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You Can Grow Roses – By Pam Greenwald of Angel Gardens

Old Garden Roses vs Hybrid Tea Roses

Pam Greenwald

Pam Greenwald  grows roses at Angel Garden’s new location north of Alachua, Florida. Visits to the nursery are by appointment only. Group tours welcome. Classes offered. Call 352-359-1133 or visit for more info.

When I tell people that I grow roses, most will respond, “I can’t grow roses. They always die.” Many do not understand the huge difference between the well-known  modern hybrid tea rose and the less understood antique or “Old Garden Rose, which has enjoyed a comeback in the last 10 years.

The heirloom rose is the ultimate flowering shrub, most blooming throughout the year.  Each one is uniquely individual with “his” or “her” history carried through time with each new cutting.Every bush is a clone of the original bush which may have graced the gardens of historic icons such as Josephine Bonaparte and Louis Philippe.

Technically speaking, modern roses were propogated after 1867 when the first Hybrid Tea was introduced as a cross between the hardy, vigorous Hybrid Perpetual and the tender, perpetually flowering, elegant Tea Rose. This change created a more upright bush with a very large bloom, beautiful bud form, unusual colors, and high placement on a long stem. As more crosses were made between the modern roses, breeding for form and size sacrificed disease-resistance and fragrance. Hybrid Teas are indeed the perfect choice for exhibitors who love to pamper and parade their roses like beauty queens. Countless hours are spent sprayng toxic chemicals in order to show the “perfect” specimen. However, most people who love their gardens do not have this kind of time to give their plants.

The Texas Rose Rustlers, a group noted for saving many varieties of Heritage roses from extinction, like to say, “If dead people can grow them, anyone can!” This is because so many of them have survived in cemetaries for more than 100 years with little or no care, not to mention the ones found around “Grandma’s house.” Their historic interest, color, fragrance and form make old roses as essential to gardens today as those of centuries past. These roses, including many modern shrub and climbing roses, thrive even in our humid Florida landscape with good simple organic husbandry and love.

That said, all roses are divided into classes depending on their ancestry and habits of growth. Some types, such as the Alba, Gallicas and Portlands are better left to dryer, cooler regions of the country. We in Florida are blessed with a climate which easily supports the Chinas, Teas, Noisettes and assorted shrubs called OGR (Old Garden Roses). They are the perfect companions to annuals, perennials, herbs.

The scent of Old Roses brings back memories of times past when life was slower and we seemed to have the time to stop and smell them. The more I have, the more I want, as each one is unique and special in its own way. I invite you to try these old fashioned roses before you turn up your nose again.