distinguish them from other species. They were bred in the 1960s by David Austin, whose aim was to create a modern group of old garden roses, maintaining their original shape and fragrance, but with multiple blooms, larger flowers and a greater range of colors. To achieve this, he crossed old garden roses (Alba, Gallic, Damask...) with tea hybrids and floribundas and succeeded in combining their characteristics. Today there are hundreds of varieties of English roses, which are very popular with growers. The disadvantage of English roses is that they have lower disease resistance and less hardiness compared to old garden roses.
These hardy types of roses has been bred in Canada to withstand the climatic conditions there. Canadian roses are divided into two main groups, explorer and parkland, and are descended from a cross between rosa rugosa and the native Canadian species rosa arkansana, which allows them to withstand temperatures as low as -31°F/-35°C (USDA zone 5). They flower repeatedly and have a great diversity of shapes and colors.
Types of roses by their growing habit
In addition to the classic shrub roses, roses come in other types as well:
All of the above rose species (both old garden and modern) have trailing/vining versions, whose stems are longer and more flexible than the classic shrubby forms. Vining was a natural characteristic of old garden roses, whereas in modern roses, the vining habit is due to random mutations. Trailing roses are divided into two main groups: climbers and ramblers. Climber roses grow up to 6-20 feet (2-6 m) and flower several times in one season, while rambler roses grow up to 20 – 33 feet (6-10 m) and flower only once a year. Climber and rambler types of roses are not true vines, as they do not attach with tendrils and need to be manually attached to a support in the form of a pergola, fence, climbing frame or trellis to grow tall.
All types of old garden roses (centifolia, bourbon, noisette...) also had miniature versions, which bloomed once a year and were limited in shape to resemble their ancestors. Thanks to modern breeding techniques, however, we have a whole new class of modern, miniature roses that bloom several times a year and are available in the shapes and colors of modern roses. Miniature/dwarf roses grow to a height of 6-40 inches (15-100 cm) or in climbing forms up to 6 feet (2 m). Miniature roses are often grown in pots and on terraces or balconies, but are not suitable as houseplants as they need a dormancy period in the cold, winter months to survive.
Groundcover or creeping roses were developed in the late 20th century, mainly due to the declining popularity of tea hybrids and floribunda roses, which were more demanding to care for with synthetic pesticides. Groundcover roses were the answer to growers' needs, offering a wide range of colors and fragrances while being low maintenance. This group of roses is known for its low stature (up to 2 feet/60 cm), repeating flowering, minimal pruning requirements and resistance to pests and diseases.
Tree roses do not represent a separate group of roses, as they are just any species or type of roses (modern or old garden) grafted onto a special rose rootstock (a straight, woody rose stem without leaves). Because of their shape, practicality and the endless possibilities of combining different varieties, tree roses are now a popular feature of garden design.
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