Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Growing Old World Garden Roses...keeping traditions alive

One of my favorite old traditions is right outside in my garden and they are surprisingly, the hardiest things to grow. They are my English Roses and my old garden varieties of roses. Pictured on the left is one of my pride and joys! It arches high over our entry way door. Contrary to popular belief, these old world beauties require very little fussing and they don’t require an abundance of time and money to make them look stunning. We have two, pioneer era cemeteries here in central Illinois, where for at least a century and a half, there have been old roses standing vigil over the tombs they were first planted on. (It was a German tradition to plant a rose upon a grave to signify the hope of resurrection and new life) Those roses have survived and thrived, long after the names of the individuals buried beneath them have weathered off of the stones. No one has cared for them, pruned them or covered them with cones and they have survived our sometimes extreme winters with out a blink. It is believed by some local rosarians that these old stock plants may carry some of the purest and best genetics of the plants first introduced to the Americas by our colonial ancestors and they have taken steps to preserve and cultivate more of those plants.

I have gone out into places like this and I have taken cuttings of those “antiques” to bring home and plant in my own garden Taking a cutting and starting a new plant from a parent plant is called propagating and I found that it is a satisfying way to keep healthy new roses growing in my garden and it is wonderful way to keep the a piece of history going.

Here are steps I take to bring these plants home and start them here in my own garden:

1 Choose healthy cuttings,( may seem like a no brainer, but it’s really important that they are not diseased or the new plant will have that disease!).

2. Take cuttings from the upper part of the plant and from the outside edges of it. I don’t know why, but many cuttings taken from the middle of the plant have not worked for me

3. Cut stems that are at least 4-7 inches long and have at least two or three leaves attached. Leaves are important because they are where the hormones that promote rooting are located. I make a clean slice at a 45 degree angle, below a leaf node (where branches come out of the stem). This maximizes the rooting zone. Remove flowers or buds from the cutting, as well as any lower leaves. Cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce moisture loss

4. Dip the bottom two inches of the cutting into a cloning solution or rooting hormone powder. Rooting hormone doubles your success rate and may be found at any garden supply store. Poke a hole down into the potting soil you have chosen for the stem to fit it, 45% angle downward into the dirt….. tamp the cutting into place.

5. Cover with a clear, glass jar or put the whole container in a plastic bag to create a greenhouse around it…this is important. Roses are lovers of light! Set them in a window and provide bottom warmth from a heat mat at all times. I tried a candle warmer set on low and this had worked well.

10.) Keep the soil moist and wait until roots appear, usually in as little as three to four weeks. I then transplant into a larger bucket and move them outside to become acclaimated to the outdoors before transplanting.

Good luck if you wish to try this and happy hunting for those long forgotten varieties left out there! You may just rediscover a true gem and bring it back.



  1. Mare, Thank You for all of that useful information.
    Your roses are beautiful!
    I love roses and yet I don't have any in my garden.
    I've gotta do something about that!


  2. Thanks Audrey! Roses have become a passion for me. Maybe border line obsession;)

  3. Mare, your roses are just gorgeous! My Pip (Grandpa) used to grow roses, so many different kinds and colors!

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hardy you say?! Maybe I'll give them a try afterall!

  5. Dear Mare,

    And those old roses have such a nice fragrance !

    Thank you for the growing tips and for the bit of history about German ancestory.


  6. Mare what gorgeous roses! Thanks for the tips too!

  7. Yes, those are gorgeous roses Mare!! Thank you for sharing. :> )

  8. Thanks for sharing that information Mary, love them old roses.~~Pam

  9. Mary ~ I LOVE the color of the rose in the photo. Do you know the name of it? Thank you for sharing!

  10. Mare,
    Thank You SO MUCH for sharing this!! I LOVE to garden and I would LOVE to add some roses to my garden. One of my plants died a couple years ago and I have been scared to try again. We should really arrange a meeting. We are SO close!


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