Cabbage roses are roses with very distinctive blooms which have made them rightly famous. The blooms have so many petals that they do actually rather resemble a particularly rambunctious cabbage. These roses are famous for being extremely aromatic, and many people find them quite pretty to look at, as well. You can find cabbage roses in many garden stores, and they also grow readily from cuttings, if you happen to know someone with a cabbage rose. Always ask before taking cuttings, though.
Several features distinguish the cabbage rose, which is formally known as Rosa centifolia. The first is the blooms, which may be white, pink, red, or variegated. As the scientific name for the cabbage rose implies, the bloom has a multitude of petals, although perhaps not the 100 hinted at in the name. The petals are tightly packed, turning the rose into a furled bloom of richly ruffled petals, and centifolia roses, as they are sometimes called, typically have a very heady aroma.
The foliage of cabbage roses is a gray-green, with simple compound leaves. When allowed to grow with minimal fuss, cabbage roses can grow quite large, turning almost into trees, and they require substantial support. Cabbage roses can also be tightly pruned and trimmed to promote a tighter, more bushy growth, although the bushes will still require some support as they grow. Like other roses, cabbage roses benefit from heavy pruning in their dormant periods, and they like to be fertilized in the spring.
These roses are sometimes called Provence roses, and they are also known as rose de mai. The cabbage rose was developed around the 1600s by Dutch rose breeders, who crossed several varieties to produce this very distinctive rose. Many people consider cabbage roses to be old fashioned roses, because of the extreme age of the varietal and the rich aroma which accompanies it. They are hardy in USDA zones four through nine.
Some people call cabbage roses “moss roses,” in a reference to the fuzzy green buds of the plant. Before the cabbage rose blooms, the flowers are enclosed inside these aromatic buds which do indeed feel a bit mossy to the touch. However, unlike moss, the cabbage rose prefers partial to full sun, and it will produce an astounding proliferation of blooms which do very well as cut flowers.