Prior to the development of the hybrid tea rose in 1867, the old garden roses held the coveted spot in gardens across the world. Most varieties have a heady, strong fragrance that easily fills the garden with sweet aromas. Numerous varieties of old garden rose varieties bloom only once in June, but others offer nearly constant repeat blooming through the season. Old garden roses are also referred to as "heirloom roses" and "heritage roses."
Classes of Old Garden Roses
The old garden roses are often classified into varieties. The major old garden varieties are mosses, gallicas, Chinas, damasks, albas, bourbons, centifolias, eglantines and boursaults. The various rose varieties flourished in gardens for hundreds of years. Many varieties grow as large shrubs but are not actual "shrub roses." Most can trace their history directly back to the wild shrub roses that grew across Europe and Asia. Many varieties offer single blooms, but others are very reminiscent of the hybrid tea roses' appearance.
Old garden roses prefer a soil pH of 6.5 that is well draining. The roses will not tolerate standing water around their root system. An abundant amount of organic matter aids in the growth of the roses. Add mulch around the roses to prevent weed growth, help water retention and add nutrients to the soil as the mulch decomposes.
Old garden roses often differ from newer rose types because they offer drought tolerance. Water roses abundantly each week until the rose is established. Roses require adequate soaking when watered to encourage deep and abundant root growth. Old garden roses are notorious for being slow to establish. They will often take three years to adjust to a location.
Old garden roses do not require the extreme pruning of many hybrids. A simple trim of the bush will often suffice. Most varieties can be cut back moderately after blooming. Winter pruning should only remove broken or dead canes. Spring pruning is also acceptable for repeat blooming old garden roses.
Old garden roses grow well in shrub form, bush form or as a hedge. A few climber varieties do well on trellises or arbors. Several varieties look ideal when left alone to grow to heights and shapes that they naturally lean toward.