There are almost as many different ways to group or classify roses as there are rose growers and rose lovers.
On this website we have divided roses into three groups:
- Old Garden Roses: roses pertaining to rose classes that were created before 1867 (excluding wild roses and their first generation hybrids). Thus the first cultivars.
- Modern Garden Roses: roses created after 1867, such as Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and other modern rose classes.
- Species Roses or Botanic roses: the original rose species or wild roses and their direct hybrids. Note that there is a significant disagreement over the number of existing rose species (somewhere between 100 and 150 species). Moreover, the actual number of original species still in existence is unclear, as a number of the "wild roses" found today may be just sub-varieties of a given species. That is why the American Rose Society has recently adopted a new classification scheme dividing roses into either Old Garden Roses or Modern roses. (see further). However, on this website we have kept the classification into three groups used by many authors.
Please note that rose societies and other rose information websites may use a different classification system. (see further)
In practice, rose sellers and garden designers will often classify roses according to other criteria. Characteristics such as bloom type, growth form, flowering pattern, color and size will often be more important than their being old, modern or species roses.
To help you planning and designing your rose garden, we have added two more pages with historic roses and famous rose types. These groups are not mutually exclusive with the three first groups (old, modern and species roses), but just groups them in a different way, as follows:
- Historic roses: can be either old, modern or species roses that have a particular historic meaning. They were usually created as a tribute to a famous historic person or an important moment in history, or form the first, original rose in a new rose class.
- Famous rose types: the most famous rose types, not just the different old rose classes, but also English roses, Hybrid musks and Rugosa roses.
From the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on wild roses were carefully selected and improved, in the Netherlands in particular, creating a new group of Garden Roses. Rosarians usually divide these garden roses into Old Roses or antique roses (classes of roses in existence before 1867) and Modern Roses (classes of roses NOT in existence before 1867), according to the time of birth of the new rose variety.
Even here, however, there is no real consensus. Some Rosarians include English roses in the Old Roses group, while others do not. In terms of chronology they probably shouldn't as they were created after 1867, the year that is generally acknowledged as the first indication of a new class of roses. However, in terms of morphology, it is true that they are much closer to antique roses. Moreover, different countries sometimes recognize different names, which adds to the difficulty to classify roses.
The American Rose Society, in cooperation with the World Federation of Roses, has recently adopted a new classification scheme that reflects both the botanical and evolutionary progress of the rose to classify garden roses in either Old Garden Roses or Modern Roses:
Note that this is just one of the many rose classification systems in use today. Three important organizations have formulated a rose classification system of their own: the American Rose Society (see list above), the World Federation of Rose Societies and the British Association of Rose Breeders. However, not one of these systems is universally recognized.
Our own classification system will stick to the names under which the most famous rose types are generally known. Especially whenever a more precise denomination is possible, as is the case, for example, with the group of English roses and Rugosa roses, which we feel should be treated as groups of their own, we will stick to the universally recognized names, even if they are not used by all rose societies.