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Plants of England's Gardens--roses

Updated on August 8, 2015


Here we review the flowering plants that have long been established as firm favourites in the gardens of England. Their popularity , is of course, shared in the gardens of many other countries of the world.

Roses have always played an important part of enhancing the gardens of stately homes-'rose gardens' and of Estates, but also cottage gardens. The late Princess Diana was often described as an ' English Rose' so this is an apt place to start the series of articles which review the 'Plants of the English garden'.

Orange flowers of a cultivated rose


History of the Rose

The rose as a cultivated plant goes way back in history. For example among the ancient Greeks and Romans it was regarded highly, and the stories of Nero and Heliogabalus causing rose petals to showered down upon the guests at banquets are well documented. The rose of classical times is believed to be a rose of the orient,Rosa centifolia, the specific name of which means 'hundred leaves'.

It is also the rose of the poets who have praised its charms since poets put pen to parchment. However, here in the UK, it is though that our own poets were alluding to native ' big double roses' improved slightly by cultivation. Rosa centifolia contributes largely to the supply of'attar of roses', and has furnished our gardens with an enormous variety and hybrids during the 300+ years in which they have grown here.

From R.centifolia have evolved the Pompone roses, the Moss roses and the Painter's rose, and, in days gone by they were held in great esteem in English gardens, until the introduction of the perpetual flowering species. Since then they have become somewhat neglected. Equally neglected at that time was the Damascus rose R.damascena and the Provence roses,R.gallica var provincialis, which had also been cultivated for over three hundred years by the 1800s.

The musk rose R.moschata was important in the production of perfumes. it was native to the regions from the shores of the Mediterranean to India. It was supposed to have been introduced from north Africa in 1590.

One of the oldest forms in our gardens is R.alba, -the 'old white rose'. it was not an introduced species but of native origin believed to have been produced by crossing R.canina {the wild dog rose} with R, gallica. it has been cultivated since 1597 and has produced a plethora of varieties. In 1629 the first climbing rose R.Sempervirens with clusters of fragrant white flowers was introduced from southern Europe.

During the 1800s the American species became into prominence some of them being equal in beauty to the best of the 'old world' species as for instance R.setigera. R. lucida. R. blanda and R. wichuriana. During the 1800s about a dozen species were cultivated in English gardens. They were distinguished from the general roses by their smooth long stems bearing few spines and their vigorous habits.

American horticulturist of that time raised some valuable hybrids by crossing the American garden roses with each other. R.laevigata, really a native from China was naturalized in America, where it was known as the Cherokee rose.

Rosa centifolia var muscosa

{1896-1897} | Source

Rosa acularis

3.0 Unported License.
3.0 Unported License. | Source

A glimpse at the species

Rosa acularis-- acularis means needle like and alludes to the thorns.

The stems attain the height of eight feet and have erect branches clothed with needle like prickles and thorns. The leaves are glaucous; leaflets oval, slightly wrinkled, with saw-like teeth. The leaflets number seven.

The flowers are solitary and fragrant and appear in June. The sepals are hairy, longer than the spreading, pale,blush petals. Fruit {hip} is egg shaped Pale orange in colour. It is a native of Siberia and was introduced into the UK in 1805.

Rosa centifolia var muscosa------------------

This species has now attained several other variety names such as R.'common moss' and R.'old pink moss' . it is a vigorous, lax, moss rose growing to the height of five feet with a spread of four feet. {illustrated above}.

The flowers are rounded to cupped shape, fully double, mossed pink flowers up to three inches across that are produced in summer. The leaves are matt, dull green. They are best grown on support. the old variety parviflora had small, double flowers and was the progenitor of the pompom roses.

Rosa damascena {the Damascus rose were open shrubs with usually fragrant, semi to fully double flowers, borne singly or in clusters of five to seven, mainly flowering in the summer. Stems two to four feet clothed with unequal broad based prickles. The leaflets five to seven, egg shaped and stiff.

The flowers large, white or red, fragrant. Calyx and stalk covered with viscid, glandular hairs. The sepals turned back. They bloom in June and July. The fruit {hip} is egg shaped and soft.

Rosa indica, the China or Monthly rose.the stems vary from four to twenty feet, the stout branches armed with hooked thorns, the foliage is smooth and shining. the leaflets which number three to five, are dark green above and glaucos beneath, elliptical, with roundish, saw like teeth. the leaf stalk is prickly.

The flowers are semi-double, red, profuse. The petals are heart shaped and concave. the fruit is egg -shaped, scarlet. This species flowers throughout most of the year. it is a native of China and introduced to England in 1789.

The Bourbon, Noisette, Bengal and Tea roses all owe their existence in part,or wholly to this species.

Monthly or China Rose


Austrian Briar or Eglantine Rosea lutea

The Austrian briar or Eglantine have stems with erect branches and straight prickles growing to the height of three feet. The leaflets number five to nine, egg shaped with a tendency to roundness, deeply toothed along the margins, dark and shiny above downy and glandular beneath.

The flowers are large, cup -shaped;yellow. The calyx tube is hemispherical, or globular and smooth. Petals are heart shaped. They bloom from June.the scent does not seem to be as pleasant as that of other roses in truth. The varieties are not numerous, the variety R. lutea punicea is a variety that has scarlet petals within and yellow without and purple stigmas. It is sometimes called the Caphucin briar. There is also a variety called 'flore peno {Persian yellow} with double flowers and a variety called 'harrisoni' also with double yellow flowers.

Modern day--- Rosa eglantaria [R.rubiginosa} is a vigorous arching species with thorny spines. It has a distinctive apple scented foliage. It bears cup shaped single pink flowers about one inch across, in mid summer. they produce their red hips in autumn. they attain the height of eight feet or more.

Rosa lutea var punicea


Rosa regusa {Wrinkled rose}

Rosa regusa, the specific name means wrinkled, has stems branched and slender. It attains the height of four feet + and is densely armed with straight very sharp prickles. The leaflets number five to nine and are oval, wrinkled and toothed.

The flowers are large and solitary, the petals are notched and of a red colour and appear in June. The sepals are long and slender, hairy and turned back. the fruit is large globular and from orange to deep red. they are somewhat flattened. the sepals remain attached to the plant. it is a native to Japan and is often referred to {here in the UK} as the Japanese rose. It was introduced to England in 1845.

The fruit {hip} of the Rosa regusa is exceptionally large


Rosa regusa


Cultivation issues

Propagation may be procured by various means as for an example from cuttings, suckers, layering, grafting and by seed. However, all these methods are not applicable to every class of rose.

Seeds, of roses in this country are usually worthless as means of propagation, except where cross pollination has occurred with a view to producing hybrids. this can only be of use in certain cases and is best left to rose producers.

By far the best method of propagation for the layperson, is by means of cuttings. These may be taken at any time of the year except the cold winter months. The summer is the best time to under take this operation, even better than spring, as they can be cut from part ripened new growth. In the Autumn cuttings can be taken from perfectly mature wood. They should be about a foot long or slightly less, and, if taken in the spring they should preferably have some of last years growth attached to the base. care should be taken not to damage the 'eyes'.

Cuttings of Hybrid perpetuals and other hardy sorts may be struck outdoors, but those of the tender sorts, such as Tea scented, must be inserted in pots of sand y soil indoors. For outdoor treatment a bed should be well dug and the cuttings stuck in to half their length, a foot or more apart, and the ground well trodden around each.

Patience must be exercised in regard to them, for the parts above the ground may well wither and die , and yet new shoots may come later from buried 'eyes'. They should be allowed to remain undisturbed for a year, by which time they should be well rooted young plants, that may then be moved to their permanent positions.

Tender roses are best struck in pots during autumn months and kept under glass. If the business is unavoidably postponed until late autumn the pots containing them must be in a cold frame.

I have successfully raised roses by simply sticking the cuttings into the ground, particularly cuttings of the vigorous rambling roses. Dividing the roots [as you would with herbaceous perennials] is another possible way of creating a new bush, but again this is not commonly practiced as a certain level of skill is required to make sure you get an equal amount of root fibers to each divided portion.

Images of old species and some modern varieties

This is another old variety
This is another old variety | Source

Rose bud and rain drops


Rose--Hybrid 'general jacqueminot


Rose-' Baroness Rothschild'

Rose ' Amber flush'

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. 2.5,2.0,1.0 generic licences
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. 2.5,2.0,1.0 generic licences | Source

Rose hybrid 'Mrs Herbert Stevens'


Rosa gallica 'Tuscany Superb'

3.o Unported License
3.o Unported License | Source

Thank you

Thank you for visiting this the first in a series looking at the plants of England's gardens. I hope you have enjoyed your visit.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi DDE, roses are indeed beautiful in any aspect but especially so in gardens such as your own. They respond beautifully to tender loving care, as you will surely know. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I like roses, and have a red rose in new garden they are such magnificent and makes the garden look so beautiful too.


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