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All About Roses

Gardening is stuffed full with lore, old wives' tales, call it what you like. As its ‘rose season’ here are some titbits on the world’s most popular flower


We know that the Greeks and Romans grew them for both outside and inside decoration. Sadly we don’t know what varieties they grew. The Arabs kept the tradition alive during the Middle Ages and the Crusaders brought them back here, including the Rosa gallica 'Officinalis (still available) in the 13th century which became a parent of so many modern roses.

Rosa gallica 'Versicolour' known as Rosa mundi has curious markings with pink and white stripes. It dates back to the 16th century and is one of the oldest roses in regular cultivation.

Moss roses have a curious moss-like growth on the outside of the buds (calyx) with the first being found in 1720. A good example still available today is called 'Cristata' but there are many others, most are perfumed.

In spite of reams being written on how and when to prune, recent research shows that if you hack back tea and other bush roses with a chain saw at a convenient height the roses will flourish just as well.

Roses were at one time grown for medicinal and culinary reasons as well as for their floral qualities. In the 16th century John Gerard, for example used distilled water of roses for ‘strengthening the heart and refreshing the spirit’. It was put into cakes, sauces and many other dishes to give a delectable taste.

Bourbon roses originate not in Europe as one might expect but from Madagascar where the first was discovered in 1817, when a botanist found a cross between introduced china roses and a damask rose. This was in the capital Ile de Bourbon, now Reunion. Seed was sent to Paris and a new group of roses developed and, along with it, the perfume industry. Examples: Zephirine Drouhin, Louise Oldier

The introduction of repeat-rose species from China in 1792 onward allowed the creation of perpetually-flowering and repeat flowering cultivars. They were introduced to France which has always been the centre of the rose world.

The Dog rose or R. canina (the common rose of the hedgerows) is so called because dog was always used to refer to plants that had no medicinal or culinary value, implying that they were only fit for dogs. It is rarely seen in gardens as such but millions of dog roses are sold each year as the root stock of most garden varieties.

Articles reprinted with permission from Greenfingers.com



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