Peninsular Rose Club

Rose Classification:

by Trevor Inkpen

The first thing to say about the classification of roses is that there are several systems in use, and there is by no means any universal agreement on the "right" one. In Canada we follow the system used by the American Rose Society (ARS), which has itself changed over the years.

Species (Sp) This class incorporates the native roses of the world, and their natural crosses. As a class, they tend to have small, simple flowers, bloom once per year and be hardy and disease resistant, (although those qualities pertain to their native climates). All roses are ultimately descended from species roses, however it is often unclear which species make up a rose's family tree.

OLD GARDEN ROSES (OGR) are a grouping of ARS classes of roses that were introduced before 1867 - also referred to as Heritage roses or Antique roses.

Alba (A) Originally damask or gallica and R. canina crosses, dating from the 15th century. In general, tall and vigorous, with few prickles, tough gray-green leaves and mostly fully double blooms.

Ayrshire (Ayr)

Bourbon & Climbing Bourbon (B & Cl B) - A hybrid of Chinas and 'Autumn Damask', repeat blooming with large, fragrant multi-petalled flowers. Developed on (and named for) the Ile de Bourbon in the Indian Ocean.

Boursalt (Bslt)

Centifolia (C) or Provence Roses - "100 petal" roses, also known as cabbage roses for their densely packed globe-like flowers. Centifolias may be a cross between 'Autumn Damask' and an alba. Drooping leaves, long, arching thorny stems and highly fragrant, nodding flowers.

Damask (D) - Related to gallicas but larger and taller, damasks are the most fragrant of the old garden roses. Grown in the Middle East since Roman times for perfume - rose oil and attar of roses. Semi-double or double blooms. 'Autumn Damask' is the only repeat bloomer.

Hybrid Bracteata (HBc)

Hybrid China & Climbing Hybrid China (HCh & Cl HCh) - Everblooming roses first discovered in China, and their first-generation hybrids. Brought in the late 18th century to Europe, where many new cultivars were created. These are the everblooming ancestors of modern, repeat-blooming roses. Some Chinas are low growing; some have tall canes and can be treated as climbers. Not particularly hardy.

Hybrid Eglanteria (HEg) or Sweet Briar - Originally eglantine rose crossed with hybrid perpetual, Bourbons or other roses, these large, arching shrubs can reach 10 to 12 feet. Their foliage has a spicy apple scent, blooms are borne either singly or in clusters, are fragrant, and develop bright-red hips in the fall.Once blooming, although a few varieties will repeat.

Hybrid Foetida (HFt) Hybrids of R. foetida, "Austrian Yellow" brought the previously unknown yellow colour into European rose breeding. Noted for their un-rose like fragrance.

Hybrid Gallica (HGal) Descendants of R. gallica, probably the oldest cultivated rose in existence in the West, having been recorded as early as 1200 BC in Persia. These are low shrubs, suckering (producing new shoots along the roots), with large, fragrant flowers borne singly or in clusters, and few thorns.

Hybrid Multiflora (HMult) - Rambling roses descended from R. multiflora, long lax canes, large clusters of small flowers.

Hybrid Perpetual & Climbing Hybrid Perpetual (HP & Cl HP) - Crosses between Portland roses, hybrid Chinas, gallicas and Bourbons, these were popular in the 1800's. Large, fragrant, full blooms on short stems. Generally hardy, and range in habit from upright to sprawling. Ancestors of the Hybrid Tea rose.

Hybrid Sempervirens (HSem)

Hybrid Setigera (HSet)

Hybrid Pimpinellifolia, or Hybrid Spinosissima (HSpn) - or Scotch rose, hardy shrubs native to the British Isles and Western Europe, thorny, early flowering, tolerant of poor conditions.

Miscellaneous OGRs (Misc OGR) - catchall for all other antique roses.

Moss & Climbing Moss (M & Cl M) - A spontaneous mutation ("sport") from a centifolia rose in the 19th century, moss roses have buds and stems covered with thin, pliant clands that resemble moss. The "moss" often has a herbal or pine-like scent. Fragrant flowers, drooping leaves, and some varieties have unusual shapes of moss and sepals.

Noisette (N) - The original Noisettes were a cross between a China rose and European rose, and are not very hardy.

Portland (P) - Fragrant flowers, compact bush, good for bedding. Popular in the early 19th century because of their repeat-blooming flowers.

Tea & Climbing Tea (T & Cl T) - Fragrant forms of the China roses, with small leaves and stems, not particularly hardy. The first teas were crosses between R. chinensis and R. gigantea. Their scent is said to be reminiscent of tea.

MODERN ROSES are a group of ARS classes representing roses introduced after 1867

Floribunda and Climbing Floribunda (F & Cl F) - Originally hybrids of polyanthas and hybrid teas. Floribundas (the name means "cluster-flowered") are hardy, large, shrubby bushes that bloom continuously all summer, usually in large clusters of small to medium sized double blooms.

Grandiflora & Climbing Grandiflora (Gr & Cl Gr) - Descended from hybrid tea / floribunda crosses, with clustered flowers of the floribundas but larger blooms with the bloom shape and long stems of hybrid teas. Grandifloras often over 6 feet tall, with profuse bloom. The most popular Grandiflora is "Queen Elizabeth"

Hybrid Kordesii (HKor) - a line of shrub roses developed by the Kordes company, incorporating some R. rugosa traits, generally hardy and disease resistant.

Hybrid Moyesii (HMoy)

Hybrid Musk (HMsk) - Shrub roses only distantly related to the musk rose, bred by Joseph Pemberton between 1913 and 1926, continuous clusters of flowers. Can tolerate poor growing conditions, such as poor soil and shade. Many set good hips (fruits). Some hybrid musks can be trained as climbers.

Hybrid Rugosa (HRg) - Hybrids of hybrid teas and R. rugosa. Some of the hardiest roses, these are easy-care, disease-resistant roses. Foliage is characteristically leathery and heavily patterned, flowers attractive but with limp petals so they don't last well as cut flowers. As a class they do not tolerate insecticidal or antifungal sprays well.Thorny and dense, attractive hips in wintertime, work well as a hedge or landscape rose.

Hybrid Wichurana (HWich) - Mostly Rambler roses descended from the oriental species R. wichuraiana, characteristically long, flexible canes either climbing or groundcover, with clusters of smallish flowers.

Hybrid Tea & Climbing Hybrid Tea (HT & Cl HT) - The most popular modern rose type, started as a cross between Hybrid Perpetual and Tea roses, the first Hybrid Tea is generally credited as being "La France" in 1867. The Hybrid Tea has become the 20th century's conception of the archetypical Rose. Large flowers, usually in a pointed, spiral-petal form, bourne usually singly on long stems. Hybrid teas bloom often, in a wide range of colors, some are fragrant but as a class, during thepast 50 years the form of the bloom was selected for over fragrance, resulting in many beautiful Hybrid teas with little or no fragrance (see English Roses below).

Large-Flowered Climber (LCl) -Climbers have tall stems that with support can be trained to grow upright. Some climbers are everblooming; others bloom just once at the beginning of the season. "Large-Flowered" is a somewhat arbitrary division between these and Hyb. Wichuraianas (Ramblers), climbing roses with very pliable canes generally with smaller flowers. Note that roses do not twine or have tendrils like ivies and vines, so are not true "climbers" - they do need some support and tying in to help them along.

Miniature & Climbing Miniature (Min & Cl Min) - Except for the miniature cascading and climbing roses, these grow to just 10 to 18 inches, with proportionately small leaves, stems and flowers. They're very hardy, and unlike many modern roses, most grow on their own rootstocks.

Mini-Flora (MinFl) - A newly introduced class that covers cluster-flowered bush roses less than 2.5 feet tall but larger than Miniatures. Replaces the common term Patio rose.

Polyantha & Climbing Polyantha (Pol & Cl Pol) - Low-growing shrubs to about 2 feet, with large clusters of small flowers. They are gernerally hardy and bloom continuously. Good for borders or bedding but not noted for fragrance.

Shrub (S) - An omnibus category including robust, bushy or spreading roses with repeat bloom, most double but some single, and mostly clustered blooms.


In addition, there are groupings that decribe the growth habit of a rose or a marketing characteristic, rather than its provenance. These often overlap the ARS categories.

Landscape Roses - shrubs that are well suited to mass planting, are low maintenance and tend to be spreading rather than tall.

Groundcover Roses (gc) - short roses that spread sideways or lay on the ground (procumbent) and form dense growth suitable for covering wide areas.

Tree Roses or Standard Roses - a classification of culture rather than of the rose itself, tree roses are created by pruning and grafting a rose onto a sturdy, tall stem to produce a long trunk with foliage and flowers at the top. The grafted variety could be virtually any type, although Hybrid Teasz are most popular. Stunning results can be achieved by grafting a groundcover or other lax-caned rose onto a standard trunk, creating a cascading or weeping bush.

Patio Roses (now replaced by the term Mini-Flora in ARS terminology) Primarily a marketing term, referring to roses of less than 2.5 feet in height, suitable for container growing on a deck or patio. Also generally good for borders.

Ramblers (R) (obsolete in the ARS system, now combined with "Climbers and Wichuraiana Ramblers") Summer-blooming climbing roses with long flexible canes. May be descended from Multiflora or Wichuraiana or other species.

English Roses or Austin Roses (shrubs) - Shrub roses created by crossing modern, repeat blooming roses with older, fragrant many-petalled varieties such as Bourbon and Gallica. Characterized by better fragrance than the average Hybrid Tea, clusters of many-petalled blooms in older-style cupped, globular or quartered forms, many have somewhat lax canes and short flower stems. Popularized by the firm of David Austin in England, although also bred by a number of other growers in various countries.

Canadian Heritage, Explorer Series, Brownell Sub-Zero, Griffith Buck Roses, Parkland Series roses (shrubs) - Roses developed specifically for winter hardiness and disease resistance in Canada and the Northern US, often incorporating native North American species bloodlines and other hardy parents such as R. rugosa and Kordesii. Winter hardiness varies by variety.


The problem comes in when you try to decide what to classify roses by: date of introduction, growth habit, ancestry, blooming characteristics, size, place of origin or some combination of the above?

Peter Beales, noted Enghlish rose breeder and author, proposes a simplified system grouped by flower type than growth habit

Grandiflora (large flowers, one per stem or small clusters)
- Bush,
- Shrub
- Climber
- Procumbent
Floribunda (clusters of flowers)
- Compact
- Bush
- Shrub
- Climber
- Procumbent
Miniature Climber

The British Association of Rose Breeders proposes:

1) Species and Groups
2) China
3) Noisette
4) Tea
5) Hybrid Tea
6) Floribunda
7) Florishrub
8) Miniature
9) Patio
10) Climbing Hybrid Tea
11) Climbing Floribunda
12) Climbing Miniature
13) Polyantha
14) Climbing Polyantha
15) Hybrid Musk
16) Wichuriana Ramber
17) Wichuriana Carpet
18) Wichuriana Shrub
19) Gallica
20) Damask
21) Centifolia
22) Moss
23) Portland
24) Bourbon
25) Hybrid Perpetual
26) English
27) Scotch
28) Alba
29) Sweet Briar
30) Rugosa


Species: Rosa rubrifolia

Alba: Alba Maxima

Centifolia: Fantin-Latour

Damask: Autumn Damask (Quatre Saisons)

China: Old Blush (The Monthly Rose)

Hyb. Eglanteria: Amy Robsart

Gallica: Apothecary Rose (R. gallica officinalis)

Hyb. Multiflora: Vielchenblau

Hyb. Perpetual: Reine des Violettes

Moss: Deuil de Paul Fontaine

Noisette: Blush Noisette

Climbing Tea: Sombreuil Climber

Floribunda: Sexy Rexy

Grandiflora: Queen Elizabeth

Hyb. Kordesii: John Cabot

Hyb. Musk: Ballerina

Hyb. Rugosa: F.J. Grootendorst

Hyb. Wichuraiana: American Pillar

Hybrid Tea: Peace

Large Flowered Climber: Compassion

Climbing Miniature: Jeanne Lajoie

Polyantha: Perle d'Or

Shrub: Bonica '82

English Rose: Gertrude Jekyll




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