Share in Lady Gilbert’s love of roses, with this brief history

Samantha PillingThe Gardens

Lady Gilbert's Love of Roses

Roses are one of the most popular garden shrubs in the world. They’ve been grown since early civilisations, being grown in ancient Babylon, as well as in Chinese, Egyptian and Greek gardens, as far back as 500 BC. Lady Gilbert had a particular fondness for roses. She created a beautiful sunken rose garden within the grounds of Grim’s Dyke and it became her pride and joy.

The rose garden at Grim’s Dyke is planted with many old fashioned roses, all originating from the late 1800s. There are 15 different varieties of bush and climber within it, most of which only flower once a year. It’s no wonder Lady Gilbert lovingly maintained her rose garden, as the Victorian era was when flower arranging was first recognised as an art form. The opulent flower arrangements of this time would’ve no doubt, featured plenty of fragrant roses and adorned many a table within Grim’s Dyke.

Roses have always been available in a number of colours and shades, as well as sizes, however, those of the Victorian era were predominantly white, pink or crimson-red. Breeders have since been able to widen this range, using the various pigments in the species. The majority of those grown in early gardens though, would’ve been wild species, but there have been numerous instances of the China rose being cultivated as far back as the first millennium AD. Thanks to the work of rose breeders, there are now over 30,000 varieties of rose worldwide and they come in three main classifications – Wild, Old Garden and Modern Garden.

Wild Roses

Wild roses are low-maintenance shrubs that only have one flush of blooms per year. Some of these species have colourful hips during autumn. Modern hybrid descendants of the original true wild roses, are now included in this classification.

Old Garden Roses

Old garden roses (also known as heritage or historic roses) are defined as any rose that belongs to a class which existed before the introduction of the first modern rose ‘La France’ in 1867. This group also includes China and Tea roses that were introduced circa 1800. Like the wild roses, the Old Garden roses would often flower once a year, but they are also double-flowered blooms that are disease-resistant and bloom on last year’s newly grown stems (canes). It’s only the introduction of the China and Tea roses in the 1800s, that led to Old Garden roses that both bloomed repeatedly and on new growth. Old Garden roses tend to be incredibly fragrant too.

Modern Roses

Modern roses can be a confusing category, as they are often hybrid roses that have old garden roses in their ancestry! The ‘La France’ rose was a turning point for roses. The Hybrid tea rose is universally acknowledged as the first indication of a new class of roses. The hybrid exhibits traits of both parents. It’s both hardier than the tea rose, with more blooming potential than the perpetuals. Large, well-formed flowers have high-centred buds and each flowering stem typically ends with a single bloom. The shrubs are both sparsely foliaged and stiffly upright. The hybrid tea became the most popular garden rose of the 20th century.

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