Roses and the Rosebush in Your Home GardenRoses and the Rosebush
History of the Rose and the Rosebush
In the Northern Hemisphere, the story of the rose goes back to the beginning of time. Queen of the garden and rightly so, the rose is a jewel which gardeners have patiently shaped from generation to generation.
According to scientists, the first rose appeared almost 35 million years ago. Although not much is known of these first specimens, ancient texts show that already the queen of flowers was highly appreciated by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans. At the time, only one white variety was cultivated, mainly for medicinal purposes. According to historical witnesses, roses were also cultivated in China around 5,000 years ago. These flowers, which come from Central Asia, spread throughout the northern hemisphere without ever crossing the equator.
In the 12th and 13th Centuries, when the Crusades were setting hearts and passions alight, armed voyagers brought back from the Near East, new varieties like the mythical Damas rose, which enriched Provins in the Paris region, from the 12th Century on. This rose was originally planted on the island of Samos in honor of the goddess Aphrodite. It was later honored in Rome by Venus, the goddess of love. It was at this time that rose-growing began in France with gallica Officinalis (the Apothecary Rose). This variety brought back from the Holy Land was first grown for medicinal purposes before being appreciated for its beauty in the garden. Rose perfume was made from this variety in the Middle Ages.
In France, the most cultivated rosebushes were the Gallics, also called French Roses (Provins Rose, Charles de Mills, Tuscany) but white roses called Alba (Celeste, Jeanne d’Arc, Cuisse de Nymphe), Damas rosebushes (Felicité Hardy, Four Seasons, King’s Rose), Centfeuilles rosebushes ( Rosa Centifolia, Rose des Peintres, Petite de Hollande) and finally Moussus rosebushes (Common Moussu, Salet) were also grown. They all had common features: developed in big bushes, they often had a single and abundant flowering. Every heavily perfumed flower was composed of many petals varying from pure white to deep purple. Only the Damas rose reflowered. It is the origin of the first European reflowering roses.
In Lyon, in 1867, rose breeder Jean-Baptiste Guillot, created the first contemporary rose which we find in our gardens today. It was a climbing hybrid, produced from the hybridization of old roses (tea roses) and Chinese roses (climbing hybrids). It was naturally called “France”. This was a landmark in the history of rose-growing. Before this date, roses are called “ancient” in France, and after this date, they are considered “modern”.
The “France”, the first variety of a group known as tea hybrids, paved the way for roses which could flower from Spring to the first frosts. The development of hybrids also allowed rose breeders to start varying the color of their flowers. By crossbreeding a rose in 1875, Guillot’s son produced the “Paquerette”, the first of the Polyanthas variety. This variety of rosebush, with its small bouquets of flowers, is today still one of the biggest sellers throughout the world. The crossbreeding of France with the Polyanthas gave birth to the Floribunda, a rose familiar to today’s gardeners.
A few years later, again in Lyon, in the Parc de la Tête d’Or, Joseph Pernet-Ducher produced the first variety of rose with a yellow-orange color. He called this rose the “Soleil d’Or” and it was produced from a yellow botanic species and gave birth to yellow Tea Hybrids in the 20th. Century, which is still produced in gardens today. From the same nursery, orange and blue variants were produced soon after.
At the same period, the rose breeder from Orléans, Réné Barbier created the first Liane variety of roses which in turn produced the “Albertine” or “Albéric Barbier”. These varieties came from Japanese strains brought to America by the German botanist Wichura.
The most famous and most beautiful rose in the world is the yellow rose called “Madame Antoine Meilland”. It was produced in Antibes during the Second World War by Francis Meilland and remains to this day the world’s best-selling rose. This crossbreeding family, in business for six generations, is also responsible for (among others) the chocolate-colored “Leonidas”, and the “Black Baccara”, which is the world’s blackest rose. The last little marvel to be produced, in 2015, by Meilland is the Amalia”, arose with bi-colored petals, one side being brighter in color than the other.
In the 1960s, new groups of roses were created in England. The most famous of them is the “Retro Roses”, created by Austin, who crossbred modern roses with very ancient strains. The specialty of these roses, sold as “English Roses”, is that they have modern, very resistant leaves and ancient rose flowers.
How to Plant a Rose Bush in your Garden
Poets and lovers have sung their praises for centuries, and now you too have decided to proclaim your love for roses by planting a rose bush in your garden. You’ve heard the names of strange-sounding diseases that afflict rose bushes, and all the complicated pruning methods -it all sounds so complicated! Fear not. Planting a rose bush in your garden is not nearly as difficult as you imagine. Follow these simple guidelines to plant a rose bush that will lend unmistakable beauty to your garden.
Before You Plant
While you’re waiting for spring to arrive, start thinking about what kind of rose bush you’d like to plant in your garden. There are literally thousands of varieties, and the choices can seem overwhelming. Try to pick a rose bush that will thrive in your climate. Visit your local nursery to inspect their selection.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your nursery is a great resource for learning about plants, and not just purchasing them. Also, keep an eye out for rose bushes that catch your eye in your very own neighborhood. Does a neighbor grow a rose bush that you’ve always admired? Ask them what type of variety it is, and what kind of care it demands. Find out if their rose bush demands frequent attention or is prone to disease. These are things you will want to know before planting a rose bush in your garden.
Once you’ve chosen a rose bush that you think will suit your garden nicely, make sure you choose and prepare a good location. Ideally, you will want to do this even before purchasing the rose bush. Choose a location where the rose bush will receive six hours of sunlight every day, where air circulation is good and the soil receives good drainage and is relatively fertile.
When to Plant
Most bare-root rose bushes should be planted in late winter. If you purchase roses grown in a container, plan to plant in early spring. You should avoid summer planting. The stress of planting of hot weather is often too much for a new plant, but it is possible. If you do plant in the summer, be prepared to water your new rose bush every 1 to 2 days.
Preparing to Plant
You’ve chosen a good location and now you’re ready to prepare the bed. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the size of your rose bush’s container. Rose bushes have large, extensive root systems. Your rose bush will have an easier time putting down roots and extending its roots if you’ve dug a large hole.
Put the soil that you dig out into a wheelbarrow, and mix equal parts compost and topsoil into the soil. Return part of this soil mixture into the hole. You may also want to add a cup of phosphate fertilizer into the hole.
If you’ve purchased bare-root roses, it’s a good idea to soak them for a few hours before planting. After they have soaked for at least two hours, use sharp pruning shears to cut off the tip of the roots. Now you are ready to plant.
Planting Your New Rose Bush
Many rose bushes come with tags with instructions on how to plant them. A general rule of thumb is to shape a mound at the bottom of the hole and place the bare-root Rose bush over the mound, smoothing the roots over the mound. If the rootstock seems to fan out flatly, or if the ends of roots seem to curve upward, it is not necessary to form a mound.
Simply lay the rootstock gently into the hole, and begin to cover the roots with the soil medium. Once the hole is filled about 2/3 of the way, water the hole and let it drain. Once it has drained, fill the rest of the hole with water. Tap down the soil gently to get rid of any air bubbles.
Care for Your New Rose Bush
Most newly planted rose bushes require one inch of water a week, but you may need to augment this, depending on your climate. Learn to read signs of stress. If the leaves of your rose bush seem to droop, it probably needs more water. If the leaves become yellow and start to drop, you may be overwatering.