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In the 18th Century, rose bushes were very common in gardens. These roses were mainly “old roses” and often given as a gift during courtship.
Since the “old roses” were easy to tend, beautiful to admire and highly fragrant, most of these roses conveyed a symbolic gesture that wasn’t often spoken among 18th Century admirers.
“Old roses” are still mostly hardy shrubs that don’t take a lot of skill to tend, unless you are working toward a gardener’s professional level of perfection.
“Old roses” come from a category that is mostly hardy bushes or climbers that were highly popular in the Victorian age.
Most Victorian-age roses were first grown in Greece and Persia as far back as the 15th Century.
Today’s gardener still enjoys these immensely aromatic roses which grow well in several climate zones and don’t require the same level of attention as most hybrid roses.
The first step in selecting an “old rose” for your garden is to study each plant’s requirements and then design your garden plan accordingly.
“Old roses” sometimes grow as low shrubs for bed covers; others are bushy and work well as medium height hedges.
The climber “old roses” typically resemble a small bush at first and then start to climb along the sides of homes, fences or patios.
The right “old rose” for your garden area depends on several factors: sunlight, shading, drainage and insects.
Many “old roses” require at least five hours of sunlight each day. Some low mossy-like “old roses” need a lot of shade.
Since all roses require a lot of water – a minimum of 2 to 3 times every week during the summer – but don’t take well to standing water, great drainage is a must in the garden area. Insects and nearby debris – like leaves, rose petals and weeds – are often the main reason many roses look pretty ragged or mildew.
To prevent insect damage and disease, use great soil – like manure or organic fertilizer – and prune to remove deadhead or hold back some stems. Never leave “deadhead” (dead rose blooms) on the plant since this causes the bush to waste energy to that spot.
Did you know that the rose is the most popular garden plant and the tea rose is the most popular among the “old roses”? Other well-liked “old roses” are below, along with some common features:
Available as climbers or shrubs; conveys the meaning of “I’ll remember you always”; large variety of colors, from light pink to multi-color.
“Beauty ever new” describes these shrubs that are low to the ground and bear large, fragrant flowers that are traditionally deep red; roses sometimes found in clusters and color variations from white to deep pink.
Commonly a low bed shrub, but may be a climber like the Centrifolia moss rose; “mossy” attribute whereby handling the tiny rose leaves a trailing fragrant scent on your hand; generally deep crimson to light pink; conveys the message of “confession of love”.
To adhere to 18th Century traditions, “old roses” should be offered in bundle to convey the meaning of gratitude. Also, “old roses” are best presented if trimmed in full bloom. To read up on “old rose” varieties and growing tips, turn to the American Rose Society.
Article written by Simonetta Jensen. Reprinted with permission.
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