A rose is a rose….or is it?
Roses are THE most popular flower in the US. If you didn’t know, in 1986, it was officially named our national flower! It’s a flower everyone is familiar with and can immediately identify; however, browse through any wedding magazine or wedding blog and you’re sure to see a lot of GARDEN roses in bridal bouquets. So, what exactly is a garden rose and what makes it different from a standard or regular rose?
I’m not a botanist, so I didn’t have an exact answer to this question and when I searched for an answer, I couldn’t find one that was clear and simple. So, I turned to FJ, our resident flower expert to get the lowdown on the different types of roses. It turns out that you can get pretty detailed about this topic and dive deep into plant classifications, etc. Rather than bore you with too much info, we’re going to give you a quick and easy explanation and limit it to the most common types that are used as cut flowers so that by the end of this post, you’ll know enough to sound like an expert; or at least know what type of roses will work best for your event!
Roses are from the family Rosaceae – the same family as many fruit trees (like cherries, apples, peaches and plums), berries (strawberries and raspberries), and even almonds. Drill down further to the genus (remember that mnemonic from high school biology: King Philip Come Over For Good Spaghetti?) and you’ll find Rosa which has over 100 species and this is where you’ll find what we know as the rose.
So where to go from there? There is no single definitive system of categorizing roses, but most divide them into 3 main categories: Wild (or Species) Roses, Old Garden Roses, and Modern Roses.
Wild (Species) Roses
We won’t spend much time on this as these are not used in the cut flower industry. These are wild roses; species that haven’t been hybridized by humans, so it’s about as natural a rose as you can get!
Old Garden Roses
Old Garden Roses (sometimes called heritage or historic roses) are species that were popular before the 20th century. Most of these are characterized by their hardiness (able to withstand a cold winter) and disease resistance. When you think about it, roses were (and still are) grown to beautify gardens so you want a plant that will last! Old Garden Roses are also much more fragrant than their modern counterparts and some also have dense layers of petals. Not all Old Garden Roses are heavily multi-petalled, but this is a key feature for some classes, like Centifolia (meaning “hundred petals”), which are also referred to as “cabbage roses” because of the multi-layers of petals and rounded globe shape.
It’s the fragrance, high petal count and “cup” (or rosette) bloom shape that is what commonly characterizes “garden roses” and differentiates them from “standard roses” as well as what makes them a popular choice for weddings and events. The ruffled layers also make them a popular stand-in for peonies when peonies are out of season. The downside of garden roses is that they generally do not have the vase life of standard roses. Stronger garden rose varieties will last at most 5-7 days whereas a strong standard rose variety can last up to 2 weeks (with proper care & handling).
These are the species that most people imagine when they picture roses. The largest class of these is hybrid tea roses and what the cut flower industry will simply call “roses” (as opposed to “garden roses”). These are roses that will continually bloom (most Old Garden Roses only bloom once per season). Breeding for this, larger bloom size and longer vase life have resulted in an unfortunate side effect: many of these roses no longer have a fragrance. It’s also reduced the hardiness and disease resistance of the plants when compared with Old Garden Roses.
Another group of modern roses, commonly referred to as “English Roses”, is not an official class of roses, but these have grown in popularity so much that they deserve a mention. Started in the 1960s by British breeder, David Austin, he hybridized Old Garden Rose varieties with modern ones with the intention of maintaining the fragrance and bloom shape of Old Garden Roses, but getting repeat blooming, color variety and other good qualities of modern rose varieties. He succeeded in his mission and the family business continues today with new English Rose varieties introduced each year. The line of David Austin™ English Roses has become popular for gardeners and includes a specific line especially for use as a cut flower. The physical characteristics of these blooms more closely match Old Garden Roses, so these are referred to as “garden roses” in the cut flower industry. Popular David Austin roses include Juliet, Patience and Keira. These are often the garden roses you see in bridal bouquets.
Garden Rose and Standard Rose Price Difference
So now that you have a quick education in garden roses vs. standard roses, you might be wondering why garden roses are so much more expensive than standard roses. Supply plays a large part in driving this difference. There are many rose farms in the world and most grow standard roses (the “hybrid teas”) since they are productive plants (meaning they can get many sell-able blooms per acre planted) with many choices of varieties and colors. This has led to commoditized pricing and it’s a flower that every florist will always have on hand since pricing is relatively stable; not to mention the great vase life (especially when stored in refrigeration).
There are significantly fewer farms growing garden roses as there are fewer color and variety options; and the plants tend to be less productive and are also more difficult to get commercially acceptable quality roses when compared to standard roses. Add to this the more delicate nature of garden rose blooms and shorter vase life and that makes it a more difficult flower to supply and hence a higher price. However, the demand for garden roses is growing as evident in wedding magazines and blogs, so we may be seeing an increase in farms that grow them which over time would help decrease prices!
I’ve distilled all this info into a handy chart so you can pin it as a resource and get a quick recap when you need it! I hope you found this helpful and now you can brag to your friends how knowledgeable you are about roses!
We didn’t touch on spray roses or sweetheart roses in this post, but we’ll get to that the next time! If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, don’t forget to check out our selection of Roses, including Garden Roses!
Sources used for this post (read these if you want to get an even more detailed education on roses!):