info-bar icon

Festival of Lights runs rain or shine each Fri, Sat, and Sun through Dec 19.
Don't miss out! Get your entry tickets now by purchasing online, CLICK HERE.

MCBG Logo

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

Introduction to Heritage Roses

Heritage roses, also called Heirloom roses, were grown in the gardens of Europe and Asia for many hundreds of years. Old roses were originally derived from wild roses, but it was the trade with Asia that brought a flood of important new rose species into Europe. These wild roses became the ancestors of practically every modern rose. When adventurers and travelers brought species together that would never have met naturally, it resulted in a lot of change such as hybridization.

Through the process of mutation, selection and crossing over, many beautiful old garden roses were born. However, it was the China rose, arriving around year 1789, that inspired the rose breeders, because it repeat-flowered. Rose breeders collected pollen and crossed species, leading to an explosion of the types of old roses, that we today call Heritage roses. Most Heritage roses flower only once a year, but when they do flower, they put so much energy into it, that it is a very spectacular show for several weeks each summer. Below are descriptions of some of the different types of heritage roses.

Gallica Roses: Gallica roses have become known as the finest of the Heritage roses. They flower once in summer with a long-lasting spectacular show of flowers that are usually pink, red or purple and have an intense fragrance. The plants generally have few thorns and very attractive dark green foliage. Damask Roses: These roses probably originated from Damascus, hence its name. There are two kinds of Damask roses, summer Damasks which flower only once in summer, and autumn Damasks, which were the only roses of their time to deliver a second flowering. Damask roses are intensely fragrant flowers and the colors are usually white, pink or red. Centifolia or Provence Roses: Centifolia roses, "one hundred petalled" roses, also referred to as "cabbage roses," were raised in the seventeenth century by Dutch hybridists. These heirloom old garden roses can be seen in the great Dutch flower paintings of that period. They flower for a brief period in the summer. Packed with soft petals, Centifolias are very beautiful and considered to be the most intensely fragrant of all roses and are still cultivated in Provence for their perfume. Moss Roses: The Moss roses are really aberrant Centifolia roses, and appeared in the mid-seventeenth century. They produce a moss like growth on their flower stems, sepals and buds. The flowers are fragrant and mostly once-blooming. Alba Roses: Alba is the Latin word for white. These roses date back to ancient Rome and the artists of the Renaissance loved to paint them. Also known as the "white roses," the Albas make elegant once-flowering shrubs. The flowers are generally white or very pale pink against blue-green leaves. These heirloom old garden roses tend to be tall, strong and long-lived and are very disease resistant and cold hardy. China Roses: In China and East Asia, this significant group of roses had developed in total isolation from the rest of the world. They flowered repeatedly throughout summer and autumn, not just in summer, like the rest of the roses in other parts of the world. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, four kinds in particular were brought to Europe, which resulted in the creation of the modern garden roses. Old Tea Roses: Tea roses were developed from two tea-scented China roses. A whole new repeat-flowering group of roses called Tea roses was introduced with beautiful and graceful blooms. They were grown mainly in France at first, since they are somewhat tender and unsuited to colder climates because of their ancestry. The name Tea comes from the fact that roses were transported to Europe along with cargoes of tea by the ships of the East India Company. The flowers are in the light yellow, pink or white range and their canes are almost thornless. Tea roses, for the most part, resent hard pruning and it's better to just remove dead, spindly and criss-crossed wood, do frequent deadheading and prune lightly to shape. Bourbon Roses: The Bourbon roses were the first repeat-flowering roses to be created from the Chinas. This cross occurred initially on the island of 'Ile de Bourbon' in The Indian Ocean, hence the name of the group. Bourbon roses are vigorous plants with charming fragrant blooms that keep on blooming all summer long if you remove spent blooms and fertilize frequently. Many Bourbons are inclined to climb but can be kept as bushes with some sort of support. Hybrid Perpetual Roses: This repeat-flowering group was the result of hybridization and selection, mainly in the open field cultivation. Hybrid Perpetuals were the dominant class of roses in Victorian England, and they bear a close resemblance to Bourbons, from which they were derived. The fragrant flowers are usually pink or red (sometimes white) and bloom from spring through fall. Noisette Roses: This group of repeat-flowering Climbers was developed by Philippe Noisette of Charleston, South Carolina. He introduced them in France when he moved there in 1817. Noisettes are large, climbing plants with clusters of fragrant flowers in colors of yellow, creamy white, ivory creamy apricot, creamy pink; many are intensely fragrant. Noisettes thrive in sunny and warm climates, and are very popular in the southeastern part of United States.