Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's In a Name: A Tea or Not A Tea

Rosette Delizy (Tea, Nabonnand, 1922) in my garden
Rose classification can sometimes be confusing, especially where antique roses are concerned, so I thought I would point out a few differences between hybrid tea (modern) and tea (old) roses.

 A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two photos for comparison (below).

Hybrid Tea:

Ville de Paris (Hybrid Tea, Pernet-Ducher, 1925) at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden (the Heritage)

Mrs. Dudley Cross (Tea, Paul and Son, 1907) at the Heritage
What you might notice is a stiffer upright growth habit of a hybrid tea, and its brighter, more "modern" color. Teas are bushy, well-branched shrubs with pastel colored blooms that often look down.

Maman Cochet (Tea, Cochet, 1892) at the Heritage
Tea roses were imported from China at the beginning of the 19th century. They were called Tea roses because they have a fragrance reminiscent of tea leaves.

'Alexander Hill Grey' (Tea, found) at the Heritage
Tea roses have some of the most sumptuous, elegant and delicately colored blooms in the rose world...

Mrs. Dudley Cross at the Heritage
...which are also quite susceptible to weather damage, such as balling and spotting.

Rubens (Tea, Robert, 1959), with outer petals ruined by spotting, a very common occurrence with this cultivar (at the Heritage)
Tea rose blooms are "weak-necked", or nodding,...

Mrs. Dudley Cross at the Heritage
...which can be great in a landscape, especially for climbers (as you want your roses to look at you rather than up into the sky).

A cane of climbing White Maman Cochet (Climbing Tea, Knight andSons, 1907) over my head (at the Heritage)
While teas were graceful landscape shrubs...

'Curtiss Ave. Yellow Tea 31' (Tea, found) at the Heritage
...their blooms (being weak-necked and weather-damaged) were not ideal for rose shows which became popular in the 19th century, or for cutting.

Catherine Mermet (Tea, Guillot fils, 1869) at the Heritage
At the time, hybrid perpetuals were the rose of choice for that purpose. They had the necessary stiff canes but lacked the refined high center of teas.

'Spiny HP' (Hybrid Perpetual, found) at the Heritage

They also came in "classic" colors of pink, purple and white, lacking the subtle apricots and creamy yellows of teas.

Géant des Batailles (Hybrid Perpetual, Nérard, 1845) at the Heritage
The obvious solution was to cross these two classes, which resulted in the creation of a hybrid tea. Hybrid Teas are florist roses, and it is these roses that you buy in bouquets. They were bred for long cutting stems, and were not originally meant to be grown as a landscape shrub. It is their tendency to create these long stems that gave them their unkind description of "lollipops on sticks", or "soldiers on parade".

April in Paris (Hybrid Tea, Zary, 2007) in my garden
Because of their popularity with rosarians and gardeners, hybrid teas were more and more extensively hybridized, resulting in plants that resembled less and less the antique teas.

Captain Harry Stebbings (Hybrid Tea, discovered by Stebbings, 1980) at the Heritage
As the public became more demanding, hybrid teas developed more and more unusual colors....

Singin' In The Rain (Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, McGredy, 1994) at the Heritage
....and some really weird shapes:).

Meilland Decor Arlequin (Shrub, Meilland, 1986), looking unusually ruffled (at the Heritage)
After saying all this, I don't mean to create an impression that I don't like hyrbid teas. I do, and grow quite a few.

Comtesse de Provence (Hybrid Tea, Meilland, 2001) in my garden
These roses can have a place in the garden too. They are very good for cutting, and lots of them are really fragrant too. Their sparse awkward growth habit is a great excuse to grow some perennials or herbs at their base, and if you have a narrow planting bed, nothing will work better.

Double Delight (Hybrid Tea, Swim, 1977) in my garden with lots of pelargoniums
Finally, nothing is quite as clear-cut as I have said so far :). Hybrid Teas are modern roses with quite a distinct set of genes from the original teas, but sometimes they do resemble each other. Many hybrid teas come in pastel colors, and quite a few have heavy petalled blooms that manage to bend down even their sturdy long stems :).

Golden Oldie (Hybrid Tea, Davidson, unknown) at the Heritage
Well grown, hybrid teas do not have to sport naked legs, and stiffly upright blooms all at the top.

High Noon (Hybrid Tea, climbing, Lammerts, 1946) at the Heritage
On the other hand, some tea rose blooms can hardly be described as softly colored:)

Niles Cochet (Tea, discovered by California Nursery Co., 1906) at the Heritage
But still, antique teas will remain my favorite for the exquisite soft colors, muddled heavy petalled blooms, and, of course, the tea fragrance.

White Maman Cochet  (Tea, Cook, 1896) at the Heritage


  1. I found out about the various categories of roses only three years ago. And the Tea Roses are becoming my favorits. Very good presentation, Masha ! Thank you ! As always, your photos are stunning .

  2. Masha, great education. Have you ever been called masha potato? lol. I'm curious. Where did Meiiland roses originate? I have planted some of their varieties when I was a landscape contractor, most of them were shrub roses.

  3. Thank you, Dani and Greggo. I am glad you liked it.

    Meilland is a bit French rose company, not unlike our now defunct J&P. I think they are located in Provence.

  4. Great post and presentation on the differences between 'old' teas and hybrid teas. As always, it boils down to putting the right rose in the right place - and personal preference, of course. Beautiful shots. Makes me want them all!

  5. Masha, great post about the differences between Hybrid Tea and Tea roses. Thank you! Your photos are exquisite as usual! Seeing your pictures of the Tea roses I feel you simply have to fall in love with them and I hope your readers will :-)! My favorites Teas from this post are 'Mrs. Dudley Cross', 'Alexander Hill Gray', and 'Rubens', three roses that I don't grow, yet. When my "rose buying ban" is ever lifted again I definitely will consider to acquire at least one of them.

  6. Thank you, HolleyGarden, and to all your points I would add that it also boils down to what does well in your garden:)

    Thank you, Christina. I love all of them too, except maybe for Rubens... Mrs. Dudley Cross is thornless, so she would be my first choice. I have enough scratches already.

  7. BEAUTIFUL!!! Roses always take my breath away and yours are simply intoxicating! Christie

  8. Thank you, Chateau de Fleurs. I am glad you got to see them.

  9. I cannot get over all the beautiful roses you grow...I do so love the delicate pinks and shapes of the teas...

  10. Thank you, Donna. I don't grow all of them, but I love them anyway!

  11. Masha,

    Another beautiful post :)

    Perhaps you could tell us some of your favorite rose books that you keep for looking things up or learning? Or which has taught you the most?


  12. Meilland? the rose we now call Peace, began life as Madame Meilland. I have Madame and Papa in my rose garden. But not enough space for the heritage roses. There are some growing at the Klein Optenhorst garden, and Elgin gardens are full of roses.

  13. What an excellent tutorial!!! You are definitely an expert! I love all roses but the very stiff florist roses are my least favorite. I like roses that are more natural and flop a bit. Your photos are phenomenal!! I used to live in CA and miss the weather. I love the Santa Cruz mountains. :o)

  14. Thank you, Julie, for your comment and question. The book I like the most is Brent Dickerson's Old Rose Advisor series, closely followed by Vintage Garden's Book of Roses. Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens is another great book for those living in warm climates...

    Elephant's Eye, thank you and all Peace roses have a lot of admirers. I like Flaming Peace best, but unfortunately, I, like you, don't have much more planting room:)

    Thank you, Casa Mariposa, I am glad you liked it. I had fun writing this post.

  15. WOW, so beautiful. I wish your post came with fragrance. I love the orange rose.

  16. ... can never get enough roses, in the garden and in pictures.

  17. Masha, thank you so much for your excellent presentation and descriptions. As always your photos are exquisite. I was also just enjoying your previous post about hiking around in your area and again you shared your beautiful photos and descriptions with us. It is always a pleasure to come visit with you.

  18. Great post and awesome photography. I have a rose called Bewitched hybrid tea. When I bought it, I had no idea what hybrid tea means. It's very beautiful though and I love it.

  19. Thank you, Blooming Rose Musings and Olga. I am glad you liked this post and the pictures.

  20. Masha: Your gardens must be absolutely magical with all those Roses. Thanks for the great info. I have one tea that was first grafted by my great-grandfather in Minnesota. We call it the "Grandpa Buffham Rose." The scent is unbelievable. The rest of my Roses are hybrids. There's just something about Roses...

  21. The photos are mesmerizing. Thanks for an informative post!

  22. Beth, thank you. I wish I could see your great-grandfather's rose. Is the rose still alive? Maybe you could post pictures.

    Thank you, GirlSprout. I am glad you liked it.

  23. I loved looking through your rose garden and thanks for the information. Gotta have that Dudley Cross!!

  24. Thank you, Jeannie, and welcome.

  25. What wonderful rich color! Very beautiful and unusual! Your roses are gorgeous!

  26. Thank you, Sandra. I am glad you liked them.

  27. Dear Masha,
    What's in a name Masha, is it to have or not to have???? That's the question !!!!!!, but Masha, I have this week bought two climbing roses (climbing iceberg). This is a white climbing rose with strong fragrance.
    If they will flower this summer? then I make pictures of it for you.
    I think if I have learned my lesson well, that it is a hybrid. Have I understood correctly?
    I wish you and your family a very happy Easter.
    Dear greetings, Elly

  28. Thank you, Elly. I hope your rose does well, and I am looking forward to seeing pictures of it on your blog.

  29. Dear Masha, A very informative post! I am learning about roses and you answered some of my questions. Like you, I love the old roses best. P x

  30. Thank you, Pam. I am glad you found it useful.

  31. Kochasz róże, ale dzisiaj oczarowałeś mnie jeszcze wiedzą o nich. Dla mnie wszystkie róże z ich zapachem są śliczne, chociaż mają kolce. Pozdrawiam serdecznie

  32. I agree, Giga, they do have a wonderful fragrance despite the prickles:).

  33. Thank you, Christine. I am glad it is useful.

  34. Masha, your presentations always have a very pleasing "voice" to them, as though I were hearing you sing the words softly. I enjoy them tremendously. Keep it up. I think they're working.

  35. Great examples! Although I like some of the Hybrid Teas, I have never understood their overwhelming popularity. I love the romantic qualities of tea rose blossoms, which you've captured beautifully in your photos.

  36. What a fantastic post, informative and I could look at the photos for hours. Mrs. Dudley Cross - what a great rose.

  37. Thank you, Sherry, for your lovely compliments and encouragement.

    Sweetbay, thank you. Like you, I love different roses, provided they are healthy and fragrant, and regard the awkward ones as a challenge:). I love the romance of teas, too.

  38. Thank you, Jerome! I am glad you liked it.

  39. Your photos are the BEST, Masha. Great post!

  40. Hi, Hoover Boo, and thanks for leaving a comment! I am glad you liked this post and it is nice to hear from you.

  41. Thanks for the great explanation!


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