Roses are particularly important shrubs because of their amazing flowers and their range and versatility. At first the choice may seem overwhelming, but roses can be divided into fairly distinctive groups and, unless you are going to specialize, there is a reasonably small selection to suit most tastes and requirements.
– Species roses are wild roses and can easily be recognized in catalogues as they only have Latin names. They have not been interbred and are the ancestors of most ramblers. Many can be rampant, they flower once with small highly scented flowers, and later develop attractive hips.
– Old roses tend to be highly regarded in the rose world. They have romantic names and many date back to Ancient Greece and Rome. They are mostly fairly large shrubs (1.5-2 m/5-7 ft) and usually flower once in midsummer. Flower shapes, color, toughness, fragrance and a short but spectacular display are the reasons for choosing these roses. The main shrub groups are Alba, Bourbon, Centifolia, China, Damask, Gallica, Moss and Sweet Briar. Boursault, Noisette and Tea are climbers.
– Modern roses include large-flowered or hybrid tea, cluster-flowered or floribunda, many miniatures and shrubs. Most were developed in the twentieth century and are often looked down on as many lost the charm and fragrance of old roses in order to achieve reliable repeat flowering.
– English roses have been developed from the 1970s onwards by David Austin in England, and new varieties are being added all the time. The best ones have the scent and flower shape of old roses but repeat reliably, are tough and come in a greater range of colors. In most cases these are the roses to choose.
– Climbing roses cross all the earlier classifications. They have fairly stiff stems and large flowers, some of which are scented and most of which repeat well.
– Rambler roses have more flexible stems than climbers and bear a large number of little flowers in clusters in midsummer. The display only lasts a few weeks but can be amazing. Ramblers do best where they can drape over something such as a tree or building. Although they do not repeat, the flowers are usually very fragrant. Be careful to choose the right size, some such as ‘Wedding Day’ are very large and can reach 9 m/30 ft.
How to Choose the Best Roses
All roses have good points but few can combine everything so you need to choose which features are important to you.
– Size – roses range from low ground-cover plants and tiny patio specimens to climbers which will cover a house.
– Flowering – some roses flower once in midsummer; others flower in midsummer and again in autumn; and a third group flower continuously from midsummer right through until autumn or even winter as long as they are regularly deadheaded.
– Scent – not all roses are scented; if you want a long flowering period you may lose fragrance.
– Hips – some roses have amazing hips which give added interest through the winter.
– Flower shape – single flowers have eight or less petals, are usually fairly flat and delicate looking. Doubles can have up to 40 petals and are much rounder. There is a wide range of semi-doubles in between in varying shapes.