Monday, October 24, 2011

Permaculture Plants: Roses, an Introduction to Rose Types

Large-Flowered Climbing Rose: Graham Thomas Rose

I recently received this email from a reader:

Hi John, this isn't actually a temperate climate question, but I'd love to hear your thoughts anyways. I've just moved into a new home in Southern Turkey where the climate is similar to that of southern California. I'm hoping to experiment with some permaculture projects in my living space and want to start with what's already there. There is a large Bougainvillea bush ("paper flower") in the back yard and roses in the front yard. Do you have any insights from your reading about the benefits and uses of these two plants in particular and how they as ornamentals might fit into a permaculture system? 

In general, Roses are found all over the world.  There are native Roses from Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa.  Roses are a perfect topic for this blog.  The topic of Roses is really quite big, so I thought I would break it up in smaller, more digestible chunks.  I'll start off with a general introduction to the Rosa species, and then I will move on to more specific species and important aspects of Rose care that would be important for a Permaculturist and/or Homesteader.  So here goes...

Rambling Rose: American Pillar Rose

Common Name: Rose
Scientific NameRosa species…
Family: Rosaceae

There are over 100 species of roses in the world, and this number may be closer to 150, but botanists cannot decide, and there are thousands of varieties or cultivars of these species.

There are four major types of roses:

1. Climbing Roses: 
These roses don’t really climb, but they have long and flexible canes that can be trained and/or attached to fences, trellises, and other garden structures. (pictured above)
  • Large-Flowered Climbing Roses – thick canes, grow to 10 feet long, large flowers, blooms through the summer (repeat-blooming).  Many different flower bloom shapes and colors
  • Rambling Roses – thin canes, grow 20+ feet long, small flowers, bloom in early summer (once-blooming)

Shrub Rose: Zephirine Drouhin

2. Shrub Roses: 
Broad, upright shrub that grows 4 – 12 feet tall.  Most are very hardy.  There are both once-blooming and repeat-blooming species and varieties.
3. Groundcover Roses: 
As the name implies, these are low growing, prostrate, creeping roses.  There are both once-blooming and repeat-blooming species and varieties.
4. Bush Roses: 
Bush roses include the majority of roses in the world.  There are seven subtypes or subgroups of Bush Rose, and each subtype has dozens to hundreds of varieties of each.
  • Hybrid Tea Roses – narrow buds on a long stem, large many petaled flowers, repeat-blooming, 3-5 feet tall.
  • Polyantha Roses – very hardy, short bushes with small flowers in large clusters, repeat-blooming.
  • Floribunda Roses – developed from crossing hybrid tea roses with polyantha roses, very hardy, short bushes with medium-sized flowers in clusters, repeat-blooming
  • Grandiflora Roses – tall, narrow bush that grows to 5-6 feet, large flowers, long stems, clusters, repeat-blooming summer through autumn
  • Miniature Roses – very small and hardy bush with small leaves and flowers, repeat-blooming
  • Heritage or Old Roses – a very large group of roses grouped together because they were developed before 1867 (the date when the Hybrid Tea Rose was introduced).  Heritage Roses have a variety of forms in plant and flower.  Some are once-blooming, and some are repeat-blooming.  Some are hardy and some are not.  Many varieties of bloom shapes and colors.
    - Albas
    - Bourbons
    - Centifloras
    - China Roses
    - Damasks
    - Eglanteria
    - Gallicas
    - Mosses
    - Portlands
    - Etc
  • Tree or Standard Roses – This is more a style of rose than a specific variety.  If any rose is grafted onto a specially grown trunk (ranges from 1-6 feet tall), and formed into a “tree” shape, then it is considered a Tree Rose.

Bush Rose - Grandiflora: Wild Blue Yonder

Bush Rose - Miniature: Mixed variety

Heritage or Old Rose - Alba Rose: Unknown variety

Heritage or Old Rose - Bourbon: Louise Odier

Tree Rose: Weeping Pink

Landscape Roses
Another informal type of rose exists.  These are the Landscape Roses.  These roses have been developed to be easily cared for, very hardy, disease resistant, low maintenance, minimal pruning, and long, repeat blooming.  That is a lot going for them, for sure; however, they do lack the beauty, fragrance, history, and charm of the other more (and sometimes much more) demanding roses.  Examples include
  • Knockout – shrub rose
  • Carefree – shrub rose
  • Simplicity – shrub rose
  • Flower Carpet – groundcover rose
  • Blanket – groundcover rose
  • Bonica
  • Livin’ Easy – floribunda rose

Landscape Roses: Knockout Roses


  1. I have been wondering about including animals into my permaculture garden, there are deer here and I have sheep and chickens, is using the poop as far as I can go?

  2. I am having a hard time figuring out the best specific cultivars and species of roses for hips, petals and fragrances, the only parts of roses actually of use for food or medicinal use, for my particular zone. Do you have more than the landscaping bio? I saw some fantastic rose hips in a flower arrangement that looked absolutely juicy, they were so plump. Probably some sort of floribunda or grandiflora or a species that has that sort of bunchy sets of flowers, but of course the person who had the arraingement had no clue as to specific variety. I have a nice Apothicary rose that has giant hips even if the flowers lack the perfume of the particuly fragrant varieties and the juicy abundance of the florist mystery rose