Where there appear to be a number of roses that would work well for a particular use; that is, where several roses appear to have characteristics of flower, habit, form, fragrance, hardiness, and so on that are essentially equivalent, I have usually decided to eliminate roses of inferior quality.
This is especially true of the thousands of fairly middling hybrid teas and floribundas bred in the last half of the twentieth century. Most of the roses not included can be described by a set of characteristics that match a superior rose that is at the site. So if you have a rose in mind and it does not appear here, there is a good likelyhood that some other rose much like it and at least as good can be found here. Perhaps there are 600 cultivars in the floribunda and hybrid tea classes that really merit consideration.
Finally, many new cultivars may not be here, since they are unproven by time. The biggest downside to this approach is that there are many people who want to buy roses for their names sake more than for the merits of the rose itself. To this we can only say "Beware what you ask for; you might get it."
Be patient. Read the articles. Explore thorougly. Feel free to e-mail me with questions. I usually respond within a few days.
If you get lost, refer to the site map
Definitely buy some roses. Few plants are easier to grow. Few are more rewarding.
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Nuits de Young and Cardinal de Richelieu can produce dark purple blossoms approaching black. Oklahoma and Taboo produce some of the darkest red blossoms among Hybrid Tea Roses. There are a few other dark roses out there, but none quite so black as the darkest iris.
The pigment for blue does not exist in roses. Or if it does, it was so recently introduced that no good cultivars have been introduced with blue coloration. "Blue" roses are actually shades of lilac and mauve.
Roses have an incredibly large number of potential garden uses. Each use fits best with a particular shade or color of blossom, a plant of a particular height, width, a flower of a particular size, or a plant covered to a certain degree with flowers at a given time of year.
As an example; if Noisettes grew rampantly all the way up to USDA zone 2, they might suffice for all the roses we need in white and primrose. But if one needs a purple, coral, or orange climber, one must turn to other roses. And since Noisettes are not hardy in zones 1-6, we seek fragrant, foliferous, remontant white roses for those hardiness zones. Since most of the foliferous roses are not remontant, we need to offer roses of either type.
Going along in this fashion to cover each bit of the combinatorial space of roses uses up something more than 1000 theoretical cultivars.
As a practical point, I considered cultivars one at a time as I encountered them in references. If a cultivar seemed either better than one I'd already catalogued for a use, or of particular historic significance, or of unusual beauty, or if it presented unusual features, or if it was rated highly by ARS members, or if it had won awards, I usually included it in the database.
Then I looked color-by color for low, bushy, shrubby, and climbing roses and tried to be sure there was something for each color and use combination. Where there was not, I sought more roses.
The process produced a database with just more than 1200 roses. In most cases the roses in the database are carried by at least one supplier. This suggests that in some location they are considered to have ongoing garden merit. Some roses without distribution are included because they seem distictive.
The rose was the first plant I succeeded in growing in my Texas garden. I formed the opinion that roses are easy plants to grow. This strong sentiment powerfully affects my ratings of roses.
My personal prejudice is that roses deserve to be grown more widely, but for this to be so people with no knowledge of rose culture need to be 100% successful with roses. Most roses fail to meet this standard.
Unfortunately only a small fraction of the roses I plant perform up to my own standards: they have to be vigorous and trouble-free in poor soil. Only rugosa, wichuriana, and alba hybrids have generally measured up.
If you live in the US, you can buy roses from Canada. And if you live in the Northeast, this is a doubly good idea. Roses imported into the US from other countries require special permits. Talk to your local agricultural extension office.
If you live in the EU, you probably already know that for the most part you can buy roses from other countries in the EU.
People in other countries should contact local authorities.