Roses are present in stories throughout history, as even the Romans had roses. But those roses were different from the roses we see while we are gardening today.
The most popular roses presently are Hybrid tea roses, which can be considered Antique roses. Antique roses, or Old Roses, have often been neglected in favor of newer, more colorful Modern Roses. Antique roses include China roses (which originally came from China), Species roses (different specific flowers), Tea roses (named after their original fragrance), Bourbon roses, and Noisette roses, as well as Hybrid Perpetual Roses and Polyantha roses. Even these antique roses are crosses of older roses.
Roses which came before Antique roses make up most of the history of roses. Roses were present in Europe for centuries, gaining and losing popularity at different times and in different areas before roses from China arrived in Europe. These Tea roses and the China rose were cross pollinated with European roses, and the Bourbon and Noisette roses were developed, as well as several others. Rose history quickly changed. Roses traveled to North America with the early settlers, and new hybrids have been developed in North America as well.
Most of the modern roses came from the development of Hybrid Tea roses, after which the goal in growing roses became to develop the perfectly shaped bloom. Many colors were added, but many fragrances were lost. New roses required more care, as people began using chemical and organic fertilizers, watering more carefully, and increasing gardening pest control methods.
Some of the characteristics of the old flowers which were lost included flower shape variety, many petals, strong fragrances, and hardiness, the ability to survive without human assistance, which is now allowing people to find varieties of roses growing places where no one has pruned, watered, used the best fertilizer on them, or taken care of the roses in any way. Yet they have survived.
By mixing the antique roses with more modern roses, David Austin developed English roses. He mixed the modern roses with the antique roses because he was trying to regain some of the old characteristics in his new roses. David Austin regained and added new fragrances, as well as getting some of the shape and the hardiness for cold climates from the Antique Roses, but kept the new colors and the ability to repeat bloom of the Modern Roses.
The variety in all roses is a great thing for every gardener. A gardener can choose how much time they have to spend pruning roses, how big their rose is going to be, whether the rose plant is going to be a miniature rose for container gardening, or a climbing rose trained up the garage. The hybridization of so many roses has created many different combinations of characteristics for roses.
An Antique Rose might make a pleasant, low maintenance addition to any rose garden. They come in a variety of unexpected shapes, making it occasionally surprising to guests that the bush or trellis plant is actually a rose, but they give off pleasant scents and are quietly pretty.