As the name of this class of rose hints, the predecessors of these roses mostly came from China. They arrived in Europe when people traveled from one continent to another by sailing ships. The gardeners of the time were very excited over the arrival of the original China roses.
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This is because the China roses were the first roses that rebloomed regularly. This was something new for the Western gardeners so their interest in these roses was high. It is worth mentioning here that China roses are unable to thrive in places where winters are very cold.
In fact, it has been proven that China roses have adapted themselves well to the conditions in south-eastern United States, because they are able to endure humid heat as well as drought. However, the individual flowers of China roses are not impressive.
Generally blossoms of these roses do not measure more than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in diameter. However, the average size of the blooms is about 3 inches (7.6 cm) across and in some cases, flowers of China roses may even be 4 inches (10.2 cm) wide. China roses were significantly introduced to the West towards the close of the eighteenth century.
During this time, the world of roses witnessed a great revolution. The arrival of China roses in the West changed the rose world overwhelmingly. With the introduction of China roses to the West, people witnessed several poignant changes. For instance, it was believed that a China gene was responsible for the plants to bloom repeatedly.
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Till the time these roses were introduced to the West, the Autumn Damasks were the only cultivated roses that repeated their bloom. The enhanced productivity of flowers was considered to be a great prize in the rose gene pool. In addition, the China roses added another dimension to the color range of the roses.
In fact, the China roses possess an exceptional aspect of challenging the color principles that were regular with roses before the introduction of the new variety of roses from China. These roses possess the exceptional attribute of their color becoming darker as the flowers matured.
On the contrary, the color of most roses available before the introduction of China roses actually faded as the flowers matured. For instant, initially a China rose may open with a yellow hue and subsequently combine with crimson through shades of orange and pink.
Actually, the China roses made the color range of the flowers wider by including shades of deep crimson and yellow, which were not found in the European garden roses prior to that time. In addition, China roses also made the scent of roses much broader. When the China roses were hybridized with other roses, it gave birth to many new blends.
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On their own, the China roses are vaguely scented and varieties like ‘In A Fragrant Year’, ‘Leonie Bell’ and Helen van Pelt Wilson’ bear testimony of this fact. According to expert rose gardeners, they are able to sense the fragrance of nectarine in the Chinese rose variety ‘Old Bush’.
They go on to add that ‘Old Bush’ passed on a pepper fragrance to a number of its offspring, while the fruity scent was highlighted in some other offspring. They are of the view that ‘Slater’s Crimson China’ and ‘Parson’s Pink’ varieties of China rose had very little fragrance.
When these China roses were bred with European roses, it produced a bouquet of distinct fruity fragrance, especially raspberry or nectarine that is also found in many Bourbon roses. China rose also led to changes in the form of the flowers.
In fact, the high-centered, exhibition roses have derived their form from the China roses, precisely speaking the China genes. In addition, China roses also gave the rose world slender buds that unfurl while opening. All said and done, mystery shrouds the origin of the China roses.
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While there does not exist any proof of how these roses were developed, the China roses are actually the product of a rich culture of resourceful people. Prior to the tenth century, China roses were neither seen in art nor were they a part of mythology. Moreover, there is very little information regarding the history of China roses.
However, what is known is that these roses were cultivated for several centuries in China. What is surprising is that while the West prized the China roses for their genes, the Chinese did not consider them valuable like the chrysanthemum, which was held in high esteem by the Chinese. Moreover, chrysanthemums appeared in Chinese art since long.
In fact it is not prudent to underestimate the value of China rose. The work done by noted rose breeder and discover Dr. C C Hurst identified the China rose back to four garden roses which are known as ‘Four Stud Chinas’ (the dates normally point to what has been accepted as an official date of when China rose was introduced to Europe).
These roses include ‘Slater’s Crimson China’ (1792); ‘Parson’s Pink China’ (1793 which is Identical to ‘Old Bush’); ‘Hume’s Blush Tea-scented China’ (1809) and ‘Parks’ Yellow Tea-scented China’ (1824).
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There is possibly some evidence that people in Italy knew about China rose much before it was officially introduced in Europe. In other words, China roses were familiar to Italians even before the above mentioned official dates of their introduction.
According to Dr Hurst, the earliest evidence of China roses’ introduction to Europe that he came across during his research in London’s National Gallery, which houses paintings by Angelo Bronzino, the Florentine artist, dates back to about 1529 showing Cupid’s hands full of Pink China Roses while he is about to throw them over Folly who is at that time embracing Venus.
The painting shows small rose pink hued flowers composed of translucent petals, reflex sepals, incurved stamens and small ovate shaped leaflet which are exactly those of the Pink China. From this it may be concluded that this particular China rose variety was grown in Italy around the beginning of the sixteenth century, Dr Hurst wrote.
When Montaigne visited Italy in November 1580 he noticed a rose that bloomed all through the year. He wrote that this rose could be a China rose variety owing to its ever blooming characteristics. A particular China rose known as Rosa indica is said to be real mind twister.
Dr Hurst wrote that a pupil of the noted Swedish botanist Linnaeus named Peter Osbeck had discovered this rose - Rosa indica, in 1750 while he was in Canton. Manuscripts of Linnaeus show that ‘Blush Tea China’ was bred by him from Rosa indica. It is worth noting that the single crimson China rose which Redouté portrayed as Rosa indica is not the blush colored rose of Linnaeus.
However, Rosa chinensis and Lindley’s Rosa indica is the same rose. Nevertheless, neither Dr. Hurst nor Graham Thomas makes any mention of Redouté's version of Rosa indica being Rosa chinensis. Krussman is of the view that Redouté's rose is actually Rosa chinensis sanguine, which is also often referred to as ‘Bengal Crimson’. However, Graham Thomas is not sure about the origin of this cultivar.
He thinks that this rose (Rosa chinensis sanguine) is either a sport or it has originated from an early hybrid of Rosa chinensis. The color of Rosa chinensis sanguine or the ‘Bengal Crimson’ varies from pale to deep crimson. However, this rose does not show the color gradations that are found in either ‘Slater’s Crimson’ or ‘Rosa chinensis spontanea.
In fact, Redouté also painted a rose named Rosa indica or La Bengake bichonne. In his writings, Graham Thomas points out that this double rose (Rosa indica) may possibly be ‘Slater’s Crimson China’, which is also referred to as Common China, and is actually ‘Old Bush’.
In any case, several China roses were names as ‘Bengal Roses’ as these roses reached Europe via Bengal. Roy E Shepherd writes that Slater also distributed his ‘Crimson China’ under the label ‘Bengal Rose’.
In fact, rosarians are still searching for the connections between the Bengal Roses or China roses. The actual gift of the arrival of these roses may put the origin of these roses in the shade. Many of these roses have either been locked in secrecy or may even have been lost over the years.
Introduced - prior to 1837
The changing colors of the flowers of this China rose are really fascinating. When the flowers of ‘Archduke Charles’ are fully open they reveal the crimson hued external petals and a white or light pink center that becomes darker slowly to a solid, rich crimson hue.
The rate at which the colors of the flowers change is subject to the intensity of the sun. The color of the petals become darker much quickly when there is strong sunlight. As the buds of ‘Archduke Charles’ unfurl on the plant one after another you may find the same bush bearing flowers of different hues.
Introduced - 1869
Generally “Ducher’ is considered to be the only white rose in its class. Actually, the flowers of this China rose have an ivory or cream hue instead of pure white. The outer petals of the rounded buds have traces of pink stain.
These buds unfurl into small, double blooms that are not only fuller but also more graceful compared to most China roses. The flowers have a pleasant fragrance.
‘Ducher’ rose repeats its blooms at regular intervals all through the summer and since it is relatively smaller in size compared to other flowers in its class, this China rose is excellent for growing in the form of container plants. The new foliage of ‘Ducher’ has a purplish red hue and as they mature, their color changes to fresh apple green and this color remains throughout the season.
Introduced - prior to 1845
‘Green Rose’ (botanical name R. chinensis viridiflora) is a unique rose because its color is truly green. Therefore, this rose does not fit the criteria of any standard color classification.
Each flower of this rose measures between 1 ½ inches and 2 inches across, while the petals are narrow and leaf-like. The petals have a medium vivid green color and the flowers are borne singly or even in clusters all through the summer. The plants of ‘Green Rose’ grow up to a height of about 3 feet and 5 feet.
Introduced - 1840
Hermosa is a Spanish word which when translated to English means “beautiful” and this name describes this Bourbone cultivar appropriately. The flowers of ‘Hermosa’ rose have a high-centered form, are double and have a blush pink hue.
The flowers are fragrant and each measures anything between 1 inch and 3 inches and is composed of about 35 petals. The flowers of ‘Hermosa’ rose appear in clusters and they repeat well. The foliage of this rose is blue-green, while the plants grow up to a height of 4 feet.
Introduced - 1834
‘Louis Philippe’ is a China rose whose adaptability has been proven long back. This China rose has its origin in France and it arrived in Texas on the very first year when it was introduced to the market. Since then, ‘Louis Philippe’ rose has survived for over 150 years in the extreme weather conditions prevailing in Texas.
In fact, this rose is among those that are generally found in abandoned home sites in the Deep South. This China rose bears double blooms with dark crimson hue and having a blush pink center.
The petals of this rose sometime have streaks of purple. ‘Louis Philippe’ is an exceptionally dependable rose as far as repeat bloom is concerned. This rose is generally in bloom between spring and the beginning of winter. The plants may produce flowers even during the cold months, especially during the warm spells.
Introduced - prior to 1894
This China rose has been aptly named ‘Mutabilis’ because it produces pointed, orange hued buds that unfurl into single yellow-petaled flowers whose color changes to shades of orange, pink and eventually crimson as the blooms mature.
In fact, you will be pleased to find a single plant of ‘Mutabilis’ rose bearing flowers of all the above mentioned hues at the same time. In addition, the spectacle of flattening flowers composed of five petals each resting on the bushy plants has earned this China rose the common name of “butterfly rose”. The foliage of this rose is also outstanding since the new growth has a bronze color.
Introduced - 1752
‘Old Bush’ is among the oldest roses of southern gardens and till date it remains a favourite cultivar. In fact, the bounteousness of the flowers of this rose is partially responsible for it being loved by rosarians even today. ‘Old Bush’ rose is in bloom continuously throughout the growing year, except for the extremely cold months.
In fact, this rose is practically indestructible and you may generally find it growing uncared in abandoned home sites even much after all other signs of occupancy is gone.
Once the plants are established, they are able to endure even for several weeks even without rain or any kind of irrigation. The medium-sized, lilac-pink hued flowers of ‘Old Bush’ appear in clusters and they have a slight fragrance. If the plants are not deadheaded (get rid of the withered flowers), the blooms will go on to produce large attractive orange hued hips.