American Rose Annual, pp. 106-123 (1982)
Old Garden Roses And Their Place In The Development Of Modern Roses
Illustrations accompanying this article are used by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
from Wild and Old Garden Roses by Gordon Edwards, ills, by Denys Baker. Copyright © 1975 by Gordon Edwards.

H. Scott and Mary Hansen
Glendale, AZ 85306

A talk given by H. Scott and Mary Hansen at the Phoenix Rose Society Meeting, March 18, 1980.

Any presentation involving the history of the rose should begin with the species roses. This is where it all began.

The species roses are the wild roses, the natives, the primogenitors. The true test of a species rose is that its seeds produce plants which resemble the parents. Even this is not always 100 percent true because evolution has produced natural crosses which occassionally pop up with some latent remote ancestor. But more on this later.

Most authorities agree at a figure of about 120 and 150 recognized species. The number is a subject of controversy because of so many naturally occurring hybrids. Species roses are very hardy and have a tendency to hybridize easily.

I have found writers who argue that there are only about 80 species, with 120 being a popular number; several agree on about 200. One botanist recorded 4,266 species, and an unkind colleague said he must have found several on a single plant.

There are between 12 and 20 species found in North America, about the same number in Europe, with the vast majority in Asia, including the Middle East, but mostly in East Asia, perhaps around 100.

The genus Rosa is a member of the larger family Rosaceae which probably evolved around 40 million years ago. Definite rose leaf fossils have been found which are up to 26 million years old. These have been found on three continents: Europe, Asia, and North America.

The larger family Rosaceae includes strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other bramble-type berries, the pyracantha, stone fruits, apples, and pears, as well as many other genera.

Most genuine species rose flowers look just like apple blossoms: single, five-petaled, pink, fragrant, with high stamens for easy pollination.

The rose is native only in the northern hemisphere. Species roses are found from the Pacific Coast of North America, south into Northern Mexico, on east through Europe, North Africa, and on through the Middle East, Asia, into the Himalayas, into China, Japan, and south to the Phullipines.

No species or fossils have been found as an original plant in the southern hemisphere. None in South American, Australia, or in Africa below the northern fringe along the Mediterranean Sea. Apparently the temperate type plant was not able to progress into or past the tropical zone. This same pattern of distribution is common to many other genera. The most tropical species known is R. clinophylla, found in Eastern Bengal and Northern India.

To repeat, the original species roses were single, fragrant, and five petaled. The outstanding exception is R. omeiensis, a China native, which is white, with four petals, and has great canes covered with translucent red thorns, growing to ten feet tall.

Another characteristic of the species rose is the tendency to mutate or sport. These are sudden changes caused by irregularities in the growth process, possibly induced by outside influence and sometimes by sheer chance. The most obvious changes are those in color, doubleness, and loss or gain of fragrance.

Nature's hybrids arose when a wild rose instead of pollinating itself, received pollen from another species. This happened often enough over the millenia before man, because the female part of the flower (pistil) is usually receptive before the male pollen is ready. Thus wind and insects caused the hybrid. The resultant seed has half its chromosomes from each species parent which is seven from each in most of the original species (diploids). Each chromosome is equipped with many genes which determine the characteristics of the new plant. When two species are united, their different genes show varying degrees of dominance. These dominant genes often result in a seedling being different from the plant which bore the seed.

Many hybrids are sterile and the race ends there in the natural state. This must have happened numerous times before man came on the scene. Occassionally, however, some hybrids will in turn set seeds and their genes will play the same game of dominance so that the seedlings are again different. Should different pollen again fertilize a natural hybrid, the possible variations are increased.

This little sashay into heredity is important because it often happens that some genes wait many generations before they show. It is obvious that there were many natural hybrids before mankind and that many wild roses are natural hybrids and not true species. Because a rose is wild and native does not make it a species. They have established a look, a character, or type because of the settled dominance of certain genes.

When man began to establish the river valley civilizations and was secure enough to have a leisure class which furthered art, gardens appeared on the scene. The early gardeners collected the choicest natural variations available and when those were planted and cultivated in proximity, rose breeding had begun.

One good example and fairly well known of the evolution of the true species rose to a hybrid is the Lady Banks rose, from China. The original was single, white and five petaled, and by the way, a miniature.

The well known Tombstone Rose, about five feet in circumference, spreads over an arbor covering over 6,000 square feet, and blooms annually with millions of tiny, white, fragrant, double flowers. This is the R. banksia, listed by the ARS as a species. The yellow variety, R. banksia lutea, is similar, except it is almost scentless. From the original true species we obviously have two very old hybrids with gene dominance settled so that they breed true enough to be considered species but have naturally hybridized enough to become quite double, yellow and almost scentless in the one case.

Most botanists are of the opinion that another characteristic of the true species rose is that of one annual blooming like the rest of the family Rosaceae (witness apples, stone fruits, etc.).

The everblooming trait probably originated in Southeast Asia where the evergreen types had evolved because of the favorable climate. This trait of everblooming somehow, probably through natural hybridization and/or mutation, became distributed over a large area and into a number of varieties which are resistant to fungus ills but are frost tender due to the subtropic environment they evolved in.

We are greatly indebted to some unknown, ancient Chinese gardener who first spotted these species and cultivated them. Roses were cultivated in early Chinese gardens at least 5,000 years ago. By 600 A.D. the Emperor's gardens had become huge parks. Even land needed for agriculture was used for gardens until the Han dynasty had to order the destruction of some gardens and curtailed others to bolster the food supply. These gardens contained many flowers besides roses: camellias, peonies, chrysanthemums, rhododendrons, etc. (all native to China). Interest in the rose was only moderate.

Now for the development of roses in Western civilization. Most authorities agree that the European development was through the species extant there and in the Near East.

These were primarily R. gallica (the so called French rose) which flourished over most of Europe and the Near East. There are no R. gallica species extant today but there are a number from the gallica type still around. Sometimes called the mad Gallicas, usually three feet tall, stiff erect branches, sparse weak thorns, cherry-type hips, sharp sweet spicy fragrance, with many varieties of fascinating color patterns: dots, stripes, and marblings in shades of pink to deep crimson and purple.

The oldest Gallica we know of is R. gallica officinalis, found on Minoan wall paintings, is the same rose known as the Apothecary's Rose, the Rose of Provins, R. gallica maxima, and the Red Rose of Lancaster. It was widely cultivated during the Roman Empire and spread throughout the same. During the Middle Ages the town of Provins, France was famous for its rose-petal conserve. The discovery that officinalis petals retained their spicy scent even when dried and powdered caused a booming business in ointments and liquids which were considered almost a cure-all.

Edmund, the first Earl of Lancaster, as a young man was sent by the King of France to quell a revolt in Provins in 1277. While there, he became enchanted with the Red Rose of Provins. He took this to England where it became the emblem of the House of Lancaster.

Two hundred years later, for 30 years, 1455 to 1485, the armies of the Red Rose of Lancaster battled the forces of the White Rose of York in the longest civil war in English history: the Wars of the Roses.

The White Rose of York was an Alba, R. alba incarnata, a double white with a delicate pink tinge.

When the war ended with Henry Tudor, Earl of Lancaster, married to Elizabeth Plantagenet of the House of York, Elizabeth confirmed the peace by presenting White Roses of York to her husband. As the Tudors took the throne, the rose became the national flower of England.

There was a famous rose called York and Lancaster, a damask, containing both red and white flowers (as well as pink) which was regarded as a symbol of reconciliation between the two factions.

A few of the more famous gallicas are:

"One of the most spectacular roses in any class. A description is apt to lead the reader to the conclusion that the author has been to often to the bottle. Jenny's ancestry is unknown, but she takes pride of place as the most seductive of all the 'mad gallicas'. The plant is average for a gallica and the lilac buds give little promise of the wonders to follow. This variety seems particularly affected by weather, and opening blooms will range all the way from silvery lilac to a pale lilac-cherry blend. As the bloom period lengthens, caution Is thrown to the winds, and the open flowers appear in shades from almost white through cherry, lilac, violet, and tan. Sometimes one flower reveals all of these at once! The petalage is not full, and the gold of the stamens adds another shade to the picture. The coloring is really unique in my experience.

Officinalis. Probably most ancient prototype of Gallicas, large double bright red blooms.

Versicolor (c. 1500). Sport of officinalis same except bloom. Crimson to pink stripes to pale pink with crimson stripes.

Besides R. gallica the more noted European species roses were R. canina (the Dog Rose, of which there are 30 varieties); R. spinosissima, (the Scotch Rose), noted for hardiness, black hips; a pale yellow species, R. eglanteria, the old English Sweetbriar with several varieties around yet today. Stanwell Perpetual is a later hybrid species.

Two other species roses which are important in so far as the old European roses are concerned are:

R. moschata, the musk rose

R. phoenicia

Both are natives of Asia Minor and the Near East.

A true second generation cross between R. gallica and R. moschata produced R. damascena bifera, known as the Rose of Four Seasons, the autumn damask, the Rose of Castile, and the Franciscan Rose. This rose was known to the Greeks and Romans, Phoenicians, and early explorers who brought it to Spanish California as the Franciscan Rose. Its vast popularity was its ability to sometimes repeat bloom. It is about three feet high, clear pink, medium size, very double and classically quartered with intense fragrance.

Another second generation cross between R. phoenicia and R. gallica is the summer damask. In this group belongs Celsiana, the Rose of York and Lancaster, and R. damascena trigintipetala, the variety grown around Kazanlik, Bulgaria of which literally thousands are used to produce attar of roses, worth twice as much as gold.














Both the summer and autumn damasks have some similarities, strong fragrance for one, the same parent in Gallica, with the other two parents, Moschata and Phoenicia similar and likely very remotely related.

The third variety of our so-called second generation is the R. alba. This is the product of crossing between R. gallica and R. canina. As the name implies the coloring is basically white, true white in the older forms. Others have various shades of pink usually quartered. Superb fragrance, some up to seven feet and as pest resistant as any rose grown. Besides the White Rose of York, R. alba maxima or Great Double White, the R. alba suaveolens is grown in the Balkans for attar of roses, second only to the damask, trigintipetala.

Other Albas include Celeste, Belle Amour, and Maidens Blush, all lovely romantic and enchanting names to match the rose. A later variety was named by the French with the fetching title Cuisse de Nymphe Emue or Passionate Nymph's Thigh.

The third generation crosses between the summer damasks and the Albas produced the centifolias. These were the results of Dutch nurserymen between 1600 and 1700. These are the so-called Cabbage Rose, or rose of a hundred petals and some did have. There are no true red centifolias only shades of white through deep pink. They were a favorite subject of Dutch painters during this period, and a famous variety is known as the Rose of the Painters. Other noted centifolias are Bullata pink with leaves crinkled like lettuce; De Meaux, pink, three feet, miniature foliage, flat blooms; Fantin-Latour, six feet, pink with recurving petals producing the button center.

The centifolias are mostly sterile but they had a tendency to sport both in color and vegetative peculiarity. The unstable centifolias had 60 sports by 1700.

The moss roses were the early sports of the centifolias, starting around 1700. The sepals of bud and bloom are covered with a green growth resembling moss. They became popular very quickly.

Common Moss, R. centifolia muscosa, was probably the original mutation, clear pink, flat with green eye.

There is another family of moss roses descended from the autumn damask. Salet is one of these, 1854, repeats, pink not too mossy.

Moss from the centifolia breed is soft, while moss from the autumn damask is prickly.

By 1800, while the art of hybridizing was still 50 years away, Europe had a great variety of all the basic hybrids of the Gallica complex: phoenicia, moschata (musk), and caninas with their descendants the Albas, damasks, centifolias, and mosses. There was also upon the scene the yellow Persian, R. foetida, with R. sulphurata or lutea which arrived by 1850. This did not yet enter into any hybridization.

There are still species entant of phoenicia, moschata and canina, plus a number of others but none of the original Gallicas or Albas.

American Species: All single-five petaled, hardy fragrance; pink from almost white to deep pink and there are somewhere between 12 and 22 in number.




For some unknown reason all over the Northern Hemisphere where species roses are found, the diploids are located farther south with the chomosome set number increasing as the species are on a more northerly clime.

The chromosome sets (n x 7). 14 chromosomes = diploid, 28 = tetraploid, 42 = hexaploid, and 56 = octoploid.

Those with odd numbered sets, 21 = triploids, 35 - pentaploids are the results of crosses such as a diploid (14) and tetraploid (28) = triploid (21), hexaploid (42) and tetraploid (28) = pentaploid (35) and are usually sterile.

Before starting on the China and tea roses, this is the place to mention the famous Garden of Malmaison started by the Empress Josephine about 1800. This consisted of 4500 acres and contained about 250 different varieties, everything available at the time. The famous French painter, Redoute, painted 181 of them. His paintings are still unsurpassed.

Approximately half were Gallicas, 8 damasks, 9 Albas, around 30 centifolias, some mosses, 21 Chinas, a few teas plus others.

One of the results of her famous collection was that the roses were made available for hybridizing at the time the China-tea complex was becoming widespread on the European scene. This helps explain why the French did so well in hybridizing.

There were four basic types of the China-tea complex:

The parents of these were wild predecessors of R. chinensis semperflorens and the subtropical R. gigantea. Through natural hybridization and mutation we came up with the four-near-species.

There are a number of mixtures between them. From these four came two groups, the garden Chinas and garden teas which reached Europe in the middle and late 18th Century.

The ever-blooming quality of the China-tea complex brought about a revolution in hybridizing.

All of these are diploid and when crossed with the old European roses (mostly tetraploid) the resulting triploids were mostly sterile and progress was slow.

The earliest red China, no great rose itself, small, semi-double blooms occassionally streaked with white, has left this imprint on almost every red HT of today. Notice how often an almost perfect Chrysler Imperial, Crimson Glory, Mirandy, Red Devil, or other red HT is marred by an outer petal or two with a white streak. Even Bon Bon, pink floribunda, a direct heritage from the ancient red China.

One of the red China parents, R. gigantea is a great climber (to 50 feet), from Burma and South China, pale yellow to white to pale pink.

The red Chinas reach five to six feet, slowly, have red hooked thorns, ovate shiny leaves, In the purer types the bloom is initially light pink or light red passing to dark crimson with exposure to sunlight, just opposite of the teas which fade, but slowly.

Pink Chinas grow faster than red Chinas: Red, one foot per year, pink, three feet per year and can reach six feet by six feet.

Pink has heavier greener wood and yellow thorns with larger and greener foliage than the red. The pink blooms are mostly single blooms while the red is usually in clusters of at least three.

Both have the habit of many basal breaks giving each bush the look of an inverted cone.

Representatives of the East India Companies of the English, French, and Dutch discovered the China-tea complex and were responsible for bringing them into Europe.

Two of the first varieties to reach Europe were Parsons Pink China (Old Blush) and Slaters Crimson China. Both ever-blooming and frost tender. Humes Blush Tea-scented China was an early tea.

The early teas with long pointed bud and high center (Grandma's old tea rose) was not aesthetically popular to the Europeans used to the full flat flower with crinkles and quartering. Richard Thomson says (OR for MG), "All roses are beautiful, but not all are fashionable at a given time."

The teas and Chinas were interbred extensively because they crossed between themselves readily and easier than with the old European roses. By 1840 there were hundreds of varieties of China-teas in southern France where the climate was ideal for them.

The first important contributions of the China-teas combining with the old European roses came about by chance hybridization: the Portlands from Italy and France, the Noisettes, originating in U.S. and the Bourbons from the island of the same name (now Reunion).

The Portlands were a chance cross between Gallica and a China. The first arrived in Italy in 1800 called Paestana. In France it was renamed Duchess of Portland and gave the Portland name to a class of roses. This was notable at the time because it was also fall blooming. The Portlands did not become significant in themselves but were part of the antecedants of the hybrid perpetuals Comte de Chambord, 1860, rich pink and Jacques Cartier, 1868, light pink, both still around, many more followed, popular for 50 years but eclipsed by the HP's.

Portland and R. damascena bifera, Rose du Roi, classed as a damask by ARS not really.

The Noisettes were the result of a cross between a pink China (Old Blush) and a musk (R. moschata). Some sources say the musk rose was the Persian species, nastarana. This was in the garden of John Champney in Charleston, South Carolina in 1802. One, Phillipe Noisette (also of Charleston) sent a seedling of this first cross Chapney's Pink Cluster to his brother, Louis, in France. This was crossed with Parkes Yellow Tea-scented China, around 1830, with a resulting number of hybrids (eventually reaching hundreds), mostly white and yellow with some pinks. These are all climbers or pillar roses, repeat blooming and frost tender which reach up to 40 feet.

Some of the better known varieties still around:

Blush Noisette, 1820, Aimee Vilbert 1828, Celine 1842, Chromatella 1843, Gloire de Dijon 1853, Marechal Niel 1864, Mme. Alfred Carriere 1879, and Rene d'Or 1869.

These were enormously popular and spread over the Western civilized world into Canada, United States, and were famous in the Southern United States.

The Bourbons originated in the French island of Bourbon (now Reunion) when pink Chinas and autumn damasks and were used as rows of hedges. The inevitable hybrids were sent to Paris where the Bourbon became the class for many hybrids between the old European roses and the China-tea complex. These got started around 1820.

The European hybridizers were very excited about this as the product combined the two basic types with best points of each: hardiness and an everblooming habit.

Some Bourbons still around are:

There were many other crosses between the old European roses and the China-tea complex which were vigorous but not everblooming. These were lumped together as hybrid Chinas.

We must remember that even though they were not often everblooming, some were very good roses. The people of this period had lots of rose varieties around that were annual blooming, like today.

There were not many of the hybrid Chinas around today though, some are:

Classed as Bourbon by ARS which does not recognize a hybrid China classification.

The importance of this class is their parentage of the HP's.

The hybrid perpetuals are given the date 1837 as a beginning. The class was established by Laffay of Auteuil, France.

He crossed hybrid Chinas (mostly non repeaters) with Portlands and Bourbons.

The hybrid Chinas were mostly sterile (triploids), but the few that were tetraploid were the parents of the first RP's. Laffay produced 20 HP's in five years. His first really good variety was Princess Helene (1837) and then a better one Rose de la Reine (1843), whose children include Anna de Diesback, Francis Michelon, and Paul Neyron (which still lays claim to the largest flower, seven-inch diameter, pink).

Another family of RP's were from Geant des Battailes (Giant of Battles), 1846, of crimson colors. General Jack (Jacqueminot) had a large family including Prince Camille de Rohan 1861, dark red.

Colors of HP's ranged from white through pink to red and purple, no yellow or orange colors. The forty years from 1840 to 1880 the HP was the rose. They are big in plant and bloom, average six feet, some more, are fragrant, need twice the room, food, and water of HT's. If you plant one make sure it has plenty of room.

With plenty of food and water and careful pruning, HP's will outperform HT's two to one.

Prune the preceding years canes to 3 feet, cut out older wood, after spring bloom is over, shorten bloom spurs to two eyes. Give plenty of food and water and the HP will burst into bloom again, not scattered flowers like HT's. Shorten spurs again and another burst. The French word remontant describes this, meaning blooming all at once. Of course the HP's here are affected by the summer heat like all roses so that the bloom burst is more puny than in cooler climates.

Toward 1890 the popularity of the HP's began to decline with the advent of the HT's. They are still hybridized.

HP examples popular today:

All Pinks


It is generally accepted that La France (1867) was the first HT.

However, in 1862, Francois Lacharme of Lyons introduced Victor Verdier. Most HP's are very thorny with rough foliage, compared to HT's. V. V. was almost thorniess and had smooth leaves and was a better repeater than most HP's. It was a little less hardy than HP's and had little fragrance. Sound familiar? Guesses were that one parent was one of the La Reine roses (Bourbon) and some hybrid China, which would make it HP.

In the American Rose Annual, 1931, E. Gurney Hill, a noted rosarian, wrote an article in which a letter from Lacharme, the French hybridist of V.V., to Hill revealed that the new types of HP, like V.V. were from the tea rose, Safrano. This would make V.V. the first of the race of HT's and the date 1862. The ARS goes along with La France and the date 1867 to set the date for introduction of the variety as eligibility for an old garden rose and for dowager queen.

Guillot who produced La France, stated it appeared in a bed of seedlings of unknown parents, but probably the tea (Mme. Bravey) and the HP (Mme. Victor Verdier) were the parents. The French immediately recognized it as something new and classified it as Rosa indica odorata hybrida, or hybrid tea. The English caught on in 1893 when the National Rose Society of Great Britain recognized it as HT. It was even later in Germany.

Henry Bennett in England in the early 1870's was apparently the first to do organized work with records of the hybrids of the tea rose. He came up with Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, a cross of Devoniensis (tea) and V.V. (HT or HP, whatever), this is probably the ancestor of up to 3/4 of our modern HT's. It was incidentally a tetraploid.

In summary to here: The mainstream China-tea complex and old European roses produced the Portlands, Bourbons, and hybrid China classes. Hybrid Chinas and Portlands and Bourbons = HP's. Teas and HP's=HT's.

Up through 1900 most HT's were shades of pink and blush. The Dickson firm in England came up with Liberty, 1900, a truly red HT one parent was General Jacqueminot.

The HT palette now contained whites with shades thru pink to red. There were some pale yellows and buffs derived from the yellow tea strain. These faded badly, were unstable and not convincingly yellow.

Joseph Pernet, a French hybridizer, started around 1880, to produce a real true yellow HT. He used the species, R. foetida persiana a semi-double butter yellow to cross with the HP's available. The results were triploid and sterile. However, with much patience (eight years) he finally got a few seeds from a cross of Persian yellow and the HP Antoine Duchess (a huge bright red). From these precious seeds in 1893 he came up with two varieties. One a pillar Rodophile Gravereaux was sterile and soon vanished. The other when crossed with an HP, in the second year when remontancy appeared, proved to be Soleil d'Or, and this tetraploid which smelled like orange juice was truly an orange yellow. It had a tendency to blackspot which was gradually bred out. The results were the pernetianas which changed the course of rose development. From these came all the yellows, oranges, yellow and orange blends of our modern HT's, grandifloras, floribundas, minis and climbers. Also the modern shades of lavendar, mauve, russet, and gray are the results of interaction between the purple toned HP's and the pernetiana colors.

Polyanthas and Floribundas

Curiously enough the parents of the polyantha type, R. multiflora japonica (a species from Japan, white, used for rootstock) and various R. chinensis species were produced in France not Asia.

Jean Sisley, 1862, came up with dwarf varieties of the type in white and pink booms in great clusters. Cecile Brunner (1880) and Perle d'Or (1893) are still popular.

Later, the Fairy, a soft pink from R. multiflora and a dwarf pink China, is still popular. Margo Koster is a salmon orange representative.

Around 1900 crosses were made between the polyanthas and HT's to produce so called hybrid polyanthas, the first floribundas.

Again there was the problem of the tetraploid HT's and diploid polyanthas resulting in mostly sterile triploids.

The Poulsen family in Denmark did most of the pioneer work in this line, starting around 1910. Else Poulsen (pink) and Kirsten Poulsen (red) are still popular.

The term floribunda was coined for the class in 1940. Today many are closer to HT in form and size.


There were natural miniature forms of many of the old European rose types: Gallicas, damasks, Albas, centifolias, even mosses. These were popular in the 1700's but lapsed after the introduction of the China-tea complex and the subsequent burst of hybridization.

Several of the China species are miniatures, note the Banksia. The R. chinensis minima arrived in Europe around 1800, and during the period 1820 to 1850 miniature hybridization was popular. The polyantha and hybrid tea development eclipsed the minis until around 1930.

The introduction of R. wichuriana (Japanese species), a climber when crossed has produced a series of climbing miniatures.


Most popular climbers today are sports of hybrid teas.

There are plenty of species and hybrid climbers and all were originally sports.