Roses are probably the most popular of all flowers. Their history goes back to ancient times, with records as far back as 5000 years ago in Sumeria. Modern roses have a long and complicated history, and their origins may never be fully known. They have inherited characters from wild species which evolved in relative isolation on different continents of the Northern Hemisphere. These wild species were gradually brought together as a result of numerous exploring expeditions, the Crusades and more recent collecting trips. When bred together they produced hybrids with new combinations of characters. The old-fashioned roses still remain popular and new varieties are being developed which combine their best attributes with those of modern roses.
The Rosarium at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden
You will find the Rosarium within the Formal Garden - cross the road from the Visitor Centre, go up the stairs past the sundial, then go across to the far side of the Formal Garden heading slightly to your right.
If you want to know more about roses, you will find books on roses for sale in the Visitor Centre.
The arrangement of roses within the Rosarium follows the history of rose cultivation from early species roses and hybrids to the modern shrub roses. The following groups of roses are represented:
Grown since ancient times, these roses are derived from Rosa gallica, a species native to southern Europe, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. Rosa gallica is also known as the French rose because the rose perfume industry was centred in the south of France.
These roses are derived from Rosa X damascena, a rose not known in the wild state and possibly only a form of Rosa gallica. The origin of damask roses is still open to debate, although tradition suggests that they owe their name to Damascus and that their various forms were brought into the western world by the Crusaders. There are two groups of damask roses: summer damasks which flower once in summer, and autumn damasks which have a second flowering during autumn. The summer damask is a cross between Rosa gallica and Rosa phoenicea. The autumn damask is a cross between Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata.
These roses were named by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. The name ‘Alba’ refers to their flowers, which are always white, cream, blush or pink, never deep in colour. Albas are considered to be hybrids of Rosa canina (the English dog-rose) with either Rosa X damascena (the summer damask rose) or Rosa gallica (the French rose).
The name ‘moss’ was given to these roses because of the dense moss-like bristles or sticky green hairs that cover the outside of the flowers and stems. The ‘moss’ is a substance excreted by glands on the plant. Moss roses are derived from ‘sports’ or mutant variations of normal roses.
The fragrance of tea or tea-scented roses was supposed to resemble that of a freshly opened chest of tea - however, breeding seems to have diluted this original fragrance. Tea roses were probably cultivated for centuries in China and they are possibly hybrids between Rosa gigantea and ‘Parks Yellow Tea-scented China’ was important in providing pale yellow flower characteristics.
A cross between the rose cultivar ‘Parsons Pink China’ and the musk rose Rosa moschata was made by John Champney of South Carolina, USA. Champney gave seedlings of this rose hybrid to his friend and neighbour Philippe Noisette who made more rose crosses. Philippe sent both seeds and plants to his brother Louis Noisette in Paris during 1814 and Louis named the first seedling to flower ‘Rosier de Philippe Noisette’. Known by the shortened name of Noisette, this was the first of a new group of roses.
First known by the name ‘Hybrid Remontant’, these roses do not flower continuously but continue flowering beyond the usual few weeks to produce a second crop of flowers. They are a race of hybrids which originated in the 1820s from a cross between the Portland Rose (a China-Gallica hybrid) and a Bourbon rose.
This group of roses originated with a cross between a tea rose and a hybrid perpetual, by the French breeder Guillot. In the 1880s another Frenchman, Pernet-Ducher, succeeded in incorporating the yellow colouring from the Austrian briar Rosa foetida, making possible the present range of yellow, orange, scarlet and bi-coloured blooms. This group now forms the mainstream group of modern bush roses. Hybrid tea roses have two separate flowering periods each season.
These roses were selected by the notable English breeder, the Reverend Joseph Pemberton of Essex, between 1912 and 1928, for flower quality and especially scent. Pemberton initially crossed a hybrid tea, ‘Trier’, with ‘Aglaia’, a rose with some musk ancestry. The parentage of the hybrid musk group that developed from this first cross probably includes the species Rosa multiflora, Rosa chinensis and Rosa moschata (the true musk rose).
Arising from a cross between the Japanese rose Rosa polyantha (also known as Rosa multiflora), and an unknown China rose, this group was also sometimes referred to as polypoms. Hybrid polyantha roses were later crossed with hybrid teas to create floribundas.
These cluster-flowered roses originated from crosses between hybrid teas and hybrid polyanthas (polyantha roses crossed with hybrid teas) - this is termed ‘back crossing’ because hybrid tea roses had already been used to produce the hybrid polyanthas. The resulting roses were then crossed with other species roses, including Rosa wichuraiana, Rosa rubiginosa, Rosa rugosa and Rosa pimpinellifolia to produce the modern floribundas. Floribundas produce clusters of flowers over a long period of time, and some have a modern high-peaked scrolled form.
These roses, bred in England by David Austin, combine the best attributes of old roses, such as Gallicas and damasks, with the best attributes of modern hybrid teas and floribundas - English roses are perfumed, have a wide variety of old-fashioned forms, flower repeatedly, have a wide range of colours, are disease resistant, and tolerate wet conditions.