rose

Old Garden Roses for Central Florida

Did you know the very first roses grew as wild plants? Called “species roses”, they had simple flowers with four to eight petals and lots of thorns. They were very vigorous and disease resistant, but unlike the roses we usually see in Florida gardens, they only bloomed once a year. European breeders started with these simple wild roses and created beautiful varieties with many petals and cupped blossoms. But it wasn’t until explorers brought back treasures from China – including reblooming China and Tea roses – that Europe got to enjoy blooms year round. Breeders immediately started crossing these loosely petalled but prolific bushes with classic European fairy tale rose forms. These new varieties sought to combine the benefits of species roses, including disease resistance, with the repeat bloom and complex forms and fragrances desired by gardeners.

Now called “Old Garden Roses” or OGRs, these historic beauties are generally defined as any rose class bred before 1867. That’s the year that Hybrid Teas exploded onto the rose scene, standardizing the bloom form on the classic (some say boring!) stiff-stemmed rose bud we think of today. OGRs include every color from pure white to orange to deep purple red, and petals range from a ring of five up to a hundred in in one huge, nodding bloom. Today, breeders are finally going back to the old romantic forms, and these modern OGR mimics are termed “Shrub” roses.

IFAS conducted a multi-year study to find the easiest to grow roses for Florida, and unsurprisingly, many of the winners are OGRs. Their species rose inheritance helps them outgrow pests and disease, and they’ve already stood the test of time. They don’t require the spraying, heavy pruning and constant care needed by their modern cousins – they ask only for full sun, water and fertilizer. Here are some recommendations for Central Florida:

  • “Mrs B. R. Cant” – This rose was named the best rose for Central Florida by the IFAS study. She’s big – at least 8 feet wide and tall – with huge pink blooms and a scent like Earl Grey tea. Her strong, upright canes make her a good vase rose. She is one of the few roses with high resistance to chili thrips.
  • “Louis Philippe” – Also known as the “Florida Cracker Rose”, he can be found in many old homesites and cemeteries. Like Mrs. B. R. Cant, he grows to 8 feet wide, but has twiggy stems and a lower profile. His crimson blooms are smaller but numerous.
  • “Duchesse De Brabant” – A upright 4 foot wide by 5 foot high bush, she has nodding light pink blooms. Legend says Teddy Roosevelt always wore a bud as a boutonniere.
  • Bermuda Mystery Roses – This class of roses is made up of varieties which have survived for a hundred years or more in the heat and humidity of Bermuda. Often their European names have been lost to time, but research is now linking them with their pasts. “Spice”, which is now known to have been one of the four “stud” Chinas brought to Europe, was a star performer in the IFAS study and is a compact 4 foot wide bush. “Smith’s White Parish” also performed well.

Mrs. B. R. Cant
This blog post was written by UF IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener, Mary Ann Pigora, class of 2017. The UF IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers play a crucial role in the outreach of UF IFAS Extension.

For more information on the IFAS study, please visit http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/roses-for-florida.html and http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/mastergardener/webinars/rose-series/presentation_low_maintenance_roses_selection.pdf