I had an interesting conversation with a customer a few weeks ago. She was raving about our hybrid tea roses. She told me she was amazed at the variety of roses that she could make tea from. I presumed she was talking about using the rose hips to make tea, but she clarified for me what she meant.
In China, they make tea out of rose petals, and she assumed that “hybrid tea” meant that these particular roses were grown for making special teas. It got me thinking about the name — and the fact that in my many years of gardening, I had never given any thought as to where that name came from.
So off to the internet I went.
It turns out that tea roses originated in China several centuries back. The name is derived from the fact that the fragrance of the flowers reminded people of the smell of brewing tea. The original tea roses were larger shrubs with big flowers that had weak necks, so the flowers were always nodding down.
Here’s more on the difference between hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses:
Hybrid teas: In 1867, Guillot of France introduced what would be the first hybrid tea rose. Named “La France,” it had a strong fragrance and a large, full bloom. It was the first hybrid tea in existence. When most gardeners think of roses, they are thinking of hybrid teas with their long stems that make for good cut flowers. They usually grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and like all roses, prefer full sun.
Floribundas: Jackson and Perkins was the first company to use the term “floribunda” in the early part of the 20th century. It is a cross between a polyantha and a tea rose. Generally, floribundas are smaller shrubs reaching only 3 to 4 feet tall and have an abundance of flowers. They can be single or double blooms and come in a wide range of colors. “Playboy” is one of my favorites, as well as “Sun Sprite” — the first yellow one to bloom in my old rose garden. I tend to prefer the simplicity of the single forms, which are also easier for the pollinators to access.
Grandifloras: The grandiflora rose is a hardy cross between a floribunda and a hybrid tea. They have large blooms that are clustered on long stems, making them good for cut flowers. The “Queen Elizabeth” was the first grandiflora rose to be developed — a sturdy, tall grower reaching 6 to 7 feet tall with lots of pink blooms. Just think of “grand blooms” for grandiflora.
In addition to the above types, we also have climbing roses, landscape roses and ground cover roses, to name a few. Climbers obviously need to grow on a trellis or arbor. Landscape roses are more like hardy shrubs with rose-like flowers that will bloom all summer but often have little to no fragrance (except for a new one called “At Last”) and ground cover roses are essentially the same, only they are more compact and closer to the ground.
Back to the rose tea conversation: It turns out herbal teas (also known as “tisane”) made with rose petals are very refreshing. It’s as simple as pouring some boiling hot water over a carafe partially filled with rose petals and letting it steep for a few minutes. Adding some lemon verbena or mint seems to be a popular combination, too.
If you try it, make sure that your rose petals have not been treated with any pesticides.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All about roses
Attend a free class on everything roses at 10 a.m. June 16 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.