Selecting the Best Roses

By Susan Littlefield

Part of the mission of the American Rose Society (ARS) is the evaluation of newly-released roses. After three years of assessment, each rose is assigned a rating that is included in their annually published Handbook for Selecting Roses.

But recognizing that, as a rose is grown more widely over the years, its initial rating may become outdated, the ARS also began reviewing the ratings of established varieties periodically. They have just released the results of their first Quinquennial (Five Year) Survey, done in 2010, in which approximately 500 rose growers evaluated the ratings of all roses introduced before 2000.

As in past surveys, some of the highest rated roses showed a slight decline, but overall the rating of as many roses increased as declined. Ratings range from 9.3-10 for "One of the best roses ever" and 8.8-9.2 for "An outstanding rose in the top 1%" to 0.0-6.0 for "Not recommended" for over 3000 roses now in commerce in North America.

And what roses came out on top? The Noisette rose 'Reve d'Or', with medium yellow double blooms, maintained its top billing, with a score of 9.2, although it now shares the spotlight with two species roses, White Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa alba), with single, white blossoms and Lady Banks' Rose (Rosa banksiae banksiae) (pictured), with double, white flowers, both of which also received a 9.2 rating. Interestingly, in spite of all the new rose varieties released each year, all three of these top-rated roses are heirloom varieties. Reve d'Or dates to 1869, Lady Banks' to 1807 and the white Rugosa to 1784.

The Handbook for Selecting Roses is available from the American Rose Society for $5. In addition to an alphabetical listing of roses with their ratings, it contains useful lists of top rated roses by category, as well as award winners.

For more information on the American Rose Society or to purchase the Handbook for Selecting Roses, go to: American Rose Society.

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