Old Garden Roses come into the garden with romance and history. Any roses that were known, observed and celebrated before 1867, when modern roses were introduced, are identified as Old Garden Roses. Old Garden Roses are also known as “teas” or “antique roses” and are some of the most beautiful, stunning and fragrant of all roses. With a color range of white, pink and red hues, most varieties of Old Garden Roses bloom only once a year near the beginning of summer. Many programs that grow English Roses regularly use genes from the conservative Old Garden Roses. Originally, many of the “teas” came from Asia and Europe though some did originate in the United States as well. Often if a rose is referred to as an “antique”, “old-fashion”, or “tea” rose it will have been an ancestor to an attractive hybrid that is now in the modern rose category.
Old Garden Roses are very hardy in cold climates and can withstand harsh weather. Old Garden Roses are strong versatile plants that need at least six hours of direct sunlight and should be grown in an open area so they have plenty of room to grow. Less than six hours of sun my produce plants that are spindly or twiggy looking with very few blooms. Plant your roses with well-composted soil and away from trees that will cast shade on them. Make sure that the soil is well drained and highly fertilized to provide the much needed nutrients. Though Old Garden Roses are cold hardy, their rootstock might not be. Gardners in cold climates should plant the old roses so that the bud union is 2-3 inches below ground to protect the tender growth point from freezing. In milder climates, plant grafted and own-root roses with their bud union at soil level. Remember that when growing old roses with own-roots they will produce long runners and form off-shoots across your garden. Depending on your garden, it might be better to plant grafted roses rather than the own-root varieties. Keep in mind also that while Old Garden Roses are hardy, and disease resistant, this does not mean they are disease proof especially in the warmer climates.
To minimize potential pest and disease problems that even old roses can have, the Cornell Cooperative Extension recommends using companion plantings in the rose garden with plantings from the Allium family. The Allium family consists of plants such as garlic, onion and chives. This will not only deter pest, but will help to intensify the natural and beautiful scent of your Old Garden Roses. Tomatos planted nearby will help prevent black spot. Marigolds will deter everything from aphids and nematodes to rabbits.
Opinion vary on the pruning of Old Garden Roses. At the very least, prune all dead wood and weak or “twiggy” growth and then prune the rose bush for shape. Old Garden Roses should be pruned right after they finish blooming in the spring, otherwise you will be removing some of next year’s spring bloom. If you have doubts about pruning, do nothing and your rose bush should be fine.
In the know: Roses love water! It’s the best fertilizer you can give them, so make sure they have at least an inch or two per week, especially in hot weather. Deep watering will encourage a healthy root system – shallow, frequeent watering encourages root growth to close to the ground surface. However you choose to deliver water to your roses, whether by garden hose or sophisticated watering system, damp foliage overnight may encourage fungal disease. Water early in the day to allow the foliage to dry.
About this Blog: Pam Helms of Heartworks Creative Studio is an environmental design professional, holding degrees in landscape architecture, environmental design, and geographic informational sciences.