may seem like a boring subject, but it’s not when you get into it.When you grow a variety of roses, you can’t
help but be fascinated by the different flower forms (shapes) and especially
the differences in petal shapes, petal textures, and petal arrangements
(configurations) within the flowers.But
in researching flower form and petals you might be surprised by the apparent
lack of detailed writing on the subject.
For example, in searching the Cumulative Index of the American
Rose Annual, 1916 - 1997, I found only one article specifically dealing
with flower “form” and none specifically dealing with petals.This was especially odd to me since the
period 1916-1997 covers most of the evolutionary period of the classic hybrid
tea form ( “…a bloom gracefully shaped with petals symmetrically arranged in an
attractive circular outline tending to a high center.”, quoted directly from
the ARS Judges manual).There are a few
websites, including ARS, that deal with rose flower forms, but all that I’ve
seen are highly simplified and contain relatively little detail.The one exception is the helpmefind.com website,
which claims to describe over 44,000 roses and has an excellent section on
I have pieced together information from various sources to go along with my
personal experiences to develop a program of pictures to illustrate the basic
flower forms and the wide variety of petal characteristics that help define
those forms.I want to extend a big “thank
you” to Jean Stream for collecting, tagging, and assembling those photos into a power point
program that I can share with you.
Basic Flower Forms (shapes)
its publication Ultimate Rose (2000, p. 157), the ARS lists the following nine
rose shapes with brief definitions:
Blown: normally well-shaped bloom past its
best; opened wide to reveal stamens and the rest of the center.
Flat:shallow low-centered bloom with a small number of petals.
Globular:bloom possessing many petals forming a ball-like flower with a closed
High-centered:classical shape of the hybrid tea – long
inner petals forming a central cone.
Open-cupped:bloom possessing many petals forming a
cuplike flower with an open center.
Pompon:rounded bloom with many short petals regularly arranged.
Quartered:inner petals arranged into four distinct sections rather than forming a
Rosette:flat, low-centered bloom with many short petals that are regularly
Split-centered:inner petals confused (not regularly
arranged), forming an irregular central area.
of the forms (shapes) defined above, except Blown and Split-centered,
is reiterated in the 2018 ARSHandbook forSelecting
Roses on page 11.This grouping
of forms seems to encompass most OGRs and modern roses except for perhaps some
of the English-style roses.
In his book,
Roses (2005), David Austin specifies “shallow cup” and “deep cup” as
distinct forms, in addition to the ARS Open-cupped form.His point is that most of his cup shaped
roses, whether deep or shallow, are filled with petals in the center as opposed
to the ARS Open-cupped form being defined as having an open center.
David Austin specifies ten flower shapes on his website and in his printed
catalogs.He adds “single” roses and “semi-double”
roses as distinct shapes. But it could be argued that it’s a moot point because
both single and semi-double roses fit nicely into the ARS form called Flat.Another slight difference is that Austin seems
to consider “quartered” to be a sub-class of “rosette”, probably because many
full-flowered Austin roses are basically rosette with a smaller number being
clearly quartered.A more substantial
difference is that Austin considers “recurved” to be a distinct form because, in
so many of his roses, the interior petals reflex (turn outward) as they age
forming a ball or dome-like appearance. But the major difference, as explained above,
is Austin’s addition of “shallow cup” and “deep cup” to the list of basic
forms. I will attempt to illustrate clearly
all of these flower forms in the power point presentation.
Petal count is a measure of the
fullness of the flower.ARS designates
4-8 petals as a single; 9-16 a semi-double; 17-25 a double; 26-40 full; 41 +
very double.As mentioned before, David
Austin considers “single” and “semi-double” to be so different in appearance
from full roses that he designates them as distinct flower forms.
Petal shape refers to the
architectural detail of the petal.Most
petals are somewhat oval or wedge-shaped, with outer edges varying from smooth,
to scalloped, to ruffled or frilled, to undulating, to wavy, to serrated, to
pointed (sometimes called quilled).The
adjectives to describe these shapes can get dizzying, but are largely
attributable to descriptions provided by rose breeders, themselves, or by
companies trying to market the particular characteristic.In almost all roses, except maybe singles, petals
typically reflex inward or outward, or sometimes both ways, with respect to the
center.And the degree and direction of
the curvature may vary considerably as the flower opens.
Petal texture refers to the thickness
and surface variation of the petal. Some petals are very thin and delicate
(almost translucent) and silky to the touch, while others are thicker, firmer,
and perhaps leathery or velvety to the touch.Most petals have a smooth surface, but some rugosa petals in particular
seem to display a degree of roughness. All of these characteristics of texture are
generally much easier to observe and appreciate in the garden or on the
grooming table than from photographs.Another
aspect of texture worth mentioning is the petal’s relative degree of turgidity
or droopiness, called “substance”.A
well-hydrated rose usually displays good substance, a concept very important to
Petal arrangement is perhaps the single
most important factor in defining a flower’s form.It refers to the distinct pattern that
emerges from the collective positioning of all the petals. That’s why most of the flower forms discussed
above take the name of the pattern that defines them.Some common petal arrangements are flat,
cupped, rosette, quartered, spiraling to a high center, globular, button eye
and imbricated.The objective of my
power point program is for everyone to come away with a clearer visual image of
the various rose flower forms and the petals that collectively create
Additional reference:In addition to the books
Ultimate Rose and The English Rose, cited earlier, I
would highly recommend Tea Roses: Old
Roses for Warm Gardens (2008).This
latter reference contains a statement of both flower size and shape, and petal
shape and texture for each of the approximately 60 tea roses cataloged.The book also contains perhaps the best rose
glossary I’ve found other than the one on the helpmefind.com website.