Classification for garden roses
There is no single system of classification for garden roses. In general, however, roses are placed in one of three main groups:
- Wild Roses — The wild roses includes the species listed above and some of their hybrids.
- Old Garden Roses — Most Old Garden Roses are classified into one of the following groups. In general, Old Garden Roses of European or Mediterranean
origin are once-blooming shrubs, with notably fragrant, double-flowered
blooms primarily in shades of white, pink and red. The shrubs' foliage
tends to be highly disease-resistant, and they generally bloom only on
- Alba — Literally "white roses", derived from R. arvensis and the closely allied R. alba. These are some of the oldest garden roses, probably brought to Great Britain by the Romans.
The shrubs flower once yearly in the spring with blossoms of white or
pale pink. The shrubs frequently feature gray-green foliage and a
climbing habit of growth . Examples: 'Alba Semiplena', 'White Rose of York'.
- Gallica — The gallica roses have been developed from R. gallica, which is a native of central and southern Europe.
They flower once in the summer over low shrubs rarely over 4' tall.
Unlike most other once-blooming Old Garden Roses, the gallica class
includes shades of red, maroon and deep purplish crimson. Examples:
'Cardinal de Richelieu', 'Charles de Mills', 'Rosa Mundi' (R. gallica versicolor).
- Damask — Robert de Brie is given credit for bringing them from Persia to Europe sometime between 1254 and 1276,
although there is evidence from ancient Roman frescoes that at least
one damask rose, the Autumn Damask, existed in Europe for hundreds of
years prior. Summer damasks (crosses between gallica roses and R. phoenicea) bloom once in summer. Autumn damasks (Gallicas crossed with R. moschata)
bloom again later, in the autumn. Shrubs tend to have rangy to sprawly
growth habits and vicious thorns. The flowers typically have a more
loose petal formation than gallicas, as well as a stronger, tangy
fragrance. Examples: 'Ispahan', 'Madame Hardy'.
- Centifolia (or Provence) — These roses, raised in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands,
are named for their "one hundred" petals; they are often called
"cabbage" roses due to the globular shape of the flowers. The result of
damask roses crossed with albas, the centifolias are all
once-flowering. As a class, they are notable for their inclination to
produce mutations of various sizes and forms, including moss roses and
some of the first miniature roses (see below) . Examples: 'Centifolia',
- Moss — Mutations of primarily centifolia roses (or sometimes damasks), these have a mossy excrescence on the stems and sepals
that often emits a pleasant woodsy or balsam scent when rubbed. Moss
roses are cherised for this unique trait, but as a group they have
contributed nothing to the development of new rose classifications.
Moss roses with centifolia background are once-flowering; some moss
roses exhibit repeat-blooming, indicative of Autumn Damask parentage.
Example: 'Common Moss' (centifolia-moss), 'Alfred de Dalmas' (Autumn
— The China roses were grown in East Asia for thousands of years and
finally reached Western Europe in the late 1700s. Compared to the
aforementioned European rose classes, the China roses had smaller, less
fragrant, more poorly formed blooms carried over twiggier, more
cold-sensitive shrubs. Yet they possessed the amazing ability to bloom
repeatedly throughout the summer and into late autumn, unlike their
European counterparts. This made them highly desirable for
hybridization purposes in the early 1800s. The flowers of China roses
were also notable for their tendency to "suntan," or darken over time —
unlike the blooms of European roses, which tended to fade after
opening. Four China roses ('Slater's Crimson China', 1792; 'Parsons' Pink China', 1793; 'Hume's Blush China', 1809; and 'Parks' Yellow Tea Scented China', 1824) were brought to Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
This brought about the creation of the first classes of
repeat-flowering Old Garden Roses, and later the Modern Garden Roses.
Examples: 'Old Blush China', 'Mutabilis'.
- Portland — The Portland roses represent the first group of
crosses between China roses and European roses, specifically gallicas
and damasks. They were named after the Duchess of Portland who received (from Italy in 1800) a rose then known as R. paestana
or 'Scarlet Four Seasons' Rose' (now known simply as 'The Portland
Rose'). The whole class of Portland roses was thence developed from
that one rose. The first repeat-flowering class of rose with fancy
European-style blossoms, they are mostly descended from hybrids between
damask and China roses. The plants tend to be fairly short and shrubby,
with proportionately short flower stalks. Example: 'James Veitch',
'Rose de Rescht', 'Comte de Chambourd'.
- Bourbon — Bourbons originated on l'Île de Bourbon (now called Réunion)
off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. They are most likely
the result of a cross between the Autumn Damask and the 'Old Blush'
China rose, both of which were frequently used as hedging materials on
the island. They flower repeatedly over vigorous, frequently
semi-climbing shrubs with glossy foliage and purple-tinted canes. They
were first Introduced in France in 1823. Examples: 'Louise Odier', 'Mme. Pierre Oger', 'Zéphirine Drouhin'.
- Noisette — The first Noisette rose was raised as a hybrid
seedling by a South Carolina rice planter named John Champneys. Its
parents were the China Rose 'Parson's Pink' and the autumn-flowering
musk rose (Rosa moschata), resulting in a vigorous climbing rose
producing huge clusters of small pink flowers from spring to fall.
Champneys sent seedlings of his rose (called 'Champneys' Pink Cluster')
to his gardening friend, Philippe Noisette, who in turn sent plants to
his brother Louis in Paris,
who then introduced 'Blush Noisette' in 1817. The first Noisettes were
small-blossomed, fairly winter-hardy climbers, but later infusions of
Tea rose genes created a Tea-Noisette subclass with larger flowers,
smaller clusters, and considerably reduced winter hardiness. Examples:
'Blush Noisette', 'Mme. Alfred Carriere' (Noisette), 'Marechal Niel'
(Tea-Noisette). (See French and German articles on Noisette roses)
- Tea — The result of crossing two of the original China roses
('Hume's Blush China' and 'Parks' Yellow Tea Scented China') with
various Bourbons and Noisette roses, tea roses are considerably more
tender than other Old Garden Roses (due to cold-tender Rosa gigantea
in the ancestry of the 'Parks' Yellow' rose). The teas are
repeat-flowering roses, named for their fragrance being reminiscent of
Chinese black tea (although this is not always the case). The color
range includes pastel shades of white, pink and yellow, and the petals
tend to roll back at the edges, producing a petal with a pointed tip.
The individual flowers of many cultivars are semi-pendent and nodding,
due to weak flower stalks. Examples: 'Lady Hillingdon', 'Maman Cochet'.
- Hybrid Perpetual — The dominant class of roses in Victorian
England, they first emerged in 1838 and were derived to a great extent
from the Bourbons. They became the most popular garden and florist
roses of northern Europe at the time, as the tender tea roses would not
thrive in cold climates. The "perpetual" in the name hints at
repeat-flowering, but many varieties of this class had poor reflowering
habits; the tendency was for a massive spring bloom, followed by either
scattered summer flowering, a smaller autumn burst, or sometimes
nothing at all until next spring. Due to a limited color palette
(white, pink, red) and lack of reliable repeat-bloom, the hybrid
perpetuals were ultimately overshadowed by their own descendants, the
Hybrid Teas. Examples: 'Ferdinand Pichard', 'Reine Des Violettes',
- Hybrid Musk - This group was primarily developed by Rev. Joseph Pemberton,
a British rosarian, in the first decades of the 20th century, based
upon 'Aglaia', a 1896 cross by Peter Lambert. A seedling of this rose,
'Trier', is considered to the be foundation of the class. The genetics
of the class are somewhat obscure, as some of the parents are unknown. Rose multiflora, however, is known to be one parent, and R. moschata
(the musk rose) also figures in its heritage, though it is considered
to be less important than the name would suggest. Hybrid musks are
disease-resistant, remontant and generally cluster-flowered, with a
strong, characteristic "musk" scent. Examples include 'Buff Beauty' and 'Penelope'.
- Bermuda "Mystery" Roses — A group of several dozen "found" roses that have been grown in Bermuda
for at least a century. The roses have significant value and interest
for those growing roses in tropical and semi-tropical regions, since
they are highly resistant to both nematode damage and the fungal diseases
that plague rose culture in hot, humid areas, and capable of blooming
in hot and humid weather. Most of these roses are likely Old Garden
Rose cultivars that have otherwise dropped out of cultivation, or
sports thereof. They are "mystery roses" because their "proper"
historical names have been lost. Tradition dictates that they are named
after the owner of the garden where they were rediscovered.
- Miscellaneous — There are also a few smaller classes (such
as Scots, Sweet Brier) and some climbing classes of old roses
(including Ayrshire, Climbing China, Laevigata, Sempervirens,
Boursault, Climbing Tea, and Climbing Bourbon). Those classes with both
climbing and shrub forms are often grouped together.
- Modern Garden Roses — Classification of modern roses can be
quite confusing because many modern roses have old garden roses in
their ancestry and their form varies so much. The classifications tend
to be by growth and flowering characteristics, such as "large-flowered
shrub", "recurrent, large-flowered shrub", "cluster-flowered", "rambler
recurrent", or "ground-cover non-recurrent". The following includes the
most notable and popular classifications of Modern Garden Roses:
- Hybrid Tea
— The favourite rose for much of the history of modern roses, hybrid
teas were initially created by hybridizing Hybrid Perpetuals with Tea
roses in the late 1800s. 'La France,' created in 1867, is universally
acknowledged as the first indication of a new class of roses. Hybrid
teas exhibit traits midway between both parents: hardier than the teas
but less hardy than the hybrid perpetuals, and more everblooming than
the hybrid perpetuals but less so than the teas. The flowers are
well-formed with large, high-centered buds, and each flowering stem
typically terminates in a single shapely bloom. The shrubs tend to be
stiffly upright and sparsely foliaged, which today is often seen as a
liability in the landscape. The hybrid tea class is important in being
the first class of roses to include genes from the old Austrian brier
rose (Rosa foetida). This resulted in an entirely new color
range for roses: shades of deep yellow, apricot, copper, orange, true
scarlet, yellow bicolors, lavender, gray, and even brown were now
possible. The new color range did much to skyrocket hybrid tea
popularity in the 20th century, but these colors came at a price: Rosa foetida
also passed on a tendency toward disease-susceptibility, scentless
blooms, and an intolerance of pruning, to its descendants. Hybrid teas
became the single most popular class of garden rose of the 20th
century; today, their reputation as being more high maintenance than
many other rose classes has led to a decline in hybrid tea popularity
among gardeners and landscapers in favor of lower-maintenance
"landscape" roses. The hybrid tea remains the standard rose of the
floral industry, however, and is still favoured in small gardens in
formal situations. Examples: 'Peace', 'Mr. Lincoln,' 'Double Delight.'
— Literally "many-flowered" roses, from the Greek "poly" (many) and
"anthos" (flower). Originally derived from crosses between two East
Asian species (Rosa chinensis and R. multiflora),
polyanthas first appeared in France in the late 1800s alongside the
hybrid teas. They featured short plants — some compact, others
spreading in habit — with tiny blooms (1" in diameter on average)
carried in large sprays, in the typical rose colors of white, pink and
red. Their main claim to fame was their prolific bloom: From spring to
fall, a healthy polyantha shrub might be literally covered in flowers,
creating a strong color impact in the landscape. Polyantha roses are
still regarded as low-maintenance, disease-resistant garden roses
today, and remain popular for that reason. Examples: 'Cecile Brunner',
'The Fairy', 'Red Fairy'.
— Rose breeders quickly saw the value in crossing polyanthas with
hybrid teas, to create roses with that bloomed with the polyantha
profusion, but with hybrid tea floral beauty and color range. In 1909,
the first polyantha/hybrid tea cross, 'Gruss an Aachen,' was created,
with characteristics midway between both parent classes. As the larger,
more shapely flowers and hybrid-tea-like growth habit separated these
new roses from polyanthas and hybrid teas alike, a new class was
created and named Floribunda, Latin for "many-flowering." Typical
floribundas feature stiff shrubs, smaller and bushier than the average
hybrid tea but less dense and sprawling than the average polyantha. The
flowers are often smaller than hybrid teas but are carried in large
sprays, giving a better floral effect in the garden. Floribundas are
found in all hybrid tea colors and with the classic hybrid tea-shaped
blossom, sometimes differing from hybrid teas only in their
cluster-flowering habit. Today they are still used in large bedding
schemes in public parks and similar spaces. Examples: 'Dainty Maid', 'Iceberg', 'Tuscan Sun'.
— Grandifloras (Latin for "large-flowered") were the class of roses
created in the mid 1900s to designate back-crosses between hybrid teas
and floribundas that fit neither category — specifically, the 'Queen
Elizabeth' rose, which was introduced in 1954.
Grandiflora shrubs are typically larger than either hybrid teas or
floribundas, and feature hybrid tea-style flowers borne in small
clusters of three to five, similar to a floribunda. Grandifloras
maintained some popularity from about the 1950s to the 1980s
but today they are much less popular than either the hybrid teas or the
floribundas. Examples: 'Queen Elizabeth', 'Comanche,' 'Montezuma'.
— All of the classes of Old Garden Roses — gallicas, centifolias, etc.
— had corresponding miniature forms, although these were once-flowering
just as their larger forms were. As with the standard-sized varieties,
miniature Old Garden roses were crossed with repeat-blooming Asian
species to produce everblooming miniature roses. Today, miniature roses
are represented by twiggy, repeat-flowering shrubs ranging from 6" to
36" in height, with most falling in the 12"–24" height range. Blooms
come in all the hybrid tea colors; many varieties also emulate the
classic high-centered hybrid tea flower shape. Miniature roses are
often marketed and sold by the floral industry as houseplants, but it
is important to remember that these plants are largely descended from
outdoor shrubs native to temperate regions; thus, most miniature rose
varieties require an annual period of cold dormancy to survive.
Examples: 'Petite de Hollande' (Miniature Centifolia, once-blooming),
'Cupcake' (Modern Miniature, repeat-blooming).
— As is the case with Miniature roses, all aforementioned classes of
roses, both Old and Modern, have "climbing" forms, whereby the canes of
the shrubs grow much longer and more flexible than the normal ("bush")
forms. In the Old Garden Roses, this is often simply the natural growth
habit of many cultivars and varieties; in many Modern roses, however,
climbing roses are the results of spontaneous mutations. For example,
'Climbing Peace' is designated as a "Climbing Hybrid Tea," for it is
genetically identical to the normal "shrub" form of the 'Peace' hybrid
tea rose, except that its canes are long and flexible, i.e. "climbing."
Most Climbing roses grow anywhere from 8'–20' in height and exhibit
repeat-bloom. Rambler roses, although technically a separate class, are
often lumped together with climbing roses. They also exhibit long,
flexible canes, but are distinguished from true climbers in two ways: A
larger overall size (20'–30' tall is common), and a once-blooming
habit. It should be noted that both climbing roses and rambling roses
are not true vines such as ivy, clematis or wisteria;
they lack the ability to cling to supports on their own, and must be
manually trained and tied over structures such as arbors and pergolas.
Examples: 'Blaze' (repeat-blooming climber), 'American Pillar'
- English/David Austin
— Although not officially recognized as a separate class of roses by
any established rose authority, English (aka David Austin) roses are
often set aside as such by consumers and retailers alike. They were
conceptualized and created in the 1960s by David Austin of Shropshire, England,
who wanted to rekindle interest in Old Garden Roses by hybridizing OGRs
with modern hybrid teas and floribundas. The idea was to create a new
group of roses that featured blooms with old-fashioned shapes and
fragrances, evocative of classic gallica, alba and damask roses, but
with modern repeat-blooming characteristics and the larger modern color
range as well. Austin mostly succeeded in his mission; his tribe of
"English" roses, now numbering hundreds of varieties, has been warmly
embraced by the gardening public and are widely available to consumers.
It should be noted that the typical winterhardiness and
disease-resistance of the classic Old Garden Roses has largely been
compromised in the process; many English roses are susceptible to the
same disease problems that plague modern hybrid teas and floribundas,
and many are not hardy north of USDA Zone 5. Examples: 'Mary Rose,'
'Graham Thomas', 'Tamora'.
- Landscape Roses — These are a modern classifation of rose
developed mainly for mass amenity planting. In the late 20th century,
traditional hybrid tea and floribunda rose varieties fell out of favor
amid gardeners and landscapers, as they are often labor- and
chemical-intensive plants susceptible to myriad pest and disease
problems. So-called "landscape" roses have thus been developed to fill
the consumer desire for a garden rose that offers color, form and
fragrance, but is also low maintenance and easy to care for. Most
landscape roses having the following characteristics:
- Good disease resistance
- Lower growing habit, usually under 60cm
- Repeat flowering
- Disease and pest resistance
- Non suckering, growing on their own roots.