Species and old garden roses

Species are, as you may guess, old, historic roses that survive to this day because some enthusiasts deemed them worth preserving and perpetuating. They're the wild forbears of modern roses, and they exhibit admirable vigor, natural toughness, and casual, exuberant beauty. Yes, they tend to bloom only in spring. You may have a niche for these classics, or you may leave them to the fanatics. The best way to decide is to view one for yourself.

Old garden roses are historical roses that generally bloom only once a season, in late spring or early summer for a few glorious weeks. Sometimes referred to as vintage, heirloom, or antique roses, some old garden roses are species, which means they grow in gardens today the same as they grew in nature; others are hybrids of the species, or newer human-designed varieties. You can assume that the historical roses that didn't survive were either not very tough or were replaced by improved versions; as you may also guess, a number of excellent vintage roses have contributed their qualities to other sorts of worthy rose hybrids.

So grow these survivors with confidence. The best selections are at specialty nurseries. See the source list (in the Appendix) for some places to try.

You should know that this group includes numerous subcategories: albas, Bourbons, centifolias (cabbage roses), China, damasks, gallicas, hybrid musks, hybrid perpetuals, moss, noisettes, Portland, Scotch, and tea roses. Whew! How can you sort through this bounty? My advice is to read the individual descriptions or visit the nursery and then pick the one that captures your heart, no matter what it's called.

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