| When the word
“rose” is spoken, most people have an immediate picture in their mind of a
classic hybrid tea, with its many petals and high center. Few think of a
fully open flower with just a handful of petals. Yet, the hybrid tea form
only came into existence in 1867, with the first hybrid tea, LaFrance.
While it is true that other multi-petalled roses had been known in the
history of the cultivated rose, most wild (or species) roses are singles,
and have their own beauty. The natural beauty of the single rose has also
been appreciated, and captured, in a number of roses throughout history.
These single roses were well loved and played an important part in culture
and art. For example, when in the Middle Ages two English factions were
looking for a symbol of their cause, they both used single roses with five
petals in their design. The House of Lancaster chose a red rose and the
House of York chose a white. When their houses finally joined, the two five
petalled roses were superimposed on each other to form the Tudor Rose
First let’s try to define a single rose.
Single flowers in botanical terms are supposed to have one row of petals
around their central disc. With “single” roses, this is not always
so, some petals may overlap. The current ARS “Handbook for Judging
Roses” defines a single rose as one having 5-12 petals.
However, the newest ARS registration forms in Modern Roses 11
changes that to 4-11 petals, while 12-16 petals is considered semi-double.
The change to 4 petals was to accommodate the species rose R. Sericea, the
only rose with 4 petals.
One special attraction of single roses is that
since the petals overlap little or not at all, the sunlight can often
shine through, showing their subtleties of color and shape in a way a
full rose could not. Some single roses have an almost ethereal
appearance because of this.
Most species roses are single, very often with the
typical 5 petal shape. A small pink five petalled rose can look so
similar to an apple blossom that it’s not too surprising to learn that
they are in the same family. As apple blossoms are among my
favorite flowers, you can see why I’d be fond of single roses.
|The pink single rose that just
about everyone knows is Dainty Bess, a hybrid tea bred in 1925. Archer’s
choice of hybrid tea as the classification puts
Dainty Bess at a disadvantage in a rose
show, as it could never win best of class, i.e. Queen of Show, with its
4-11 petalled form. Its beautiful deep maroon stamens and disc along with
its golden to chocolate colored pollen against the pale pink are very
elegant. Add to that a tea fragrance and you have a very desirable rose.
The next single that many of you are familiar with is Altissimo, a seven petalled
climber. This is a rose that stops people dead in their tracks with its
enormous, blood red blooms.
The petals have extraordinary substance and look very much like velvet or
sueded silk. It has a prominent golden disc in its center. There is so much
pollen that it often looks like gold has been dusted on the petals. The
blooms are long lasting on the bush and form enormous hips if not
deadheaded. Be aware that it is a very stiff climber, and the young canes
should be swiftly bent and tied before they become impossible to train.
|It has been in first or second place
for the last 3 years for winning the most Best of Classes in the
climbing category, along with
Fourth of July, an “almost single” with
| Playboy and
are also high on the list of must-have single roses. They are both
floribundas and also very popular in rose shows. Playgirl has
large hot pink blooms with golden stamens. The petals are very
full and ruffled, and sometimes irregular lacy edges. The
fragrance is strong, as it has Angel Face as a pollen parent.
|Playboy was its pod parent.
Playboy is even more playful in its coloration than the hot pink
Playgirl. It is a mixture of red, orange and yellow on each bloom,
on a disease resistant bush.
another single, is an extraordinarily disease resistant shrub with red
to deep pink petals. It looks like a loose double flower but
really has only 5 to 11 petals. It doesn’t have that elegant open
shape that most singles have, but it practically glows in the early
evening. Knockout does well with as little as four hours of
sunlight, which brings up another point about single roses.
|Many single roses do not
require as much sun or heat to open their blooms. With so few petals,
they open swiftly and easily. They differ from full roses also in
that they can actually close back up on a cool night and maybe in an air
conditioned rose show hall. Reportedly, single roses can also rebloom
more readily, since these blooms require less energy from the plant.
Sally Holmes and Ballerina, being hybrid
musks, are two other singles that tolerate some shade. Ballerina can be
washed out if planted in full sun; try it in partial shade to add some pink
to the blooms. Neither is grown so much for its individual blooms as for
their unending masses of closely grouped flowers; in fact, Sally Holmes is
described by many as resembling a hydrangea.
|| One of our favorite
singles here at the Roger Williams Park Victorian Rose Garden is
Nearly Wild. This is a bushy floribunda bred by Dr. and Mrs. Walter
Brownell in Little Compton, Rhode Island back in 1941. It is deep pink
shading to white in the center. The petals can have a crinkly appearance,
and indeed look “nearly wild”. One of our members grows a hedge of this
rose and found they tolerated being soaked by the ocean and tossed out of
their beds by a hurricane without permanent damage. Nearly Wild is one of
the few Brownells easily obtained all over the country.
Going on to less well known singles,
Poulsen’s Pearl (Poulsen, 1949) is a
great shrub-like floribunda to grow. It has large trusses of pale pink
five-petalled blooms with very striking magenta colored stamens. It's
disease resistant and forms an attractive rounded shrub.
Golden Wings is a shrub bred in 1956
from Soeur Therese crossed with a R. Spinosissima seedling. It has enormous
pale yellow flowers with deep orange red stamens.
Dairy Maid by LeGrice is somewhat
similar, but with smaller flowers and a more prominent center. Dusky
Maiden, also by LeGrice, is an attractive dark red with some fragrance;
surprisingly, this single rose is in the ancestry of many of David Austin’s
roses. My favorite climbing single is
Summer Wine, introduced in 1985 by Kordes. The flowers on this extremely
vigorous climber are variable in color depending on the weather, from deep
pink, to coral, sometimes even a touch of orange. The bases of their
stamens are magenta in color. The blooms have an apple fragrance. Keep it
well deadheaded for good rebloom. It can be mail-ordered on its own roots
and will establish itself quickly.
Discussing single Old Garden Roses or
Species roses would require a full book, but I can’t finish without
mentioning my favorite species rose. Rosa
Glauca is a vigorous once-flowering rose, with small rich pink five
petalled blooms fading to white at the center. Despite blooming only once,
the bush is attractive all year because of its neat narrow blue-green
foliage and the hips it sets. It’s also known as Rosa Rubrifolia since the
leaves can have a reddish tinge as well. It is popular with flower
arrangers because the foliage is so much more delicate and graceful than
typical rose foliage, and, of course, because of the unusual color. When
the blooms first open and are fresh, they are like little jewels. This
freshness is the key to exhibiting any single in a rose show. If the blooms
have been open more than a day, chances are that their pollen has dried up
and their stamens are darkening and dehydrating.
Miniature roses also have some attractive
singles, but so far none I have seen have the grace that I associate with
single roses. Baby Love, a yellow single
mini, stands out with its incredible health and huge abundance of blooms.
So add some single roses to your garden for
elegance and delicate beauty. Once you’ve had a chance to really know them,
bet you won’t stop with just a single single in your garden.