Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Roses
by Peter Schneider
Rather than see their rose introductions disappear into a sea of hybrid teas, floribundas, and shrubs at the garden center, many nurseries and hybridizers are devising brand name identities for their creations. By linking them under a common theme and building consumer loyalty, growers hope to increase sales. The idea is not new. Early in the 20th century, Pernet-Ducher had his Pernetiana series of yellow hybrid teas, and in the 1930s, Horvath was introducing his collection of Pirate climbers. But today's gardeners are confronted with more series of branded roses than ever before. These can be divided into three primary groups: new roses on the old rose model, roses bred for specific climates, and roses for easy-care landscaping.
Today David Austin is a brand name and a registered trademark, but 20 years ago Austin was a nurseryman in the horticultural wilderness. His vision of repeat-blooming roses with the fragrance and full-petaled form of heritage roses was paid for with many years of hard work and slow sales. His best efforts--such as 'Heritage' and 'Mary Rose'--capture the grace of heritage roses extraordinarily well. With 130 Austin roses to choose from today, gardeners can match plant with place in almost any landscaping scheme.
The success of Austin's creations has prompted catch-up efforts from other hybridizing houses. While Austin went right back to the start, crossing true old garden roses such as gallicas and portlands with modern floribundas and climbers, some of his competitors appear to rely on roses that might have been viewed as accidents or rejects a generation ago. Seedlings that would have once been discarded for lacking high-centered hybrid tea form are now being named and introduced. In some cases their foliage, color, and habit all say "modern," and only their full, quartered blooms say "old." (Quartered refers to many-petaled blooms that open in four sections around a center "eye.")
Meilland's Romantica roses, named for French literary and cultural personalities, appear more like very full-petaled hybrid teas and floribundas than a group with close affinity to any of the heritage rose classes. The Romanticas are most notable for their strong, pure colors, usually standing up to heat better than other brands. Pink-and-white 'Honore de Balzac' has been indestructible in a part of my Ohio garden (USDA Hardiness Zone 5) that does not get regular attention. Like the Romanticas, most of Poulsen's Renaissance collection boasts glossy foliage. The real charm of this group is in their impressive sprays of large, full-petaled, often nodding blooms. Ivory 'Susan' is a particular favorite. As one would expect from roses bred in Denmark, the Renaissance collection has proved to be winter-hardy. The blooms are also reliably rainproof (blooms don't get spotted, and open even when wet), a boon to gardeners in coastal climates.
In the 19th century, the Guillot family of Lyon, France, created the first hybrid tea and the first polyantha roses. Today, their Generosa roses are the most old-fashioned-looking of the new-old roses, with full-petaled, fragrant blooms on graceful plants. Heights range from nearly dwarf (pink 'Marquise Spinola', reaching 2 feet in my garden) to almost rangy (cream 'Manuel Canovas', reaching 7 feet).