About the HRG

The Historic Roses Group recognises the importance of unique and beautiful older roses. Its aims are: to encourage interest in timeless historic roses to enable everyone to grow and enjoy roses of the past today to explore the rich history of older roses and promote further research. The Historic Roses Group was founded over a […]

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centifolia rose

My Favourite Roses by Graham Stuart Thomas

In his book of 1894, The Book of the Rose, A. Foster-Melliar attributed this verse to Sappho, a Greek poetess who was born about 600 BC.
“Would Jove appoint some flower to reign
In matchless beauty on the plain…

reine des violettes hybrid perpetual rose

Singing the Blues by Peter Beales

Metaphorically ‘blue blood’ does not run freely in the veins of roses, but this has not deterred rose breeders over the years from seeking out the elusive blue gene, in the quest to provide us with a blue rose. Why I really do not know, for personally I have no great desire for a sky-blue […]

rose du roi portland rose

Repeat-flowering old roses part I by Peter Harkness

Much ink and many words have gone into defining the term “repeat-flowering”. For my purpose I take it to cover any rose that can be depended on in a normal season to bear blooms in summer and in autumn. Today we take such behaviour in a rose for granted, but in terms of rose history […]

Old Blush China rose

Repeat flowering old roses part II by Peter Harkness

The true heralds of the age of repeat-flowering roses are the Chinas. And by now the story has moved well into their era. Indeed, as early as 1529 what, according to Graham Thomas, appears to be a pink China rose was depicted by the Florentine painter Angelo Bronzino, but as far as anyone knows it […]

June 2016 garden visits

Some of the most enjoyable benefits of belonging to the HRG are select private day visits to gardens and nurseries with historic roses. In early June 2016 a small group visited Seale Nurseries in Surrey for a study morning, where we were welcomed by owners Catherine and David May.


  Tea roses were developed, mainly by French nurserymen, from about 1830 onwards, by crossing some of the more tender roses that had been imported from southern China. These were hybrids between the hardy R. chinensis and subtropical R. gigantea, and originally described as ‘Tea Scented Roses’ because their fragrance is reminiscent of the smell of fresh China […]


Noisette roses are named after the French nurserymen Louis and Philippe Noisette. Briefly, the story runs: Louis in Paris sent an ‘Old Blush’ China rose to his brother Philippe in South Carolina in about 1802. Philippe gave ‘Old Blush’ to his neighbour, a farmer called John Champneys. On his farm it chanced to cross with Rosa […]


Bourbon roses are a group of hybrids originating from a chance cross between a form of ‘Autumn Damask’ and the ‘Old Blush’ China rose which occurred in about 1817 on the Île de Bourbon (now Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. When it was introduced to France two years later it was used to produce further […]