Why antiques? Antique roses are those breed by species, sports, varieties, or cultivars prior to the first hybrid tea, (LaFrance) in 1867. Some people are not as strict in their interpretation of antique roses as the American Rose Society, and claim any rose 75 years or older as being old.
Why antiques? They have withstood the test of time. Many are alive and well, living in old grave yards, home sites, and near public buildings that are over 100 years old. Although some get black spot or something, they nevertheless flourish.
Why antiques? Modern day roses, especially the hybrid teas have to be pampered and babysat. Not only do they have to be fertilized, watered, and prune just right to live for any length of time. Hybrid teas are usually grafted on to other root stock. It appears to most horticulturalists they plants are hardier on their own rootstock.
Why antiques? Hybrid teas have been breed for form of flower, how well they do in vases, and repeat bloom. Fragrance, hardiness, and other great qualities have mostly disappeared, although now there are hybridizers experimentally with fragrance. I read recently of petunias being used in experiments to give hybrid teas and other new roses an old flower smell. For the most part, new roses make the ugliest of bushes, whereas the antiques are often graceful in form.
In the late 1700's to early 1800's, visitors to China, specifically botanists, brought back to the west rose that would bloom more than once a year, called remontant. They named these roses "China" Roses and "Tea" Roses. Until then, all roses in the west bloomed only once a year. These were the hardy roses, sports, and varieties grown in the Americas, Europe, and parts of Asia. These roses flourished in the wild, even.
The Chinas and Teas did very well in warm climates. In northern Europe, they could not withstand the cold. So nurserymen and other began crossing the Tea and Chinas with such native species as the dog rose, the Centifolias, Damasks, and Gallicas. The end product of all this hybridizing produced Bourbons, Grandifolias, Hybrid Perpetuals, Noisettes, Portlands, Polyanthas, etc.
Old roses look spectacular in all types of situations. The native species of rose go swell with other natives, especially on rustic, naturalistic sites. Antique roses look well in rustic garden laid out formally or informally. Most old roses look fantastic in abstract modern, baroque, or classical formal or informal gardens. The antiques set off perennials, herbs, and other shrubs in the border. They are at home on either city plots or vast estates.
So the least you can do for your one and only is to give her a rose garden. After all, Napoleon gave Josephine, "Malmaison", outside Paris, reportedly the greatest rose garden since ancient times.
Josephine had a painter who strolled around her garden painting flowers, particularly roses. His name is Redoubte and his works command a high price.
Some of the rose varieties grown at Malmaison can be purchased today, as well as, many others. Petals From the Past in Jemison, Alabama is a great place. So is the Antique Rose Emporium in Tyler, Texas and Suburban Atlanta. In Watsonville, California, there is Roses of Yesterday and Today. You can order old roses from http://www.antiqueroseemporium.com/ and http://www.rosesofyesterday.com/rosenn.htm.