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
Tea. A favourite Old World rose with translucent pink, cupped and nodding blooms that appear from spring right through to autumn. The blooms are double and have a delicious fragrance. AKA Comtesse de LaBerthe or Comtesse Ouwaroff - talk about an identity crisis but lovely all the same. 1857.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1m
Tea. A delicious old rose with long pointed buds that open to reveal fragrant, dark, velvety crimson red blooms that repeat throughout the season. Nice dark green foliage. Named after the French breeder who gave up being a tailor to breed roses. Good choice Francis. 1894.
Colour: Red / Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 0.9m x 0.6m
Tea. The General is a robust grower with relatively thornless stems. The blooms are cupped and quartered and a unique blend of rosy pink overlaid with cream with hints of buff, yellow and red. Delicious scent and nice glossy green foliage. Repeats well. France 1899.
Colour: Pink / Cream Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.2m x 1m
Tea. One of my favourite Tea roses. Nearly always in flower with very fragrant, semi-double peachy-pink flowers. A good example of the refinement and delicacy that Victorian rose-lovers so admired and just as lovely in today's gardens. The stems are relatively thorn free. 1873.
Colour: Pink / Apricot Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Climbing- Tea. A gorgeous old rose frequently found adorning old barns, fences and out-houses hence it is affectionately known as 'The Dunny Rose'. Will tolerate some shade, one of the first roses to flower in spring with sweetly fragrant, loosely shaped blooms in shades of pink, primrose yellow and copper. Vigorous with few thorns. 1897.
This rose flowers on 'old wood' so take care not to prune back too hard. Named after the breeder's wife. Generally healthy and disease resistant. Give it room to flourish and you will be rewarded with blooms on and off right through to autumn.
Colour: Pink / Red Habit: Climbing Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 3.5m x 2.5m