History of Garden Roses
Rose cultivation began in ancient Babylonia and Assyria and was passed on through later civilisations to Europe. Early garden roses were wild species and their natural forms and hybrids. They were grown for their beauty, scent, rose-water, rose-oil and later for medicinal and horticultural purposes. These ancestral roses were the forerunners of the groups Gallica, Damask, Alba, Centifolia and Moss.
It was not until the early 19th century, following the introduction of cultivated roses from China, that deliberate crossing began. Breeders then started to cross every available rose, which resulted in so many new varieties, that an attempt was made to put them in order in 1837 and again in 1848. Many of the groups then recognised still exist and new ones have emerged since.
Outside the south end of Kew's Palm House there are special beds with examples of some of the major rose groups listed below.