Gardening Blog

Gardening Blog: Rose Terms

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In discussing Rose terms, I will try to be generic as possible. Specific information for your region, or even local area can be found at your garden centre or local rose society or horticultural club. I will also discuss the most common roses that you are likely to encounter in your area. It can’t be said too often, finding a local rose nursery would be the best of all possible worlds. There you will get specific information, guidance in what to purchase and growing tips gleaned from growing your roses in local conditions.


Height is usually to the top of the plant, or the flower canes in Hybrid “Ts”. The catalog will say something like ‘grows to 4’. It’s presumed that the foot print will have a diameter of approximately two feet around unless it’s specifically pointed out in the description to be larger.

Single Flowers indicate a single layer of petals around a central bolus. Since Roses and Apples are of the same family, saying a single rose resembles an apple blossom on a grand scale is not misleading. Of course the rose petals come in all colours. Single roses are most likely to be older species, fragrant and also the type most likely to make rose hips for tea, jelly and to contain a great deal of vitamin C. Rose growers pass through stages in their career; at the beginning they seem to love the extravagance and riotous colour of extremely double flowers, but age brings restraint and most people I know still growing roses now honour the simplicity, quiet perfection of colour and fragrance of single roses, in the greater part of their rose beds.

Double Flowers start with two overlapping layers of petals and can continue up to extremely double which indicates a flower that bears more in common with a Kleenex pompom than a rose. The centre is obscured, the petals fight for position and except for the first day of bloom, look progressively dirtier and more untidy, until they fall in a heap on the ground. I would suggest that you start with a few singles, double and extremely double plants and see what you like before investing in any more plants.

Fragrance is often indicated by 'f' for slightly fragrant, 'ff' for fragrant and 'fff' for extremely fragrant. Now this is an interesting situation, fragrance; older roses, (Damask, Rugosa) are pretty much guaranteed to be fragrant, Hybrid ‘Ts’ can fall in all three categories, but flower shop ‘Ts' which can be identified as a single long stem with a single flower on top almost never are. To create the long stem and single blossom seems to have eliminated the gene responsible for fragrance in most specimens. In fact florists have Rose fragrance in spray tins to make up for this deficiency. Most hybrid ‘Ts' bloom in two stages: first come the canes with multiple flowers, then secondary blooms become partly isolated on single canes until the end of the season brings only single flowers on single stems. I’d put the fragrance, colour and freshness of garden picked flowers up against a florist’s single stems from Peru any day. The choice is up to you.

Flowering as in frequency – and in this aspect there’s truly a rose for every need. Single roses tend to bloom once a season, with secondary blushes of blooms later on, based on light, moisture and the nutrient content of the soil. Some don’t bloom again regardless of conditions, some set new flowers until the frost. It is crucial that you quiz the staff where you buy your roses as to exactly the flowering habit and if possible see them in the growers' gardens. Hybrid ‘T’s' in addition to their suitability for cut flowers bloom almost continuously.

Disease resistance: There have always been some roses that are able to protect themselves against some common rose diseases like black spot, mildew and rust, but advances have been made in this area as well. Again, ask for guidance and read the catalog carefully. Depending on your available time having a bed of resistant plants could be a Godsend.
Tags: roses
Gardening and Plants