Many old roses, sold as Old, English, Shrub or Moss roses are true old roses of early European origin. Their exquisite scent, abundance of flowers and long flowering season are almost unrivalled in the plant world.
Roses coming into bloom in early July can still be flowering into September or even later, if you are meticulous about dead-heading and give them plenty of what they like, which is rich, heavy soil and plenty of sunshine. The clay soils of West Lothian suit them well but you’ll find roses blooming earlier in East Lothian, where they receive more sun and light.
Roses love farmyard manure if you can get it. Dig it in in winter or mulch in spring. Bare rooted roses are best planted whilst dormant from late autumn to early spring but container grown plants can be planted all year round. Mix in a handful of bone meal when planting. Avoif burying the crown of the rose, where the graft is, or you will encourage suckers. Firmly tread the soil round each bush to prevent it rocking in the wind.
They are extremely tough and, as a rule, require little pruning, which should simply take the form of thinning out of weak and old growth in early spring, with the remaining growth being reduced by one third. Dead head weekly to keep them flowering.
As well as farmyard manure and bone meal for endurance, roses respond to a rose fertiliser containing magnesium applied twice during the growing season.
Mildew and black spot are the two worst problems associated with roses but some fo the very old or very new varieties are resistant.
Shrub roses can be divided into the following types:
Gallica roses are the oldest of all, grown by the Greeks and Nomads. New varieties were bred by the Dutch in the 17th centurey and continued by the French on a very large scale. They form short, bushy shrubs, suitable for small gardens. Varieties include Belle de Crecy, Cardinal de Richelieu (pictured), Empress Josephine and Rosa Mundi.
Alba roses date from the Middle Ages and thrive under the most difficult conditions. These roses withstand partial shade and are completely disease free. Varieties include Alba Maxima â€“ the Jacobite rose, Belle Amour â€“ a salmon pink rose found in a monastery in Normandy and Queen of Denmark (pictured).
Moss roses were very popular in Victorian times. They derive their name from the moss like growth which can be seen on the sepals of their flowers. In some cases the moss completely covers the stems and in others just the calyx. Varieties include William Lobb (pictured), Comtesse de Murinais, Old Pink Moss and Rene D’Anjou.
Bourbon roses form the link between the true old roses and modern hybrid teas. They combine the flowers and fragrance of the old rose with the ability to repeat flower. Varieties include Baroness Rothschild, Ferdinand Richard and Mme. Isaac Periere (pictured), which can also be used as a climber.
Hybrid Musk roses were bred earlier in the 20th century and, as the name implies, are distantly related to Musk Roses. Their characteristic scent, with hints of honey and cloves, is released freely on the air, especially on warm, humid days. They make good border shrubs. Varieties include Boff Beauty, Cornelia, Felicia and Penelope (pictured).
Modern Shrub Roses are mostly crosses between modern bush roses and other, stronger species, resulting in some of the best Shrub Roses. Many flower continuously with old style flowers. Varieties include Bonica (pictured), Fruhlingsgold and Jacqueline du Pre.
Renaissance roses have the habit of hybrid tea roses but the flower shape, size and fragrance of old roses. They can be pruned almost as Hybrid Tea roses. Varieties include Susan (pictured), Princess Alexandra and Solo Mio.