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History of the Rose



Roses that existed prior to 1867 are officially known as 'old roses', and those after that date are classified as 'modern.' Old garden roses are divided into two groups. The first group consists of the pre-Chinas, which are the gallicas, damasks, albas, centifolias, and moss roses.


The second group consists of the repeat bloomers known as 'modern'. Fossil evidence indicates that roses have existed for about 30 million years.

Throughout history, roses were sought after for medicinal reasons. They have symbolized success and were used as badges during the famous War of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. Their petals were used to make garlands and adorn banquets. They were painted for their beauty in collections of oil and still-life paintings, as well as used in stained glass windows in medieval churches. Wealthy Romans bathed in rose water and created greenhouses so they could always have access to the rose. Later, the monks in monasteries continued to cultivate the rose for medicinal purposes, perfumes, and even communion wine.

Around 1800, Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, established a large collection of more than 250 varieties of roses in her gardens in Malmaison, France. She commissioned nurserymen to collect and breed roses and had the French painter Redouté paint them. Later, China roses were brought to America around 1781 by the captain of the British East India Company. Soon the teas arrived and crosses between Chinas, Teas, Damasks, and later Musks and Chinas, began a line of new roses that is carried on today in our gardens. With the introduction of the first modern hybrid tea, 'La France' in 1867, the modern rose was born. For many of us, the simplicity, elegance, and deep-rooted history of the old garden rose continue to delight and charm our gardens as they have for so many years.

History of the Rose

Empress Josephine 

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Old Garden


Pre 1867

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