Roses have always been an integral facet of the collections presented at the Missouri Botanical Garden, beginning with Garden founder, Henry Shaw.
Shaw authored a book titled The Rose in 1882 about the red rose, a recognized emblem of England, his home country.
“Human art can neither color nor describe so fair a flower,” Shaw wrote, “[Its] beauty is composed of all that is exquisite and beautiful.”
Despite the prominence of roses throughout history, a dedicated rose garden was not established on Garden grounds until 1917 with the founding of the Gladney Rose Garden (then called the Linnean Rose Garden). One of the oldest continually maintained rose gardens west of the Mississippi, the wagon-wheel shaped landscape currently displays approximately 900 roses, including climbing roses on the fence surrounding the space.
What is an Old Garden Rose?
At the time of its establishment, the Gladney Rose Garden was planted exclusively with old garden roses. In 1966, American Rose Society defined an old garden rose as those classes of roses that existed prior to 1867 because in that year the first hybrid tea rose, La France, was introduced.
Within the overarching group of old garden rose, the flowers can differ greatly. Flowers can be quartered, cupped, imbricated or expanded, reflexed, globular or compact. Some species produce no flowers after their initial spring bloom, but do still produce hips.
The beauty of old garden roses lies in the heavy fragrances they produce.
What is a Modern Rose?
Modern roses are defined as those developed after 1867. They are divided into four distinct groups; hybrid teas, polyanthus, floribundas, and grandifloras. Other garden forms not divided into specific groups include miniatures, tree roses, and climbing roses.
Hybrid tea are hardy, disease resistant roses with little scent that flower for most of the year in warm climates.
Polyanthas are low growing, shrub-like roses that are also hardy and disease resistant. Flowers cluster at the tops of branches and bloom profusely for a long season.
Floribunda are a hardy cross between hybrid tea and polyantha roses. They take three years to mature, but produce prolific blooms once they’ve matured. Fragrant flowers bloom in clusters.
Grandiflora are a cross between floribunda and hybrid tea roses. They can grow up to five feet tall and produce large, shiny, showy flowers.
Today’s Gladney Rose Garden
The Gladney Rose Garden hosts approximately 600-700 individual plants, according to Garden rosarian Marissa Sedmak. These represent more than 100 rose varieties.
One favorite of Sedmak is the Fru Dagmar Hastrup rose. It is a hybrid rugosa rose, meaning that it is a consciously hybridized variety that is akin to wild roses. The flowers bloom early and consistently throughout the flowering season, with a nice hip display present during fall and winter once the blooms fade.
This rose and other varieties were selected in part due to their level of hardiness.
“Climate is the issue here,” Sedmak explains, “It gets very hot here during the summer. This rose garden, compared to others, is the first to freeze and also the first to thaw.”
The roses grown in the Gladney Rose Garden are therefore valuable examples for Garden visitors looking to plant their own rose gardens in the St. Louis region.
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