Tea Roses hail from the Orient and are an ancient cross (deliberate or otherwise) between Rosa gigantea and Rosa chinensis resulting in a rose we know botanically as Rosa x odorata, common name "Hume's Blush Tea-Scented China". Tea Roses are such a key part of the Rose story as they are one of the ancestors of the Modern Hybrid Tea rose we grow and exhibit today. John Reeves, a Tea Inspector for the British East India Company, based in China from 1812 to 1831, was especially passionate about these Roses and paid Chinese agents to collect specimens from areas that were forbidden to foreigners. Mr Reeves also patronized and exported to Britain large amounts of plant material grown by the Fa Tee Nursery in Canton. Such was the excitement of the day that paintings of the "China Teas" were commissioned and these can still be seen today in the RHS Lord Lindley Library in London.
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These "new' roses were eagerly embraced by European horticulturists. The French and the Italians began making their own crosses which resulted in 250 new Tea Roses being introduced between 1830 and 1840. Sadly a series of hard European winters around the 1840's resulted in the decline of the Tea Rose as they did not do well in the cold damp conditions. Many popular varieties of the day are now thought to be extinct though they could still be growing, much loved but unidentified in secluded corners of the globe. Luckily for us the Tea Roses that were taken to Australia and New Zealand by early British settlers thrived in the warmer temperatures therefore ensuring their enduring popularity. We can thank British Rosarian Graham Thomas (the popular yellow Austin Rose bares his name) for fighting for the preservation of Tea roses in the 1960's. Eminent NZ Rosarians Nancy Steen and Trevor Griffiths also admired and wrote about the importance of Tea Roses and here at Wairere we are continuing the love affair with these most beautiful and desired roses. Check out some of our favourites:- Jean Ducher, Lady Hillington, Devonensis, Monsieur Tillier, General Galleni.
Characteristics of the Tea Rose
- Open growth habit
- Silky petals with subtle colour tones
- Distinctive pointed buds on slender stems
- Cupped nodding blooms double or semi-double
- Delicious distinctive fragrance
- Will grow in sun or filtered light as long as it is warm and cosy
- Long lived therefore require space to grow
- Resent hard pruning – best just dead-headed regularly
- Recurrent i.e. bloom continuously if in a warm sheltered spot