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Mixing the Old Roses with the New

For many years hybrid teas and floribundas were the most popular types of roses, but in recent years old roses are making a revival. What constitutes an 'Old Rose'? Strictly speaking old roses are those which were in cultivation before 1867 when La France (the first hybrid tea) was produced. No doubt the charm of old roses will always be there, and the nostalgia factor always plays a big part, but a new group of roses that look like old roses have undoubtedly re-kindled the interest in the old rose. The new group raised by David Austin in Shropshire and first introduced in 1961, are the result of crossing gallicas, damasks and centifolias among themselves, and with hybrid teas and floribundas.

The crosses have produced roses with the flower form and perfume of the old roses, with the added bonus of a repeat flowering habit throughout the season. David Austin has called his new group 'English Roses' and what a success they have been. They are now grown and sold around the world and have become an established and firm favourite with many rose enthusiasts. The group now contain over 100 varieties with a wide range of colours and perfumes. Every year he introduces a few more new varieties onto the market which are eagerly awaited by English Rose fans. Our own favourites are 'Graham Thomas' the best known of the group, and named after the late Mr Graham Thomas who was one of the most influential rosarians of our time. A big strong vigorous bush with masses of cupped shaped blooms of rich yellow which flower almost continually throughout the summer months and well into the autumn, and as with most of the group the perfume is delightful. 'Gertrude Jekyll' is another we have fallen in love with.

A tall upright bush with an abundance of rich pink blooms plus a lovely Old Rose fragrance. This lovely rose was named after Gertrude Jekyll the famous writer and garden designer and was voted the nation's favourite rose by BBC viewers in 2006. Although both roses are regarded as shrubs they can be also grown successfully as short climbers.

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Graham Thomas

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Gertrude Jekyll

The Future Of Roses

The popularity of roses dipped markedly in the 1950s and 60s and very few new roses were bred. The interest was rekindled in the 1980s and there has been a steady rise in the new roses launched each year. The popularity of the rose has reached an all time high in the last few years with dozens of new roses being bred. Breeders around the world have put all their efforts into improving the health of roses in recent years and seem to be winning the battle. Many of the new introductions are now stronger and healthier than ever before, and who knows, we may just see the end of the black spot problem in the next few years, plus the introduction of a 'Royal Blue Rose'.

The future is definitely looking rosy.


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