Garden Better: Rose Guide

Rose Garden

Rose Garden Background

For centuries, the rose has been one of mankind's favorite flowers. The word "rose" comes from the Latin word "rosa". The beautiful roses we are accustomed to seeing at the local flower store actually belong to a much larger family called the Rosaceae family. This includes roughly 3,000 species. The rose family is varied with herbs, trees, shrubs, and climbing plants. Some common members of the rose family that you are probably familiar with include pears, cherries, almonds, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, quinces, loquats, and strawberries. The Rose family is distributed throughout the world but is most commonly found in north temperate regions.

It is believed that the cultivation of roses began roughly 5,000 years ago in the Far East. Roses were also grown extensively in the Middle East throughout the period of Roman rule. At that time, roses were used in medical treatments and as a source of perfume. It was the Roman rulers that first established public rose gardens. When the Empire fell, however, the popularity of roses seemed to fall with it. Interestingly, it wasn't until the late eighteenth century that cultivated roses were introduced into Europe from China. The "modern-day" roses that one can find in their local flower shop or public rose garden trace their ancestry to these roses.

Why Choose a Rose Garden?

With so many varieties of flowers to choose from, ranging anywhere from the showy and lively chrysanthemum to the elegant tulip, why would one choose roses as their flower of choice for a garden? As mentioned earlier, roses have enjoyed more popularity than any other flower throughout history. Roses manage to capture the interest of gardeners who are looking to cultivate an eye-catching garden as well as those who are looking for low-maintenance flower. Roses are easy to maintain, are resilient and can withstand cold winters, are not as susceptible to insect infestation and disease as most other flowers, and offer excellent floral quality with a variety of vibrant colors.

Selecting Roses

There are three main categories of roses to choose from for your rose garden: once-blooming roses, continuously blooming roses, and rambling and climbing roses. Each category has both positive and negative qualities. Take time to decide what kind of look you want for your rose garden before purchasing rose bushes to plant. Once-blooming roses, which include the very popular "old roses", bloom once in the summer, usually around June or July. These are usually large bushes and offer an impressive bloom. Keep in mind, however, that this "impressive bloom" only happens once. Continuously blooming roses, the category composed of newer hybrid roses like China roses and Tea roses, provide beautiful flowers all summer long. Because they continuously bloom, more care needs to be given in their pruning and fertilization. Rambling and climbing roses grow vigorously and require little care. They are usually once-blooming. When left to "travel", climbing roses will run up a tree or cover a trellis. While they require little care, they have very thin, and thus, weak, canes that can easily break off.

Selecting a Site and Planting

Roses thrive in sites that provide good air circulation, sunlight, and a well drained soil. Ideally, the site you select for your rose garden should receive at least six hours of sun a day. In the event that a site with six hours of sun a day is not available, a location where the roses get only morning sun is preferred to one where they get only afternoon sun. A site receiving sun in the morning will help the roses' leaves to dry quickly, making the rose bush less susceptible to disease. Additionally, choosing a site with shade in the afternoon will help to maintain the beauty and quality of the rose flowers themselves. After the ideal site is selected, plant roses roughly two feet apart from one another to allow for adequate space for the rose bush to flourish and its roots to thrive.

Watering and Mulch

Roses do best with uniform soil moisture throughout the growing season. Roughly one inch of water should be applied to the roses in your garden per week during the growing season. The amount and frequency of application will depend on soil type. Areas with sandier soil require more watering than an area with heavier clay soil as the clay soil holds in more moisture. Additionally, areas with hotter temperatures will require more frequent watering to make up for the loss of moisture due to the heat. In such areas especially, it is a good idea to use mulch around the roses. Mulch can be easily made from wood chips, straw, or even dry grass. Applying mulch at the base of the roses in your garden will help to keep the soil cool, allowing for your rose garden to thrive.


The goals of pruning your rose garden are to remove dead, damaged, or diseased areas, increase air circulation, keep your rose bushes from becoming a tangled, shape individual rose bushes, and encourage growth of areas that will provide more flowers. One can do day-to-day pruning by removing faded flowers before they begin to develop seeds.

Winter Protection

In order to maintain your rose garden year after year, special attention must be given before winter to protect your roses from being damaged by the cold. One way to protect roses from the winter is to ensure that their growth slows early enough that they will be "dormant" when winter actually arrives. The best way to accomplish this to refrain from applying fertilizer after mid-August. It is also common to pile loose, well-drained soil, compost, or a mixture of the two over the plant; if the material is not well-drained, the plant it is covering can suffer from disease and mildew. This process, referred to as "hilling-up", protects the entire rose bush from the elements. For this to be successful, the bush must be covered to a depth of one foot.

Whether you choose the wilder look or a rambling rose, the elegant beauty of an old rose, the constant flowering of a China rose bush, or a mixture of all three, you will find that a rose garden is a great choice. With so many colors and varieties to choose from and with their fairly simple care, your rose garden can easily be a place of beauty to enjoy for years.

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