Sustainable Gardening with Roses
by Carol Edwards
You can “go green” with roses! With a bit of planning, observation, and care, it’s simple. So get ready to set aside those chemicals and see just how successful you can be. Here are seven steps to set you on the path to success.
- Select the Right Rose For successful green gardening add pest and disease resistance to your criteria for selecting roses. Luckily there are many beautiful roses from which to choose. To find out which roses have natural disease and pest resistance:
- Read the description or label on the rose plant. Look for “disease resistant rose” .
- Consult lists of disease resistant roses. For example, Texas A&M University has conducted stringent trials of roses. Those that have thrived for years with no chemical treatment have been designated Earth Kind™ roses.
- View roses that are grown without chemicals in public gardens, such as U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. Visit regularly and note the roses that remain in the garden for several years. Those varieties are good candidates for your garden.
- Plant your rose in the right place. Roses like a minimum of six hours of direct sun, good drainage, and enough space to have good air circulation. Enrich your planting hole with compost. The right place helps the plant to stay healthy and resist pests and diseases.
- Inspect your rose bush regularly. Look the entire bush over, including the underside of leaves where pests like to hide. If you see indications of pests or disease such as black spots or wilted unopened flower buds, take a sample of the damage to a garden center help desk for identification. If you are a member of the Potomac Rose Society, ask a “consulting rosarian” for advice.
- Remove roses that do not remain healthy. Be ruthless. Even a rose that is labeled disease resistant does not perform the same way in every garden. This area’s hot humid climate can be challenging for some roses. If your rose develops blackspot consistently, remove it from the garden. “Shovel pruning” is often the best way to rid your garden of persistent diseases, and especially pests. The good news is you make space to try a new rose.
- Keep your rose bush clean. Remove dead leaves and weeds away from the base of rose plant regularly. Mulch lightly around the plant, but not up to the base.
- Increase the diversity of plants in your garden with special attention to those that attract birds and beneficial insects like lady bugs. Add some native plants as hosts for butterflies and beneficial insects. Birds are attracted to plants that offer berries or cover. Avoid planting mildew-prone plants close to your rose.
- Use organic soil amendments and treatments. Get acquainted with compost, fish emulsion, etc. Contact your county extension agent to learn the details about where and how to have your soil tested. (University of the District of Columbia, University of Delaware, Virginia Tech University) Follow the test result recommendations. If you decide to use pesticides and fungicides, read product labels and look for the OMRI seal to avoid synthetic chemicals. Try certified organic or home made treatments. Follow directions—more is not better. When purchasing roses, select those grow on their own roots when possible.
A Few of My Favorite Roses and How to Find Yours
by Carol Edwards
Perhaps you have been thinking about starting or redesigning your garden. If so I hope you will be adventurous enough to explore the charms of growing roses, beyond the popular Knockout™ cultivars. Because most rose varieties benefit from regular attention, their cultivation makes you feel like a true gardener and the results are so worth it!
There are so many roses, how do you choose and where do you start? In this article I will share some of my personal favorites.
When deciding which roses to try, do your homework. Look through catalogs. Go to local garden centers in April/May, when most of the roses are stocked. Browse the web. Ask your neighbors. Attend rose exhibitions in our area.
To discover which roses do well in the mid-Atlantic, check out rose displays in public gardens several times over the growing season. We are fortunate to have several rose gardens in the metropolitan area, including the Smithsonian Garden and the U.S. Botanic National Garden on the National Mall, the U.S. National Arboretum, Brookside Gardens in Maryland, Bon Air and Meadowlark Gardens in Virginia, and several more.
Of course all the usual steps for selecting the “right plant for the right place” apply. Know how much sunlight you receive at the planting site. (Roses like to sunbathe.) Improve your soil. Improve it again. (Roses are heavy feeders.) Make sure that water is accessible. Drip irrigation is helpful. (Roses do not like drought.) Acquire good pruners, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and stout gloves.
Take note of your preferences. What colors do you like? How important is fragrance to you? Do you want lots of blooms? Do you want roses primarily for cut flowers? Do you like the flower forms of old garden roses?
Although I may not always choose the perfect roses for our climate, I try to make selections that will do well in this area without heroic effort. I use organic fertilizer. I add compost twice a year or more. I choose not to use synthetic chemicals so I tolerate occasional black spot and partially munched foliage. All of that goes with the territory. (If you demand exhibition quality roses, you will need to use toxic chemicals.) I like fragrance, although I am willing to choose beauty over fragrance on occasion. My taste in form is eclectic. I adore the high-centered, ovoid buds of some hybrid teas and grandifloras, but I also love the cupped, quartered, and expanded forms of old garden rose blooms. I like both single and double flowers.
When it comes to color, I favor pale shades—light pink, mauve, and pale yellow. I also like strong colors—copper, red/yellow, and dark purple. I prefer dark green, glossy foliage but, truthfully, if the flowers are spectacular and the foliage is mediocre, I’ll still take the plant. Although I fancy recurrent (repeat blooming) roses, I find myself charmed by several old garden roses that bloom only once a year. The limited space of my row house garden nixes ramblers and vigorous climbers. (Again, do your homework, before you purchase.)
As I name my favorites, I will include a bit of a primer on how roses are classified. To prevent boring you, I will only include enough information to help my rose selections make sense. If you want further background, information abounds on the Internet and in print.
There are three major categories of roses: species, modern, and old garden roses. My roses fall in the latter two categories.
Old garden roses are those that were know to gardeners prior to 1867. Among the old garden roses I grow are Bourbons, and Gallicas, but there are an additional thirteen major classes. Most old garden roses only bloom once a year and many are vigorous growers. Old garden roses are among the most fragrant. Many are pest resistant. Their blooms have more variety in shape but are generally smaller than modern roses. Their color palette tends to vary from white to many shades of pink.
The modern roses in my garden, four of the eight major classes, include hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and shrubs. My shrub roses are a hybrid musk and several English roses, often called David Austin™ roses for their primary breeder. The latter are repeat bloomers that mimic the old garden roses in form, fragrance, and disease resistance—some, more successfully than others in my experience.
Hybrid teas are distinguished by large flowers that grow individually on long stems. Grandifloras have a similar growth habit, but their blooms may be smaller and tend more toward sprays. Floribunda roses often have smaller flowers and stems than hybrid teas and their flowers grow in clusters. In general, floribunda roses will flower more prolifically season long than will hybrid tea roses, but hybrid tea blooms will be more spectacular—closer to roses we find in florist shops. In rose competitions, a hybrid tea bloom is almost always selected as queen of the show, the highest honor. Breeding may have altered modern roses’ growth habits, but it has also increased susceptibility to pests and diseases and, in many instances, diminished fragrance.
With that background, I’ll cut to the chase. If I had to select my absolute favorite rose, well, I just couldn’t. I could probably pick my favorite five. Among hybrid teas, Granada would be one. This neon pink and orange bi-color is beautiful, fragrant, and very showy. Another favorite is Dainty Bess, a beautiful pale pink single rose with dark pink and yellow stamens. I find its flowers fragile—one good rain or stiff breeze can denude it of petals, but it’s so endearing that I overlook its ephemeral nature. My only red is Veterans’ Honor®, a hybrid tea with large, long lasting blooms.
Hybrid teas may command the lion’s share of the attention, but I find that floribundas definitely have their charms. When properly tended, they provide consistent blooming during the height of the summer. One favorite is the lavender Blueberry Hill™. Apricot Nectar (light apricot) is fragrant and attractive. If you are after unusual colors that thrive in the mid-Atlantic, you will find them among floribundas like Hot Cocoa™ (brown) or Cinco de Mayo™ (orangey ocher). I do not grow either, but see them happy in public gardens around town. My Ketchup and Mustard (red and yellow) is eye catching. I find people love it or hate it.
When July’s heat and humidity causes many of my roses to take a nap, Scarborough Fair®, an English shrub rose, blooms like a champ. This small bush with its sweet light pink cupped flowers is perfect for row house frontage. Try it on a townhouse patio in a large pot. Dead-heading by occasional sheering is an almost effortless way to keep it blooming all season.
Some of the English roses are among my favorites. Pat Austin™ (copper) puts on a spectacular show every May. Wow! Unfortunately, I do not find it a prolific bloomer at other times. The Dark Lady (dark fuchsia) beautifies my vegetable patch admirably while occupying little of its precious real estate. One note of caution—I find that David Austin™ rose bushes can grow larger than forecasted, so plan your spacing accordingly. I recently planted Desdemona™, a rose that Austin rates among its most disease resistant. Time will tell.
For me, no garden would be complete without at least one old garden rose. My love of these roses goes back to childhood, and they were the first roses I planted in my own garden. One of my favorite old roses is planted smack in the middle of my perennial bed. Souvenir de la Malmaison, a light pink Bourbon that looks and smells great and repeats well. If you prefer a darker pink try the Portland rose, Rose de Rescht. Both of these varieties will grace relatively small spaces. Next to Souvenir de la Malmaison, I grow the hybrid musk rose, Penelope. It has large clusters of small pale pinkish-yellow flowers. I find the two roses lovely in combination.
My Gallica roses bloom only once, but glorify the month of June and, thankfully, tolerate a bit of shade. They include the sublimely fragrant Belle Isis (light pink) and the temperamental Cardinal Richelieu (which I plan to replace with Tuscany Superb, another purple rose). If you want that quintessential old rose fragrance, try the Apothecary’s rose or one of cabbage roses (rosa centifolia).
So there you have it—my favorite roses, at least for now. There are always more roses to discover and new introductions to consider. Rose companies like Kordes, and rose trial competitions, like EarthKind™ are giving us more information about disease resistance and sustainability every year. So try roses! With a bit of diligence and luck, the reward will be worth the effort.
One final note, local garden centers have a limited variety of roses, particularly of old garden roses. Many of the roses in my garden were ordered through catalogs. Do not be afraid to order bare root roses for fall or early spring planting. I have been quite successful with them. If you have questions, remember the consulting rosarians of the Potomac Rose Society and their other helpful resources. Happy planting!
Great Rose Reads: Winter Book Review
by Lisa Mundy
If you've ever thought about adding Tea Roses to your garden but didn't know which varieties to try, then this is the book for you. "Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens" was written in 2008 by six avid rose gardeners in Western Australia, affectionately known as the "Tea Bags". Discouraged by the lack of information available about Tea Roses, they decided to write a book filled with exhaustive detail, including gorgeous color photos of each variety and useful information such as growth habit, special uses, and disease resistance.
A lengthy review of this book was published in 2008 in Pacific Horticulture Magazine, written by California rosarian William "Bill" Grant. Grant wrote then: "The importance of this new book cannot be emphasized enough, as it fills a gap in rose history and cultivation that has existed since the Tea Rose was first introduced into Europe from China in the 19th century. Only one previous book, in German, by Rudolf Geschwind, has been devoted to this classic group of roses". Grant's words remain true to this day, and "Tea Roses" remains the authoritative text on the subject. You can find the rest of Bill Grant's review here:
The thing that I liked most about this book was that the authors did not shy away from picking and naming their favorite varieties. They even broke it down further, naming the best varieties for container culture, thornless stems, winter blooms, hot weather blooms and cut flowers. The following varieties and their sports were named the most reliable and rewarding overall: Anna Olivier and Lady Roberts, Comtesse de Labarthe (aka Duchesse de Brabant) and Mme Joseph Schwartz, G. Nabonnand and Peace, General Gallieni, Hugo Roller, Lady Hillingdon, Madame Antoine Mari, Madame Lambard, Maman Cochet and White Maman Cochet, Marie Van Houtte, Monsieur Tillier, Mrs. B R Cant, Mr. Dudley Cross, Papa Gontier, Papillon, Rosette Delizy, and Souvenir d'un Ami.
"Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens" is available for preview at books.google.com and for purchase at Amazon.com, or you can contact Botany Librarian extraordinaire Robin Everly at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Library to make arrangements to view their copy. It makes for great reading on a cold, winter day!
In Search of Marechal Niel:
New Own Root Rose Nursery Delivers the Goods!
by Lisa Mundy
I suppose you could call me an impatient gardener. When I plant a rose, I want to see flowers and I want them STAT! Remove all buds for the first year? Sorry, I just can't do it, which is why I've always ordered grafted roses instead of own-root. The grafted plants are large when they arrive at my doorstep and they establish quickly, leaving puny, own-root seedlings in the dust. At least that's what I used to think. In addition to being impatient with my roses, I am also demanding. I not only want blooms, I want fat, gorgeous, fragrant, take your breath away blooms. To that end, I have been searching for a good supplier of the famous noisette rose Marechal Niel for as long as I can remember. Marechal Niel is a repeat blooming, strongly fragrant, deep yellow climber with very large, very double, globular blooms that nod on dainty stems. Bred in France by Henri and Giraud Pradel, the rose was introduced in 1864 and named after a French general, Napoleon III's Minister of War. Paul Barden described Marechal Niel as being "one of the first truly deep yellow repeat blooming.... and much adored as such." The image below is a photograpgh of the 1919 painting by Massachusetts born artist Childe Hassam, entitled "Marechal Niel Roses", owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D. C. I have loved this rose from afar for many years, but it wasn't until this Fall that I had any hope of ever acquiring her. That was when I discovered a new own-root rose nursery called A Reverence For Roses.
Based in Florida and owned by husband and wife team Don and Jan Rogers, A Reverence For Roses is committed to preserving and distributing these historically significant beauties so that future generations will be able to enjoy them. Among their offerings are many rare varieties not sold anywhere else, along with many desirable modern varieties. A quick internet search produced excellent reviews, and when I sent an email asking for advice, Don and Jan were quick to reply with thoughtful recommendations. I decided to give them a try. Online ordering was easy, and my roses were shipped via USPS 2-day priority mail. The plants arrived perfectly packed, and they were the biggest, healthiest own-root plants I have ever seen.
Now that Rose Rosette is in our midst, many rose lovers think twice about purchasing plants grafted to Rosa multiflora rootstock. If you are considering own-root plants but don't want to sacrifice vigor at the outset, give A Reverence For Roses a try. I think you'll be glad you did.
Plants that Perform:
Florabunda Rose "Roseraie de Chatelet" is a bloom machine in DC's 100+ degree heat!
by Lisa Mundy
Every now and then, if you're lucky, you come across a rose that surpasses your expectations. Roseraie de Chatelet is one of those roses. Named after a famous rose garden in eastern France, near the borders of Germany and Switzerland, this little known gem is a floribunda bred by Bernard Sauvegot in 2000. It is an award-winner in Europe, having taken home a Silver Medal at Baden Baden in 1999. However, it is still a rarity in American gardens. What a pity. I took a chance on this rose a couple of seasons ago, buying it as a bare root from Palatine. This year she has rewarded me greatly, producing gorgeous blooms and pristine foliage during the blistering 100+ degree heat of Summer in my no-spray garden. She did all of this with only a handful of Rosetone at the beginning of the season, no mulch, and no supplemental water. Her companions were self-sown Nigella 'Love-in-a-Mist' seedlings, their feathery foliage visible in the photo below of her first bloom of this season, taken on April 27, 2017:
The lady has been producing her mildly fragrant blooms continuously since April. What more could a rose lover ask for?
Top photo of Mister Lincoln rose by Rich Baer