Selecting Roses

If you have visited your favorite garden center recently to look at the roses, you might feel overwhelmed. There are so many different plants offered for you to plant that it is difficult to choose.

For example, McShane’s Nursery in Salinas (www.mcshanesnursery.com) has posted its current rose list, with scores of bush roses, plus groundcover roses, English roses, tree roses, and climbing roses.

When studying this list, don’t just click “print.” I did and now have a six-page list, a half-page of growing tips, and seventeen blank pages! This didn’t kill more than a very small tree, but it’s a waste nevertheless.

You can also become overwhelmed by browsing to www.regannursery.com, the website of Regan Nursery in Fremont, California.

Dealing with such rose lists or inventories you visit requires a strategy. Decide first on what you need or want for your garden (bush, groundcover, tree or climbing roses), so you could focus on plant selection.

The bush roses are basically hybrid teas and floribundas. Thousands of cultivars are available, with new ones on the market every year.

The English roses, also called shrub roses, are plants England’s David Austin has bred. He combines fragrant old roses (Gallicas, Damasks, Albas and others) with modern roses, e.g., hybrid teas and floribundas, which offer a wide range of colors and repeat flowering. These are deservedly popular plants. Check them out at www.davidaustinroses.com.

Tree, groundcover and climbing roses are I hope obvious.

Once the gardener has decided the category of rose wanted/needed, most will chose for blossom color. This is a not a bad approach, but it misses other interesting and productive strategies.

A different approach is to select a rose that is highly rated for overall performance. Look for such ratings in the American Rose Society booklet, 2012 Handbook for Selecting Roses: A Guide to Buying Roses (inquire at ars@ars-hq.org).

Another approach for the adventuresome gardener: collect uncommon species. Of the 100 species of the genus Rosa, the major ones are the white rose (R. alba), the dog rose (R canina), the cabbage rose (R. centifolia), the summer damask rose (R. damascena), the French rose (R. gallica), the eglantine rose (R. rubiginosa) and the rugosa rose (R. rugosa). Each has unique appeal.

An intriguing choice is the winged thorn rose (R. sericea f. pteracantha), a Chinese native. Its distinctions include large size (six-to-eight feet tall), white flowers with just four petals and very large, bright red thorns. Best at the back of the garden bed!

One mail order source of such roses is Vintage Gardens in Sebastopol, California. (www.vintagegardens.com).

Enjoy the Queen of the Flowers in your garden!

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