History of the Rose

history of the rose

The Evolution of the Rose Flower

The history of the rose dates back to over forty million years. Travel through time, as I trace the roots of this well loved flower.

Rose Fossils date back to over forty million years. They were found on pieces of slate in Colorado.

The rose flower was said to have originated in Central Asia 60-70 million years ago. As long as 5 thousand years ago, early civilizations such as the Egyptians, Phoenicans, Chinese, Romans, and the Greeks loved and grew roses.

When researching the history of the rose, you will find that the oldest identifiable rose (Rosa gallica) once bloomed wild in western Asia, and southern and central Europe, and still grows there.

The early Greeks, Romans and Phoenicans, grew and traded roses. They brought the roses with them, through their travels and conquers, thus spreading roses throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The King of Macedonia (Alexander the Great) had his own rose garden, and was credited for the introduction of cultivated roses in Europe.

Increased trade with the Orient in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, brought about a revolution in rose breeding. The China Rose "Old Blush" was discovered, and had a huge impact in Europe. A rose with continual blooming ability was completely unknown in Europe at the time. Unlike the repeat blooming "Autum damask", they now had a rose that bloomed more than two brief flushes a season. Putting these roses together, laid the genetic foundation for almost all modern roses.

Unfortunately, they lacked the hardiness to cold tolerance.

The first American nursery was opened in Flushing, Long Island, in 1737, by Robert Prince. He advertised 1,600 varieties of roses. At the time, it was one of the largest collections in the world.

President Thomas Jefferson, ordered two roses "Common Moss" and "Rosa Mundi"

Another president George Washington, also grew roses.

More History of the Rose

One of the biggest contributors to the history of the rose was started in the 1800's.

Empress Josephine started a "rose renaissance". Her goal was to grow every known variety of rose in her Malmaison garden in France. She managed to collect 250 specimens in the 16 years of growing them. To help his wife, Napoleon, ordered his captains to bring home any new rose they found blooming on foreign shores.

Her garden consisted of mostly Gallicas roses, along with 22 Chinas, 9 Damasks, 27 centiflorias, 3 Mosses, 11 Species, 4 Spinosissimas, 8 Albas, 3 Foetidas, and 1 Musk.

Because of her wonderful gardens, France soon became a leading grower and exporter of rose plants. Rosa Rugosa came to the western world in the mid 1800's.

Rosa borboniana a Bourbon rose,was brought to France in 1817 from the island of Reunion, near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Because of its recurrent bloom, it quickly became one of the most popular roses of the nineteenth century.

It was one of the first wonderful combinations of European and Oriental roses. Pioneers crossing the United States during the gold rush, took with them a hybrid of rosa foetida called "Harisons Yellow" or "The Yellow Rose of Texas"

In 1837, the Hybrid Perpetual was introduced. This rose was extremely hardy, with large, fragrant flowers. It remained very popular, until the introduction of the Hybrid Tea.

It is unfortunate that most of the beautiful Hybrid Perpetual roses have been lost. From the time of Joesephine's gardens at Malaison through the assililation of roses from the Orient, only about fifty varieties of the more than three thousand that were hybridized, can be purchased today.

The newly created Hybrid tea rose began a new era in rose breeding, and changed the way we choose roses, playing a very important part in the history of the rose.

The end of the nineteenth century put many of the attributes of modern roses in place. ...except for the yellow to orange color range. Occasionally a yellow rose would appear, but the yellow color was a recessive trait that would always disappear under the dominant influence of pink.

After many years of trying, in 1900, A french hybridizer, Joseph Pernet-Ducher contributed to the history of the rose by creating a yellow color that would survive interbreeding to be a golden yellow. Because of these introductions, a new range of colors came along that had never been seen before. Colors such as gold, copper, apricot, and salmon.

Soon after the yellow hybrid teas came bi-colored flowers. Unfortunately, the first yellow rose created "Persian Yellow', and its fellow descendants, contributed not only their yellow color, but a susceptibility to a serious rose disease Black Spot.

Most of these early yellow roses were not very winter hardy, which is why most yellow roses today still are not very winter hardy.

In the late nineteenth century, it was discovered by nursery workers, that by grafting roses onto the roots of Rosa multiflora , they could be made to grow better. This practice of grafting roses onto hardier rootstock continues today, and is a very important factor in the history of the rose.

On May 21,1892, The National Rose Society was created in the United States. Its goals included stimulating and encouraging new rose varieties in America, to establish rose exhibitions, and to classify roses. Origionally only professional growers were allowed to join, but today, "The American Rose Society", as it is known today, boasts over 20 thousand members, of which, most are amateurs.

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