hybrid tea roses
Photo: Hybrid Tea Rose - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As gardeners fall in love with roses, it is inevitably the Hybrid Tea class that enamors them.

by John Bagnasco

Their flowers are well-formed with large, high-centered buds, supported by long, straight, and upright stems. They were originally created at the end of the 19th century by cross-breeding two types of roses, hybrid perpetuals and tea roses.

For those who appreciate heirloom varieties, antique Tea roses are considered by many aficionados to have the finest form and most exquisite coloration of all old garden roses. As the Hybrid Tea became more fashionable the older Teas fell into disfavor because their “weak necks” did not hold the flower upright like the new hybrids. Frances Lester, a champion of old roses, answered such scorn with this reply, “True many of them have “weak necks” but why should a rose that gracefully bows its head to you be condemned for its politeness?”

Tea roses are ideal for warmer climates, such as southern California where they can bloom up to 11 months a year! They can’t be found at most garden centers but can be ordered from specialty mail-order nurseries like Rose Petals Nursery, Angel Gardens, and Rogue Valley Roses.

Today’s gardens provide a retreat from a tech world that speeds by without stopping to smell the proverbial flowers. But do times really change that much? In 1901, S. Reynolds Hole, related this anecdote in A Book About Roses: “…on the third day of my visit (to London), and to enliven my scenery, I bought a Rose. Only a common Rose, one from a hundred which a ragged girl was hawking in the streets…a Moss-Rosebud, with a bit of fern attached. Only a two-penny Rose; but as I carried it in my coat, and gazed on it, and especially when, waking the next morning, I saw it in my water jug – saw it as I lay in my dingy bedroom, and heard the distant roar of Piccadilly instead of the thrush’s song – saw it, and thought of my own Roses – it seemed as though they had sent a messenger, whom they knew I loved, to bid me ‘come home, come home.’ …And I arose, reflecting; and though I had taken my lodgings and arranged my plans for three more days in London, I went home that morning with the Rosebud in my coat and wandering in my garden at eventide, armed with a cigar in case I met an aphis, I exulted in my liberation from smuts and smells, and in all the restful peace, and the fragrant beauty, which glowed around me…”