German Roses

Most people probably associate rose cultivation with England, but Germany also has a long history of rose-growing and a few interesting highlights that you can discover below.

European Rose Breeders Differentiate Between Garden and Cut-Flower Roses

Roses that are grown in the United States are primarily long-stem varieties used in bouquets.

Many European rose-breeding firms strictly separate their garden rose lines from their cut-flower varieties. Some of the leading European rose producers include Kordes and Söhne in Hamburg, Delbard in France and Peter Beale Roses in the UK. 

European rose growers tend not to use chemicals in the breeding process. Traditionally the US did use chemicals, but the use has declined in recent years. As chemical use declined, many US rose varieties began to flounder, developing blight and other illnesses. Roses came to be known as ‘fussy’ and US gardeners increasingly turned to traditional European varieties because they were said to be more disease resistant and easier to grow. Today one of the most popular rose brands in the US is David Austin roses. Austin Roses are said to have led to the rebirth of garden roses as flowering shrubs in the United States.

The Thousand-year Rose of Hildesheim

The oldest known rosebush in the world is located in Hildesheim, Germany. It has been estimated to be around 700 years old and grows up the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. A wild dog rose (Rosa Carina), it is growing up the apse of the church and is about 10 meters (33 feet) high. Even though the church was destroyed by allied bombers in WWII, the roots of the rose survived. According to legend, as long as the rose bush flourishes, so will the town of Hildesheim. 

700 Year Old Rosa Canina Bush on the Hildesheim Cathedral (Wikipedia)

Wild dog roses have 20-30 species and subspecies which appear in a variety of shapes and colors. The Caninae variety has pale pink, fragrant flowers and five to seven petals. The thorny stem helps it climb to a height of one to three meters, or in the case of the Hildesheim rose much higher with additional support. In the fall, the dog rose produces ‘hips’, often used in teas and homeopathic treatments. 

Rose ‘Hips’ (Wikipedia)

One legend says the dog rose was once a symbol for the old Saxon goddess Hulda. Hulda is depicted as a maiden in snow-white clothes and is associated with winter. When the deciduous dog rose loses its pale petals in the fall, it is said to remind one of the goddess Hulda shaking our her feather pillow. The legend is the basis of a well-known children’s fairytale in Germany.

Rosa Canina Flower (Wikipedia)

Steinfurth: the German Roses Capitol

The Steinfurth area north of Frankfurt is famous for its half-timbered houses, monasteries, orchards…and roses! Steinfurth is the rose-growing capitol of Germany with thirty nurseries that produce about fourteen million roses a year. On a breezy summer day, they say you can smell the perfume from the flowers before you reach the town. The industry was founded in the late 1860’s by a young German who had done an apprenticeship in England. Steinfurth celebrates its most well-known industry with a festival every summer and a museum dedicated to the history of the roses. 

Have a wonderful summer!