History of the rose and the rose bush

Here is the story of the rose and the rosebush

Throughout the northern hemisphere, the history of the rose goes back to the dawn of time. Rightly the queen of the garden, the rose is a jewel that gardeners have patiently fashioned from generation to generation.


According to scientists, the first roses appeared nearly 35 million years ago. Although not much is known about these early specimens, numerous writings from antiquity show that the queen of flowers was already appreciated by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. At that time, only one variety white was cultivated mainly for its medicinal virtues.

According to historical accounts, about 5000 years ago in China roses were also cultivated. These flowers originated in Central Asia and spread throughout the northern hemisphere without ever crossing the equator.

In the 12th & 13th centuries

In the 12th and 13th centuries, while the crusades were stirring hearts and passions, armed travelers brought back from the Near East new varieties of rose, including the mythical Damascus rose, which from the 13th century made the fortune of Provins in the Paris region. This rose was originally planted on the island of Samos in honor of the goddess Aphrodite. Later, it was honored in Rome with the goddess of love, Venus. It was at this time that the cultivation of the rose in France really began with gallica officinalis (Rose des Apotyhicaires). This variety brought back from the Holy Land was first cultivated for its medicinal virtues before being appreciated for its beauty in the garden. It is from this variety that the rose essence was made in the Middle Ages.

In France, the most cultivated old roses were the Galliques also called Roses of France (Rose de Provins, Charles de Mills, Tuscany) but also varieties of white roses also called Alba (Céleste, Jeanne d'Arc, Cuisseau de Nymphe), Damask roses (Félicité Hardy, Quatre Saisons, Rose du Roi), Centfeuilles roses (Rosa Centifolia, Rose des Peintres, Petite de Hollande) and finally Moussus roses (Moussu commun, Salet). All these varieties had common features: developed in large bushes, they usually presented a unique and abundant flowering. Each flower It was a very fragrant rose with many petals ranging from pure white to dark purple. Only the Damask rose (Four Seasons) was remontant. It was the origin of the first remontant roses in the West.

In 1700, the arrival of roses from China and Japan revolutionized the cultivation of the rose in France. In a few years, the number of varieties exploded to the delight of European gardeners who fell under the spell of this bewitchingly fragrant plant.


Many years after the crusades and the introduction of Near Eastern varieties into the West, a discovery changed the horizon of rose growers of the time. Around the year 1700, exotic varieties such as roses from India, China or Japan were added to the now known varieties we mentioned in the first part of our history of roses. The arrival of these Chinese varieties took place via the United Kingdom, the United States and Reunion Island. These remontant specimens opened the door to blooms from June to October.

The first crosses between the already well-established roses and these newcomers produced non-remontant varieties such as Bourbon roses (Mme Pierre Oger, Souvenir de la Malmaison), Hazelnut roses (Rose Noisette, Desprez with yellow flowers), Tea roses (Adam, Gloire de Dijon) but also remontant hybrids (Baronne Prévost, Reine des Violettes...).


Other varieties were also imported in the 18th century from Holland and Belgium, such as the Centifolia rose or Rose Chou aux cent petales. This last variety was quickly adopted by the perfumers of Grasse and gave birth in turn to the sparkling roses and the lettuce-leaf roses. At the beginning of the 18th century, botanists had listed all possible strains. Some spontaneous hybrids appeared such as Alba, Centifolia, Portland, Bourbon and the famous Tea Rose.

For a long time, rose growers were faced with a problem. These roses originating from hot countries could not stand the cold of Europe! To remedy this fragility, the rose growers of the time decided to hybridize to create stronger and more vigorous roses. The fruit of these first hybridizations gave a tremendous impulse to the creation of hundreds of new varieties that are generally grouped under the name of old roses. This name includes no less than 10,000 varieties and cultivars, all of which have the particularity of having been created before 1920.

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