The weather this year has agreed with my roses. It may seem like we’re living in England lately, but the roses have appreciated the cool, moist spring- all the better to set lots of buds without a sudden heat wave to ruin the show. Every rose lover I’ve talked to is raving about the quality, quantity and extended bloom time for their roses.
Roses are available in so many shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances that almost every garden has a place for at least one. They provide structure and proportion to the landscape and are among the most showy and hardworking of all garden plants. The rose was selected as our National flower in 1986. England may have a few years on us in this department as it’s been their national emblem since the Wars of the Roses in 1455.
Who grew the first rose? Fossilized plants over 30 million years old can be linked to modern rose species. The Chinese were probably the first to cultivate roses, however. Five hundred years BC, Confucius wrote of roses in the Imperial Gardens. Roses have been under cultivation in China before they were introduced to the European market in the late 18th century. The ancient Greeks cultivated roses extensively. The Romans imported roses from Egypt. They also established a thriving rose-growing industry south of Rome forcing them into bloom during the winter in greenhouses and irrigating with warm water.
In the genus Rosa there are over 150 species or styles of roses that have specific characteristics. These species roses are plants that grow in the wild and from which all other roses are descended. Hybridization happens in nature by bees and other insects but man has taken the process to an intricate art and hybrid roses now account for over 1000 different kinds. From old garden roses like Damask and Bourbon to modern roses like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora to tree roses, climbing roses, miniatures, the choices are endless.
Which types grow well here? From my own experience and that of other designers and rose aficionados, my
all-time favorite is the popular Sally Holmes. It’s disease resistant, everblooming, handles our summer heat and winter cold with ease and has few thorns. Large, long lasting clusters of single peachy-white blooms cover this 10 ft spreading shrub that acts more like a climber. Because the flower is simple in form and doesn’t contain many petals it can handle foggy, cool conditions and resist fungal diseases.
English roses, like Golden Celebration, need warmth to perform well. With 5" blooms of 50+ petals, they are reliable if you get lots of heat. Same goes for the rich, golden-yellow Graham Thomas rose. Both are fragrant.
Roses that I have found to bloom in shady conditions are Ballerina, a wonderfully fragrant, small, pink hybrid musk rose. Dense, hardy and vigorous it’s easy to grow. I also grow the magenta climber, Zepherine Drouhin, in the shade. It grows to 8-12 ft tall and has a strong raspberry scent. Iceberg performs well in part shade, too, with large, double, pure white blooms that scent the air with a rich, honey perfume. I like that it’s thornless, too. I’ve been told that the miniature, Gourmet Popcorn, also tolerates shade.
Deer love to eat roses. Even roses with terrible thorns have susceptible new growth before the thorns have had time to harden. The new growth also has an increased amount of nutrients. I’ve heard that Rugosa roses are fairly deer resistant and well as The Fairy. Hope springs eternal.
This column is not long enough to go into the best way to plant and grow roses. But if you have a choice, it’s best to plant them where they receive at least morning sun as this allows the foliage to dry before fungus spores take hold.
Every garden or patio has a place for at least one wonderfully fragrant rose.