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Antique roses

Antique roses are old-fashioned or heirloom roses that were grown before the 1870s. They are shrub or climbing roses popular for thousands of years throughout the world. They are known for their fragrance and beauty. Perfume made from these roses was valued by women for centuries.

A Chicago rose garden in Grant Park
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Chicago gardeners who love and want to grow heirloom roses have many choices for their gardens. They can grow shrub roses that have thorny or smooth stems. Arbors, walls and pergolas can be lush with smooth or thorny-stemmed climbing or trailing roses. Many heirloom roses grow in profuse clusters of up to 15 blossoms.

Old garden shrub roses growing in clusters of three blossoms are named Hybrid Perpetual, Moss, Portland, Centifolia (cabbage or Provence roses), Bourbon and Gallica. Bourbon is the only one that can have smooth or prickly stems; the others have thorny stems. Eglanteria roses have thorny stems with blossom clusters of one or 3-7 blooms. Alba and Damask roses have clusters of 5-7 blossoms, and Alba has the fewest thorns. China roses can have one blossom or 3-13 blossom clusters on mostly smooth stems.

An antique climbing rose with smooth stems and clusters of three blossoms is named Boursault. Noisette also has smooth stems, but it has clusters of 3-15 blossoms. Hybrid Spinosissima has thorny stems and clusters of three blooms. Hybrid Sempervirins has thorny stems and clusters of 3-15 blooms.

Some heritage roses need special care in a Chicago garden because they grow best in hardiness zones six and seven. Shrub and Climbing Tea roses, smooth or thorny stems with three blossom clusters, are in this category.

Growing antique shrub or climbing roses in a Chicago garden is wonderful hobby. Many beautiful varieties are available for the gardener. If thorns are a problem, grow roses with smooth stems.

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