Garden Better

Roses - Part 1

Roses - Part 1

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Unquestionably, roses are a garden standard. But today's roses are far from standard. As usual, "new and improved" is certainly new but hardly means improved in any absolute sense. With all due respect to the plant breeders and nurseries, the newest variety of rose may be exactly what you do not want. And as usual, the key is to know what it is that you do want.

Why do you want roses? (I am assuming that you want roses...if not, go to the next article, it's just a click away. Or else stay and change your mind and be assured.) Want to cut a dozen long-stemmed beauties. Unlikely in the home garden, but you can still get a great bouquet. How about the nostalgic classic rose fragrance? Alas many of today's roses are bred for factors other than fragrance. Color, form, size - not to mention practical things like disease resistance. Don't knock it, though. Those factors make roses a fantastic, tough, easy landscape plant. And if you search, the fragrance can be found too. Don't be fooled, though - make sure your first priority is the disease resistance and size, and you will get a very satisfactory landscape plant.

Start with the right plant in the right place! Every climate has roses that will do great, but the wrong rose will be nothing but disappointment. In humid area disease is a major factor, so look at disease resistance before even thinking about a particular variety there. In very hot areas deep intense colors may wash out, so stick with lighter shades. In cool areas the very large, many petalled flowers may ball up and never really open. Check with nearby nurseries (or your local extension agent) to find which varieties of rose do best in your area. Stick with the "standards" - the tried and true names that are known to perform in your area.

Where you plant in your property is also a factor. Roses need sun for good growth, vigor, and flowering. They need good air circulation to prevent disease.

Plant roses far enough apart to allow free air movement. Over-crowding is an invitation for pest and disease problems.

This also means a place where sprinklers won't hit - wet leaves are an invitation for disease. Decent soil with good drainage helps - don't think you can pop roses into your problem area and expect great results. If drainage is poor, consider raising the soil level in the bed where you will plant your roses (but never raise soil above the roots of existing plants).

Choose a rose that is the right size for what you want - don't try to make it fit. Get one that will fit what and where you want when it grows in. Basic sizes of roses are:

Miniature - tiny things scarcely recognizable as roses until you look closely. They are great for edging or for pots or planters. Miniatures are usually grown on their own roots, so pruning can be just a light shearing in early spring to keep them dense and full of flowering wood. Polyantha - smallish plants to about 2 feet (60 cm) tall. They bloom profusely in the spring and flowers. Excellent in the foreground. Floribunda - smaller than Hybrid Tea with masses of smaller flowers, they are great landscape plants. Hybrid Tea - 6 ft (2 m) plants bearing classic shaped roses. May be scrawny or bare towards the bottom, so it is recommended to have a foreground planting of a low hedge or lower floribunda or polyantha roses. Grandiflora - monsters of the rose world. They get 10 ft (3 m) or more and often have monster thorns as well. The flowers may be correspondingly huge, though. Never ever think you can keep them small. They are what they are and bear that in mind when choosing. Climbing Roses - often one of the afore mentioned types but a rambling form. They need to be tied onto support and that means an investment of time and effort. Don't use climbing roses if you want low maintenance.

Many roses are available as both climbers or bush type. Double check that you are not bringing home the wrong type by mistake.

Species Roses - so many that it is scarcely possible to mention them all. Just do your research before buying. Some can be spectacular, well mannered, and virtually maintenance free. Others can be horrible weeds if introduced into your garden. Be careful.

The single flowers of some species roses, like the Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana) are quite different than the typical garden hybrid rose.

Tree Roses (Standards) - These are regular roses that are on an upright "trunk". Sprouts from the trunk need to be removed and pruning kept up with for the rounded appearance of the head.

When planning roses for your garden, see what varieties do well locally. Tour the neighborhood and see what works in people's yards or go to local public gardens. Ask your local nurseryman about best varieties. When you take the time to plan ahead, you can grow awesome roses with the greatest of ease.

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