GardeningRoses: The Queen of the garden

Published on Thu, Jun 10, 2004 by B. Durbin Wean

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Roses: The Queen of the garden

By B. Durbin Wean

The roses are blooming now and every year I just can’t believe how much I love them all over again. The color, the fragrance, the velvety texture. Somehow through the winter I seem to forget how much they add to the garden.

Do you have roses? If not, why not? I love roses but a lot of people in the Northwest are afraid to try growing them. So if you don’t have roses in your landscape but have wanted to try growing them, I’m going to give you every reason to do so.

When I open the door to my deck, I am overwhelmed with the fragrance of a climber that I planted three years ago called Autumn Sunset. This is the most vigorous, fragrant rose that I have. The flower color ranges from a creamy soft apricot blend to nearly orange. It has huge blooms and it is disease resistant.

I also planted one next to the chicken pen to help cover the smell of the chickens, and that one is now about 10 feet tall with such a profusion of blooms that you can smell the fragrance from halfway down the driveway. It obviously loved the chickens! Another climbing rose that always creates a sensation is called Fourth of July. That rose is planted next to my shop and is covered with red splashed with white blooms that smell like a fresh apple. It’s always a conversation piece.

Have you ever seen Joseph’s Coat? It has the most stunning blooms in red, vermilion, orange and yellow and is considered a climber. Double delight is a lovely hybrid tea rose that has a creamy interior with red edges. Fabulous! Rose colors abound in reds, oranges, lavenders, whites and pinks. I always find the lavenders exotic, unusual and most often they have a very strong fragrance.

Now for some technical information to help you with your decision in adding roses to your landscape. Rose classes include Hybrid tea - large flowers generally borne one per stem, medium to tall in habit with long cutting stems. Floribunda - medium sized flowers mostly borne in clusters (like a bouquet) often more compact in habit with medium length stems. Grandiflora - large flowers borne in clusters, usually taller in habit, individual stems within each cluster are suitable for cutting. Polyantha - small flowers borne in very large clusters, usually compact in habit, medium-short stems. I haven’t tried the miniatures yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so next year. These little flowerful guys are very compact in habit and are fully hardy. When they come with names like Gizmo, I’m sold!

One type of rose that I think will become absolutely important for the Northwest is the Rugosas and Foetidas. These roses are tough, have very strong fragrance and old fashioned flowers. They make great hedges because they have killer thorns and are valued for their hardiness. They also have large hips that the small animals eat in the winter and are decorative on the shrub when little else has color.

I met with my rose supplier last week and we covered some interesting information about roses in the Northwest. There are roses that are being developed that are just about impervious to the diseases black spot and mildew, the two diseases that we seem to have in abundance. Other new varieties are being developed that can grow just about anywhere if you provide the basic needs. Plant properly and locate in the right place.

Most roses want six hours of sun a day. Some varieties are available that will grow and bloom in filtered light like (an old classic) Zephirine Drouhin, a medium pink rose that is a climber. It is also very fragrant. Try a shrub rose that has beautiful clusters of white flowers called Sally Holmes. There are two floribundas, City of Belfast and Playboy that will bloom in less than ideal light conditions.

For us in Whatcom County deer are the major problem. They love roses for breakfast! I have gone out to smell a rose that I’m sure will be blooming and have found a neatly snipped stem left where a deer has delicately enjoyed my treasured bud.

So, if you are in deer country (aren’t we all?) provide a watchdog or some type of tall fence. These guys are determined to get to your rosebud before you do. Even so, roses are worth a try so learn more and see what you can do to enjoy them before the deer, and have fun.