What exactly are heirloom roses? Heirloom roses (also called old or antique) are all the types of roses that were in existence prior to 1867 when the first hybrid tea rose was introduced in France.
The heirloom roses became less popular with gardeners because they did not repeat blooms as the new roses did. Even today, many gardeners still see these old roses as somehow inferior to modern roses. Heirloom roses only produce blossoms for two to four weeks during the early summer, whereas modern roses bloom several times during the season. When heirloom roses bloom, though, they do so in abundance and the smell is simply intoxicating.
If you’re considering adding heirloom roses to your garden (and you should), here are three important things to know before planting your first one.
1. Heirloom Roses are Diverse and Hardy
Heirloom roses come in an astounding array of colors, sizes, fragrances and flower forms. There are varieties of every shape and size so they can easily fit into your garden space whether you want short or tall plants or even climbing roses. With the number of different species, you will definitely find an heirloom rose to suit your personal tastes.
Heirloom roses are particularly hardy plants. They are easy to care for and for centuries they thrived even without the use of pesticides. You can also grow heirloom roses in northern climates. Not all heirloom roses are suitable for northern climates, but if you do your research you will find that many species are hardy enough to endure the long winter months of the Northern United States and Canada.
Some of the hardiest varieties are Alba or White Roses, Cent folia or Cabbage Roses, Damask, Gallica, Spinosissima or Scotch Brier Roses, and Bourbon Roses. Damask roses are the least hardy of this group, but they are also the most fragrant and the blooms range in color from white to deep maroon.
These roses have a long history of being used in the production of rose oil. Gallica is the most popular specifies of heirloom roses with a pleasant but not overpowering fragrance.
2. Easy to Take Care Of
Caring for heirloom roses is no different really than caring for the more modern roses. To really thrive, heirloom roses need four things: sun, soil, drainage, water and proper air circulation.
Your heirloom roses should be planted in a spot where they will guarantee at least six hours of sun per day. In terms of soil, you can start with a good quality garden soil and then mix in manure and compost to increase the nutrient levels.
The roses should be watered regularly, but the key is proper drainage so the rose can have what it needs and the rest can drain away. Your roses need proper drainage- roses like most plants will not thrive if they are in wet, soggy soil for a lot of time. Unlike hybrid roses, heirloom roses should not be crowded together. They need room to grow and breathe.
Most heirloom roses either do not need pesticides or they have an aversion to them. You will rarely have to use pesticides on your heirloom roses and if you do, you should use them sparingly. Pruning should be done in the spring to remove dead or diseased wood; but don’t prune just for the sake of pruning! Heirloom roses really require no more attention than any other plants in your garden.
3. They’re Worth the Effort
Even now you might still be asking yourself, why put in all this effort for a plant that will only bloom for two to four weeks? After providing the essentials that any other plant requires, they really take care of themselves and do not require a lot of attention.
They truly are captivating plants with brilliant blooms and an intoxicating fragrance, and though heirloom roses may have lost favor with some gardeners, there is a long legacy or history attached to these plants.
For centuries they enchanted royals with their sweet smell and many painters sought to capture the beauty of their short-lived blooms on canvas. You too can experience the profound beauty of heirloom roses by planting a one in your garden next spring.