Old Rose Garden in Miami, Florida...

A private collection of Old Garden Roses , located at a residence
 in South West Miami Florida.

In 1966, the American Rose Society defined old garden roses (OGR) as those types that existed prior to 1867,
the year of the introduction of the very first hybrid tea, ‘La France’.

In their introduction to their important paper entitled
Old Roses for South Florida, John McLaughling and Joseph Garofalo, University of Florida IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension Service  wrote:

"If you wish to have roses as part of your Miami-Dade landscape, and yearn to put away the spray can and grow plants that still retain most of their foliage throughout the summer, these roses are for you.  Many of the roses discussed below will grow into substantial shrubs (up to 8-10' in height and width) given the climate of South Florida, and once established are far more drought tolerant than modern roses.  They will flower prolifically throughout the year (particularly if deadheaded[1]), often with the most enticing fragrances, and if not offering the stunning color range of modern hybrid tea roses, display subtle variations in tints and shading.  Often the blooms are of more than one hue and can change with time and temperature on the same plant, giving these roses an elusive charm of their own.

            For landscapers they offer not only blooms with a color palette that can easily meld with other shrubs, but also frequent flushes of new foliage (often attractively wine colored when young) that eventually mature into leaves in shades ranging from lustrous dark greens to lighter apple green. They should be evaluated for South Florida locations where a hibiscus, oleander or large ixora might otherwise be considered. This brief guide to growing and propagating “heirloom”[2] roses for South Florida concentrates, for the most part, on Chinas, Teas, plus a few Noisette and Bourbon roses.

             All of these roses originated from crosses with Rosa chinensis, a rose that grows wild in Western China and has probably been in cultivation in China for more than a thousand years.  When R. chinensis (in the form of various sports) was brought to Western Europe at the end of the 18th century, it was the most significant event in the development of the rose.  The roses grown in Europe up till that time bloomed once, a few at most twice each year.  These introductions from China however, were repeat bloomers, and it is this trait that permitted rose breeders to develop the modern repeat blooming roses now so common in gardens throughout the world.

           The original species China rose (R. chinensis spontanea) is a large, slightly scandent[3], single flowered shrub, which grows wild in Western China.  From it arose the four main cultivated varieties that were first introduced into Western Europe (‘Slater’s Crimson’, ‘Old Blush[4], ‘Hume’s Blush Tea-scented China’ and ‘Park’s Yellow Tea-scented China’).  Of these only ‘Old Blush’ is now commonly grown, though all of them or their descendants have been used to develop a whole panoply of roses over the last two centuries.

            The Tea roses also originated in China and are considered to be crosses between R. chinensis and R. gigantea, and are referred to botanically as R. x odorata.  R. gigantea is, as its name suggests, a large plant (over 40') growing on the forested mountain slopes of Burma (Myanmar) and Southwest China, where it receives abundant summer monsoonal rains and plentiful sun.  Bearing in mind the climate in which the above species were first found, it is not surprising that Chinas, and especially Teas, did poorly when brought to Northern Europe.

            Two other groups of roses, the Bourbons and Noisettes, can perform well in the climate of South Florida.  The Bourbon roses arose from seed collected from a natural hybrid between a China (almost certainly ‘Old Blush’) and the pink autumn damask rose (R. damascena var. semperflorens) on the French island of Bourbon (now known as Reunion) in the Indian Ocean.  The Noisettes were originally developed in South Carolina using seed produced from Champney’s Pink Cluster, obtained by crossing ‘Old Blush’ with the musk rose, R. moschata.  To John Champney, the gardener and plantation owner who made the original cross, must be accorded the distinction of being the first gardener to introduce into a cultivated Western hemisphere rose the genetic propensity of the China roses’s for repeat blooming.  However, it was the roses raised from the seeds of this union by Philippe Noisette, a Charleston nursery owner, that produced the plants we now recognize as Noisette roses.

            It was, as mentioned above, the desirable traits they offered to rose breeders that secured the Teas and Chinas importance when crossed with old European roses.  As plants in their own right they found far greater success in the warmer Mediterranean areas of Europe, South Africa, Australasia and California and the American South.  It is worth drawing attention to the fact that many of these roses have been “rescued” from old home sites, church yards and cemeteries, and are therefore survivors, having been able to thrive over many decades without particular care.  There are groups active (for example in Texas and California) that scout rural parts for old, forgotten roses, and some of these are now commercially available.  The old European roses (e.g. Albas, Gallicas and Centifolias) do not perform well in South Florida.

            One group of old roses that is particularly well suited to South Florida are the so called Bermuda roses, which do well on the pervasive limestone rock that makes up the island’s land mass.  These roses are of uncertain parentage, but were probably originally brought to Bermuda from England and Europe, where subsequently their identity was lost.   They appear to be of China stock for the most part."

It was this document and the one entitled Old Roses as Specimen Shrubs in Miami-Dade, written by the same authors in 2004 that inspired us to undertake this project. 

We would also like to thank the leadership and membership of the Tropical Rose Society;   Curator of Plants  Peggy Cornett and Dennis Whetzel, manager of the nursery at The Center for Historic Plants at Jefferson´s - Monticello, VA. for supplying an invaluable selection of specimens from their collection of historical Old Garden Roses;  The Heritage Roses Group and its Director for the SE Region, Pam Greenewald for couselling and advising us since day one, and supplying us twenty four of our roses from her collection of Old Garden Roses from her Angel Gardens located at Alachua, Florida;  Prof. Malcolm Manners, Dean of the School of Citrus and Environmental Horticulture and Dewayne Hameline, Manager Greenhouse Operations at Florida Southern College for their technical assistance and for the donation of a selection of Bermuda Mystery Roses and Found Roses from their fabulous collection at their campus gardens at Lakeland, Florida; and the Heritage Rose Foundation for their inspiration.

This site and the garden are still "under construction".

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