Hardy and beautiful, some of these roses date back centuries
Old garden roses are the forerunners of modern hybrid teas. These heirloom types are valued for their fragrance, long life, resistance to disease and pests, and tolerance of soil types and temperature extremes. One of the best places to see how these plants perform in the low desert is at the Heritage Rose Garden, which was established in 1996 on the property of the University of Arizona's Maricopa County Cooperative Extension.
During April, most of the garden's 80 varieties are in bloom. One star performer is pictured here: 'Madame Isaac Pereire', a Bourbon rose dating to 1881. This small climber (to 10 feet) has deep magenta flowers with a rich fragrance. Like most heirloom roses, this one blooms extravagantly in spring, followed by intermittent blossoms in summer, and a final flourish in September and October.
Heritage Rose Garden, at 4341 E. Broadway Road in Phoenix, is open daily during daylight hours. Admission is free. For more information, call (602) 470-1556 ext. 831. For a wide assortment of heirloom roses, see the catalogs of the Antique Rose Emporium (800/441-0002 or www.weareroses.com) and Arena Rose (805/227-4094 or www.arenaroses.com).