Archive for May 30, 2012

A Modern Rose Garden

The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden is a modern rose garden.  What makes it modern?  The roses?  The design? The answer is both.

Eric Long, Smithsonian Photographer

The Roses:
Roses are grouped into three types: species, old garden roses, and modern roses. This classification system is based on their existence in the wild, as with species roses, or their date of introduction. The year 1867 heralded the introduction of what is generally accepted as the first modern rose, in this case a hybrid tea rose. This first hybrid tea rose, named „La France,‟ was bred in France by Jean Guillot. „La France‟ was an offspring of the old garden, hybrid perpetual rose named „Madame Victor Verdier‟ and the old garden, tea rose „Madame Bravy.‟ „La France‟ was special because of its urn-shaped, high centered flowers. This new flower form was remarkably different from those that came before it, thus necessitating a new class. This new class of roses was ultimately named hybrid teas. Hybrid tea roses and the rose classes introduced after 1867 make up the modern rose group.

In addition to hybrid teas, polyanthas (a cross between Rosa multiflora and hybrid teas), floribundas (a cross of polyanthas with hybrid teas), grandifloras (resulting from crossing hybrid teas and floribundas), miniatures, and English roses are also considered “modern roses.” All but two of the roses in the

Folger Rose Garden fall into these categories and are therefore modern. The exceptions–a hybrid perpetual rose and a tea rose–were included to demonstrate the old garden rose classes that were the precursors to the hybrid tea rose and hence to the “modern rose.”

The Design:

The modern rose deserves a modern garden. In this case a modern rose garden is one that works for the roses, not against them. When asked to envision a rose garden, many see a formal, symmetrical design, consisting solely of roses surrounded by boxwood edges and tightly clipped hedges–a near monoculture. While this type of design can be beautiful and fulfills a need for a sense of order, it can also lead to an imbalance in the garden. Balance, as found in nature, is made possible by structural complexity and plant diversity which allow for both pest and pest predator (a.k.a. beneficial insects) populations. A modern rose garden should strive for this type of balance as it will lead to a healthier garden with a lesser reliance on pesticides.

When the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden was designed and installed in 1997-1998, the vision was of a four season garden with year-round interest. That vision still remains a guiding light for Smithsonian Gardens‟ horticulturists today. Roses bloom in the spring through the fall. Small collections of boxwood and holly not only anchor the garden during the winter months but also supply some of the desired structural complexity. A variety of ground covers and other perennials add to the display and ensure plant diversity. They were chosen specifically for their ability to attract a variety of beneficial insects into the garden, thus aiding in a natural balance.

The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden is a garden of modern roses that was designed with modern garden ideals in mind. As modern as these garden ideals are, however, they hearken back to ancient ideals of nature. Everything old is new again! Or, more fittingly for speaking of gardens, there is nothing new under the sun.

May 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

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