Modern Roses, Part One

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Oh, my aching muscles...

Hybrid Teas and Shrubs

By Mary Gutierrez

The era of the modern rose began—officially—with the introduction of the first hybrid tea rose in 1867. Since then, countless rose cultivars have been bred and sold to the public. But for some reason, when I think of modern roses, I think of post-World War II cultivars. The most famous rose of this generation is 'Peace'-a rose that remains a classic to this day. When we bought our house in Southeast Seattle in 1992, there was a 'Peace' rose growing by the front steps. It has had some good years and some bad years, but it never fails to offer beautiful flowers in summer, regardless of the treatment I give it.

In the past two issues, I've discussed the different classes of ancient and old garden roses. In the modern era, new categories of roses were created. Here's an overview:

Hybrid Tea Rose

Hybrid teas are the most popular type of rose the world has seen-no doubt due to their large flowers, elegant pointed flower buds, and their willingness to produce flowers all through the growing season. 'Peace' is a member of this class, introduced in 1942 by the legendary French rose company Meilland. This famous rose was named to commemorate the end of the second world war. The flowers of hybrid tea roses became popular with florists, and today we expect the large flowers and long stems when we send roses to a special person.

'Dainty Bess' differs from the classic hybrid tea: she has single flowers. This plant remains popular, though, because the pink blooms are accented with a large boss of maroon stamens. Different, yes-and beautiful.  'Just Joey' is another deservedly popular hybrid tea. Its large coppery-orange flowers are loosely double and have good fragrance. Joey's flower color and form is unique, even among orange-flowered hybrid teas.

The drawbacks of hybrid teas are their susceptibility to black spot and often, their lack of fragrance. If you're willing to do the research, you can find hybrid teas that will thrive and beautify the garden. It's important to do your homework, though!

Floribunda & Grandiflora Rose

Floribundas and grandifloras share many characteristics with the hybrid tea rose, including large flowers and repeat-blooming. But instead of one blossom per long stem, floribundas offer clusters of good-sized flowers.

A healthy floribunda with pristine white flowers is 'Iceberg'. In mild winters, I'll have flowers on my 'Iceberg' after Halloween. A popular (deservedly so) grandiflora rose is 'Queen Elizabeth' a pure pink rose that blooms profusely in summer. This rose can grow to great heights if not pruned. Though it happily tolerates hard pruning to rejuvenate it when needed. Another widely grown floribunda is 'Sexy Rexy'. The double pink, fragrant flowers open flat on a very manageable three-foot shrub.

In case you're wondering, the grandiflora classification is recognized only by the American Rose Society. In European references, these roses are grouped together with the floribundas. The habits of both are similar.

Shrub Rose

Shrub rose is a catch-all category for roses that just don't fit into any other classification. Shrub roses, characteristically, are healthy plants that are relatively easy to grow with little maintenance. Some shrub roses are sold under brand names that identify them as low-maintenance, disease-resistant plants. They are similar to groundcover roses, but are larger plants. Some examples of shrub roses are:

The Knock Out Rose(r) was bred by William Radler, an American rosarian who became obsessed with breeding truly maintenance-free roses. He went so far as to grind up diseased rose leaves to apply to his rose garden, thereby inoculating the plants with black spot. In this way, he could see which plants were truly disease-resistant. In 2000, the The knock out rose received an AARS award. Knock out roses come in two shades: dark pink and pale pink. Next year, look for the Rainbow knock out and a double knock out rose.

The Carefree(r) rose series are low-maintenance, free-flowering plants that produce hips late in the season. They carry clusters of fairly small, mildly fragrant flowers throughout the growing season. The carefree roses come in four shades of pink, from medium pink to violet-pink. There is one yellow Carefree rose, Carefree Sunshine.

English roses are a sub-category  of shrub roses created by one hybridizer: David Austin. His first introduction, Constance Spry, is a climber that came out in 1961. This rose represented the renewed interest in roses that offered the charm and fragrance of old roses.

Generally, Austin roses have the full, round, cabbage-type flowers resembling old roses and good fragrance. Some are better performers than others in terms of disease-resistance and vigor. Some of the reds, from the same lines as 'The Prince' are weak and unhealthy.

Groundcover Rose

Groundcover roses are a new class of rose that has emerged since the 1980s. While this isn't a category that all rose organizations recognize, groundcover roses have gained popularity with consumers both because of their easy-care nature and the marketing campaigns that have supported them.

Groundcover roses should have certain characteristics: they should be repeat bloomers that are resistant to black spot and mildew and be good candidates for any location where you would place a low-growing deciduous shrub. Some groundcover roses are extremely hardy.

Unlike other roses where you thin out canes and make judicious pruning cuts, ground cover roses can be cut back by about one-third of their overall size in spring.

The original pink Flower Carpet(r) rose burst onto the gardening scene in the 1990s with a huge advertising campaign. Legions of the trademarked pink pots lined the aisles at home improvement centers. Flower carpet roses are now available in several flower colors.

The Pavement(r) series of roses was introduced in the late 1980s by the German rose company, Baum. Touted as the "maintenance-free" rose, pavement roses are hardy to Zone 3, grow to about three feet tall, and repeat-bloom with fragrant flowers in shades of pink and white. Pavement roses are rugosa hybrids, which would account for their excellent fragrance and disease resistance.

Hybrid Rugosa Rose

These tough roses are the ultimate in disease-resistance-save for a few hybrids that behave more like their modern cousins. All are descendents of the species  Rosa rugosa. Rugosa roses are generally very cold-tolerant and are the one rose to plant at your seaside property-they'll tolerate the salt air.

A popular cultivar, 'Hansa', has been around since 1905. It  has large clusters of double cerise-red, fragrant flowers on stems to five feet. 'Blanc Double de Coubert' has fragrant double white flowers. The best rugosas are the white, pink and cerise-flowered cultivars. There are a number of yellow rugosas, but my experience is that they are not as vigorous or are more disease-prone.

Any rugosa cultivar that doesn't have the highly crinkled leaf surface may be more susceptible to the diseases that affect other roses. Most rugosas bear very thorny stems and canes.

Hybrid Musk Rose

In their book Best Rose Guide, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix say that hybrid musks are one of the best groups of roses-and its hard to disagree. Hybrid musk roses are sometimes considered a type of shrub rose and are often healthy and easy to grow. Plants are usually covered with masses of flowers in clusters, rather than individual large ones.

The Reverend Joseph Pemberton was a pioneer in breeding hybrid musk roses, introducing many cultivars in the 1920s that remain popular today. The three I think of immediately when I think of Pemberton's roses are: 'Cornelia' (1925), 'Felicia' (1928) and 'Penelope' (1924). They all carry loosely double flowers in shades of peachy-pink.  One of my favorite roses, 'Sally Holmes', trusses of large single flowers all summer long-the big clusters remind me of rhododendrons in bloom. While the flowers aren't fragrant, they are a sophisticated ivory-pink that I think would make a perfect wedding bouquet.

Polyantha Roses

Polyantha roses are a small group of small roses. Only a couple cultivars are widely grown. Polyanthas are considered close cousins to the hybrid musks and miniature tea roses. You'll notice the resemblance to both types of roses in the most well-known polyantha, 'The Fairy'. This cultivar would work well in a garden situation where you would use a shrub or groundcover rose. It is a healthy little plant that   reaches a little over two feet tall. It has lovely clusters of small pink flowers that repeat through the summer. 'Cecile Brunner' is a polyantha, though many think of her as an Old Garden Rose. Cecile is a modern rose, introduced in 1881, about 15 years after the beginning of the modern rose era.

Give it a try!

While I have all my old roses in the back, around my greenhouse, I think I'll try some of the new, disease resistant roses in the front yard, where I don't like to fuss as much. Even if you're a dedicated old rose lover-like me-you'll find there are some modern roses that will fit into your garden.

Next month, the final rose story in this series-Climbers, Ramblers and Miniatures!


Many modern roses offer repeat-blooming through the summer.

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