Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.
The rose is without a doubt one of the most romantic of flowers and according to one new gardener, one of the more “anxiety producing” additions to a garden. It is hard to resist the seductive fragrance and soft petals of the rose in every hue! Alas, how can one add this Diva of plants to a garden and not be overwhelmed with a bazillion and two maintenance needs? First of all, there is no such number and second, a rose bush does not always mean high maintenance! There are a huge number of easy to care for, rugged, forgiving, lovely varieties of roses out there that only require a bit of earth and some water to flourish.
There are a multitude of heights and colours to choose from and various classifications from Hybrid Tea to Grandiflora to Bourbon to Carpet Roses. Books have been written trying to correctly categorize all of the categories and sub categories. Here is the very basic rundown:
Roses can be categorized into basically 3 main groups: Wild Roses, Old Garden Roses (any rose predating 1867) and Modern Roses. The modern roses are the varieties you are more likely to bump into in your local nursery and so I’ll try to further unravel the mystery of the rose classification system.
The very first one was a soft pink rose called ‘La France’ created in 1867 by Jean-Baptiste Guilliot. These are typically 4-6 feet in height and are the traditional long-stemmed roses that you see at the florist.
These roses are usually shorter and more spreading around 3-5 feet in height. They have smaller blooms and will often bloom from spring right through the summer and into the fall. ‘The Fairy’ is an example of a lovely smaller Polyantha.
A cross between Hybrid Tea and Polyantha. These have the upright habit of the Hybrid tea but with the Polyanthas many flowered habit. Ranging in height between 4 and 6 feet.
A more sprawling shrub ranging in height between 3 and 5 feet. They are a cross between Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses. These roses typically have clusters of hybrid tea style roses.
Basically miniature versions of the above with the colour range of the Hybrid Tea roses. Miniature roses grow between 6 and 36 inches in height.
Climbing and Rambling Roses
Climbers grow from about 8 feet to 20 feet in height with the ramblers growing up to 30 feet in height. The ramblers tend to have a single period of bloom while many of the climbers are repeat bloomers.
David Austin English Roses
– though not officially a separate category, the David Austin collection of roses tend to be the old fashioned cabbage-type rose and usually sweetly fragrant. Many of these roses are repeat bloomers. They range in height from 3-6 feet with the climbers being taller.
Canadian Hardy Roses
These roses were specifically developed for colder winters some hardy to -35!! ‘Therese Bugnet’ is one of my favorites. Fragrant with lovely rosehips and red canes in the winter.
Landscape and Flowercarpet Roses
Great for massing, these roses range in height from 2 to 3 feet in height. They are quite hardy and disease resistant and most are repeat flowering with the Flowercarpet series having the longest bloom time of all of the roses and are not at all picky about pruning.
Though widely varied in form and habit, all require at least 5 hours of direct sunlight to produce the best flower show. While many ground cover and landscape roses can grow well in poor soil, they all prefer a compost rich, well drained soil with adequate moisture especially during the bloom time. Try to water from below rather than overhead watering and mulch around the base with compost or well rotted manure to conserve moisture.
Roses are heavy feeders and benefit from applications of Rose Food like our GardenPro series of fertilizers. Two weeks after they first leaf out is an optimum time to start. Most roses will benefit from addditional applications of fertilizer in small amounts. Stop fertilizing in fall about 6 weeks prior to a killing frost.
You can have a rose in your garden without becoming a maintenance slave. I have a few of the old fashioned cabbage type myself. I tend to chose vigorous growers with quite glossy leaves…a trait which often helps the roses resist mildew and black spot. For pruning, I tend to remove only the old and wimpy canes or the three D’s…dead, diseased or damaged and certainly no more than one third of the plant. I do shorten the canes but as my roses are Old Roses I don’t do quite the hard prune as you would do with the modern roses. I do this in January and it seems to have worked nicely. With rambling or climbers, I tend not to prune very little, just the three D’s and then a bit of steering once they’ve filled their space. For any specific pruning advice come on in to the nursery and bring a picture or two. I don’t spray my roses at all. They either work or they don’t and with such a wide range of disease resistant cultivars you have huge choice. If I see aphids, I hose them off, they don’t crawl back up. Easy stuff!
I hope this has helped a bit; the right rose is really quite a lovely addition to any garden. I am looking out right now at one of mine rambling under my lilac at the front window along with some old fashioned German Irises.