With so many modern varieties around what’s the appeal of an old fashioned rose bush? How about romance, scent, nostalgia and sheer old-fashioned joy?
We all know that modern roses are easier to grow, kinder on the pocket and less tricky and troubling than their old fashioned counterparts but really, is there any substitute for an old fashioned rose sending its heady perfume into the evening as day slips to dusk. You won’t be able to resist burying your face in its scent making it worth the extra trouble you may have to go to in getting the plant established and growing healthily in your garden in the first place.
The rose, of course, has long held and special and often symbolic place in the hearts of us all – not just gardeners. Fossil records date wild roses back 35 million years – before humans – and of course, in modern times they have come to be used a symbols of love, beauty, war and even politics. Roses also played a key role in the distinctive Cottage Garden style of garden design which has its origins in English gardens and which combined what appears to be a jumbled together and informal growing of edible plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables in the small spaces surrounding the front and back of the tiny cottages where workers who served the big estates lived and fed their own families.
Today, the modern hybrid tea rose can appeal gangly and even somewhat spartan compared with the exuberant sprawl of an old-fashioned shrub or climbing rose with its single or double and heavily scented blooms. One of the most fragrant of the old fashioned roses is the Damask rose, which is still grown in Europe to deliver scent to perfumes. These roses can grow up to 6ft tall and work well gently arched over a pergola or canes to make a stunning vertical in a cottage or more formal garden design.
With thousands of rose types to choose from, we are literally spoilt for choice but if you want to start with a plant that will reward you with vigorous growth, fantastic scent and a flowers to cut and bring indoors in summer then here are three of our own favourite old-fashioned roses which are still sold today and which will, we promise, bring untold beauty – and scent – to your garden, year after year. Just be careful you don’t get hooked and find yourself digging up the borders to devote to rose growing.
Old Blush (China) – could a name hint at more? Treasured by gardeners for its long flowering season (from early summer to late autumn) you can look forward to silvery blush pink, small pleasantly scented flowers that grow in clusters to brighten any corner of your cottage garden border.
Madam Hardy – a Damask rose and strong grower that can reach up to 2m in height this plant offers lush green leaves surrounding the purest of white roses flowers. Bury your nose in these for a soft lemony fragrance that will haunt you through the rest of your gardening life.
Rosa rugosa – this is a gorgeous, old-fashioned wild rose that is immune to disease, throws out scent like it’s going out of fashion and flowers repeatedly. Makes a great hedge and you can even use the petals in your cooking to make a stunning scented rose sorbet or even Rose petal shortbread biscuits!
Rosses are truly a bloom for all reasons.
Hope in Elizabeth – by Kathleen Norris
‘From the train
it’s a city of roses
and rose keepers,
bald men in spectacles
and torn shirts.
There are miles of roses
in Elizabeth, New Jersey,
shadowed by refineries
and the turnpike,
jungles of scrap,
still brown water, and poisoned marsh.
None of this matters
to the rose keepers of Elizabeth.
From the backyards of row houses
they bring forth pink roses, yellow roses
and around a house on its own
green plot, a hedge of roses, in red and white.
Surely faith and charity
are fine, but the greatest of these