Selecting New Roses

We have entered the season for focusing on roses. Many gardeners have a bed dedicated to roses, or a scattering of roses among other perennials plants in the garden. In some cases, gardeners have been thinking about adding one or more roses to their landscapes.

In either case, the fall quarter is the right time for two aspects of gardening with roses: preparing existing plants for winter dormancy, and selecting new plants to add to the landscape.

Hybrid tea roses are the most popular variety of roses for most gardeners. These plans have been developed for extended bloom periods, resistance to diseases, and vigorous growth. Modern roses typically are repeat bloomers, as contrasted with “old garden roses,” which bloom once each year. At this time of the year, hybrid teas are presenting their last blooms, and looking like they are quite ready for a seasonal rest. The accompanying photos show blossoms of ‘Mary Rose’, a hybrid tea rose by David Austin, as they appeared in early May, and as they ended the season in late November.

Rosa ‘Mary Rose’ in early May
Rosa ‘Mary Rose’ in early November

Preparing Roses for Dormancy

  1. Stop deadheading, transplanting, and fertilizing to avoid encouraging new growth.
  2. Remove fallen leaves and other litter that could harbor fungal diseases. 
  3. Clean off any diseased leaves, failed buds, crossed and thin canes, and any top-heavy growth.
  4. Reduce larger plants to 4 or 5 feet in height, and tie canes to structures to minimize wind damage.
    (This a lower priority in the Monterey Bay area’s moderate climate.)
  5. Provide a two-to-three inch layer of mulch to provide nutrients and protect roots from freezing.

Selecting New Roses for the Garden

The bare root season for roses begins around mid-December, so a planning session is timely right now.

Bare-root roses are available at the lowest prices each year, through either local garden centers or mail-order nurseries, simply because the plants can be shipped and delivered with out the costs associated with containerized specimens. This is a good time to add roses to your garden.

Gardener who have wandered unprepared into the annual offering of bare root roses, whether in a local garden center can find the range of choices to be overwhelming. For example, a local garden center in Santa Cruz has already posted its 2018 list of bare root roses, including 183 bush roses, twenty climbing roses, and twenty-three tree roses.

The first step in selecting plants might be to look for just one of these three categories: bush, climbing, or tree roses. Each of these kinds of roses can be an asset in the garden, but an orderly selection process should focus on one category at a time.

The next step in selection depends on the gardener’s priorities. A helpful list from the garden center ideally would indicate blossom color, fragrance, disease resistance, type, and perhaps other characteristics. Consider each of these variables.

  • Blossom color, clearly a personal preference, could involve complementing the garden’s existing blossom colors, which should be listed in preparation for shopping. Some rose gardeners might want to develop color combinations or specialize in one color (a bed of all white roses could be attractive!).
  • The fragrance of a rose, while universally appreciated, could be an important consideration when selecting a rose to be grown near a walkway or seating area.
  • Disease resistance might be particularly important in some gardens, particularly those with more shade and less sunlight, which could support the development of disease.
  • Each gardener might have preferences among rose types, and should become familiar with the features of the most popular modern rose types:
  • Hybrid tea. Long, upright stems, making them popular for cut flower. Large, well formed, pointed blooms, up to five inches in diameter. Least hardy of modern roses and tend to be high-maintenance.
  • Floribunda.  Crosses between hybrid tea and polyantha roses. Each stem produces a cluster of large blossoms in the classic hybrid tea shape. Colors include orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white. Generally disease resistant, and tend to be hardy and easy to care for. Typically stocky, rigid shrubbery, and popular in public parks and other spaces.
  • Grandiflora. Combine the blooms of the hybrid teas and the growth cycle of floribundas. Large, showy flowers on long stems, either singly or in clusters of three to five blooms. Shrubs are generally larger and more upright than hybrid teas. Hardy and vigorous.
  • Shrub. Crosses between old garden roses and modern roses. Generally hardy, easy-care plants. Bloom style may be single, cabbage-like or anything in between, and fragrance level varies. Typically repeat bloomers that grow gracefully and spread easily.

The rose shopper could encounter additional types: English/David Austin roses, groundcover roses, miniature roses, ramblers, etc. Any of these less common types could add to the landscape, so the gardener should become familiar with their characteristics from a book or Internet search.

After narrowing the options with reference to these variables, the final step is to examine the plant tag, which should provide an image of the blossom plus helpful information. At that point, you can decide if a particular rose “speaks” to you, and would be welcome in your garden.

A systematic process for selecting roses can always be overruled by floral vibes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.