Without a doubt the rose is the most famous flower in human history. It is the very symbol of love, romance, and passion. Throughout the ages its beautiful form and exquisite perfume has been immortalized in countless songs and love poems. This regal flower is the Queen of the garden!
Worldwide there are over 300 species of roses and thousands of varieties. They come in a huge array of colors and sizes. Roses can be tiny miniatures growing in a tea cup, to climbing roses reaching seven to twenty feet tall.
When most of us think of a rose we think of the Hybrid Tea rose. It is the oldest of the modern roses and is known for their perfect form. Usually the roses sold as cut flowers in stores and by florists are Hybrid Teas. While the beauty of these small shrubs in the garden cannot be surpassed, they have the reputation of being very high maintenance and picky to grow. They are often attacked by disease and insects.
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An easier rose to grow is the group known as the Floribunda rose, meaning, ‘an abundance of flowers’ on a stem. They are usually more “cold hardy” and more resistant to disease. They often grow as small shrubs and live for years. I personally like the ever blooming Floribundas because they are more carefree and need much less maintenance.
In the last few years an extremely hardy and nearly maintenance free rose, known as Knockout roses, have flooded the market. They are often seen in fast-food and gas station landscapes. While very easy to grow, they do not have much of a scent. A few years ago I bought several Knockout roses in late summer that were deeply discounted. I purchased pinks, reds and a coral . I planted them in the poor gritty soil in the rear of my property on the alley. To my delight they have flourished and put on a super show all summer long!
Climbing roses are often placed on arbors and trellises. Climbing roses don’t actually climb, they produce long canes that can be trained to grow vertically. If a climbing rose is trained to grow horizontally along a fence or a structure it will send up flower stems all along the cane covered with masses of flowers! The Red Blaze is a popular climbing rose.
In the last several years the David Austin New English roses have become extremely popular. These modern roses have been hybridized in England to have the look and delicious smell of old fashion roses. The flowers tend to be very full of numerous flower petals and have a strong rose fragrance. I have several in my garden, and they are easy to care for! I have fallen in love with them and have squeezed as many as I can into my small garden! The roses are often named for famous people in English history and literature and Austin’s family members. Two of my favorites are the orange Lady of Shallot and the climbing yellow Graham Thomas rose. A new one ordered for this year is a pink Rose Harlow Carr.
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The Rugosa rose is a large shrub that is very hardy cold and disease resistant. It is very low maintenance and the extremely fragrant flowers bloom all season long. In late summer they produce large orange rose hips that are packed full of vitamin C and are often used as a tea. They tend to sucker and spread and are covered with wicked thorns. I have the very full, large reddish purple flowering Hansa rugosa rose. It is so fragrant you can smell it several feet away. Last year I planted the Robusta rose with large velvety red flowers and it was covered with blooms the entire summer.
Many roses cannot be found locally, so I often order them by mail. Most roses come bare root, usually in a plastic bag with damp moss and no soil. Many rose experts say to soak the rose overnight in a bucket of water before planting. I generally plant my new bare root roses in mid April. Most roses are grafted to a hardier rose root stock. In cold climates it is important to plant the graft, or knobby top of the root a couple of inches below the ground so cold weather will not kill the graft. On more than one occasion I have had the grafted rose die after a bitterly cold winter and in the spring the root stock often produces an ugly small dark red flower. Some roses are own-root and generally are much more “cold hardy”. In the fall it is a good idea to pile leaves or mulch around the graft to help protect it. In late winter I usually cut my roses back by a third and remove any dead or damaged canes.
Roses are graded 1, 1.5 and 2. This has to do with the number of strong canes on the plant and the number of years they have been grown in the fields. Often the big box stores sell the cheaper, lower grades of roses. Many people feel the lower graded roses are not worth the cost and may not grow to its fullest potential. In the past I have purchased the 1.5 grade of roses, and they have done well. The old adage, you get what you pay for can be true with purchasing the lower grade of roses.
Roses are often attacked by black spot and fungus on their leaves, rose mites, and various insects like Japanese Beetles. Some gardeners use a systemic rose product that is a fertilizer, an anti-fungal and a pesticide. The chemicals are taken up into the plant through the roots and battles against bugs and disease. Some prefer a more natural organic approach. Roses are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized throughout the season.
Facebook is a great place to learn about roses and talk to rose experts. I recommend Jacek Kondratowicz, a rose expert who lives in Poland. The number and varieties of roses he grows is mind boggling! Every garden has room for at least one rose. And as the old proverb goes, “Take time to smell the roses!”
Born and raised in Ohio Rick presently lives in an old house in a small central Ohio town, famous for its giant gourds. Rick comes from a family of avid gardeners. Now retired, he had the privilege to work with people with disabilities for over thirty years. His tiny city garden is crammed with an assortment or a collection of plants. During the long cold Ohio winters he continues gardening in the house and in his small backyard greenhouse. He is passionate about plants and writing. In his youth he traveled the world. The diversity of plants around the world is amazing! He especially enjoyed my time teaching in a bush school in Africa and spending a summer with the legendary Masai Tribe on the Serengeti Plain. For years, he has enjoyed the study of the ancient uses for plants and herbs. Many cultures today still believe in the magical qualities of plants. Grow a tomato, a tree, or plant some tulip bulbs, or grow some herbs in your kitchen window. It will make you feel good and you will be making our world a better place!