Choose The Right Rose For Your Garden
Of all the flowers currently under cultivation, the rose is probably the oldest known species. Rose’s growing dates back several thousand years; Cleopatra allegedly lavished her boudoir with rose petals before meeting Mark Anthony. And despite their reputation as being fussy, rose plants can withstand wide variations in climate and soil.
Wild roses are growing in pure sand on the shore of Lake Michigan near Ludington, and the invasive multiflora rose (often used as a substitute for barbed wire fencing by dairy farmers) flourishes in the harsh winters of Korea and China. Modern rose hybrids with some of these hardy species as genetic forebears can grow very well in areas supporting human habitation.
Choosing a rose plant may not be a simple task, however. There are so many options to choose from that finding the perfect fit for a particular situation will take some research and sifting, followed by finding a place where the plant can be purchased.
Different roses can be used as ground covers, form a low-growing perennial border, as a singular specimen plant, cover a trellis or unsightly fence, or drape artfully out of the green boughs of a tree. In addition, one can use rose bushes in formal or informal garden arrangements. Flower arrangers will want a rose that looks beautiful for a long time in a vase, and anyone who enjoys a garden with their nose and eyes will gravitate toward roses that yield a heady fragrance.
There are five primary classifications of modern roses sold commercially. Each category has growth characteristics that are distinct and unique to it:
The hybrid tea rose is most people’s image when they hear “rose.” Hybrid tea roses bear one goblet-shaped bud at the end of a long stem. The bud unfurls and opens into glorious bloom. Hybrid tea rose bushes tend to have a very open appearance, and the plant grows from 2 to 4 feet tall. Hybrid teas have been bred primarily for appearance and durability as cut flowers; most modern hybrid teas have very little fragrance.
The floribunda rose presents its blooms in clusters at the end of the stem. Floribunda roses have a bushy, open habit, growing 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Floribunda roses typically bloom heavily in the spring, followed by sporadic blooms later during the growing season, and the plants are a little more cold-tolerant than hybrid teas. Many floribunda varieties are fragrant.
Combining the best attributes of the floribunda and hybrid tea roses, Grandiflora roses produce goblet-shaped buds in clusters. Blooms are made continually throughout the growing season, provided the old blooms are deadheaded, and the plant is fertilized. Grandiflora roses tend to be large plants, growing up to 7 feet tall, are very cold-tolerant and disease-resistant. Grandiflora roses make excellent hedge plants.
Many climbing roses on the market are genetic mutations of named bush varieties. These mutations grow extra-long stems, and the flower buds tend to be of better quality. A climbing rose doesn’t twine around a support like a vine; the canes need to be attached to a support with clips or twine. Climbing roses bloom heavily in the spring, followed by sporadic blooms throughout the growing season. Climbing roses can be used to create privacy when they are trellised to shade an open porch, or they can be used as a focal point when a pillar supports one plant.
Technically, all roses are shrubs, as most of them grow on multiple woody stems. However, there are rose varieties that grow into thick bushes that contain hundreds of thin branches, each of which bears at least one bloom in May. A hedge created with shrub roses offers floral beauty, privacy and a certain amount of safety; the thorns on shrub roses tend to dissuade potential interlopers from entering.
Rose bushes tend to be very winter-hardy, tough and require relatively little maintenance. Pruning is done to keep the shrub in bounds and, depending on the variety, may be done with mechanical hedge clippers or, in some cases, a chain saw. Some of the newer types, such as the Knockout and Simplicity brands, bloom continuously throughout the growing season.
All roses grow best in full sun and slightly acidic, well-drained soil.
The “blue” roses (actually deep pink) maintain their color when they are lightly shaded from the afternoon sun.
Rose plants can be purchased either as grafted plants or growing on their own roots.
Rose growers in the coldest growing zones (zone 4 or the north part of 5) should consider own-root roses, as they will come back true to variety as long as the root is kept alive during the winter.
Grafted roses often die below the graft during a frigid winter, and the new growth that blooms is that of the rootstock.
Landscaping with Roses in Your Garden
No garden should be without at least one rose, and with the abundance of shapes, colors and growth habits from which to choose, there is at least one rose appropriate for every garden.