Rose Brands

Rather than see their rose introductions disappear into a sea of hybrid teas, floribundas, and shrubs at the garden center, many nurseries and hybridizers are devising brand name identities for their creations. By linking them under a common theme and building consumer loyalty, growers hope to increase sales. The idea is not new. Early in the 20th century, Pernet-Ducher had his Pernetiana series of yellow hybrid teas, and in the 1930s, Horvath was introducing his collection of Pirate climbers. But today's gardeners are confronted with more series of branded roses than ever before. These can be divided into three primary groups: new roses on the old rose model, roses bred for specific climates, and roses for easy-care landscaping.

New-old Roses

Today David Austin is a brand name and a registered trademark, but 20 years ago Austin was a nurseryman in the horticultural wilderness. His vision of repeat-blooming roses with the fragrance and full-petaled form of heritage roses was paid for with many years of hard work and slow sales. His best efforts--such as 'Heritage' and 'Mary Rose'--capture the grace of heritage roses extraordinarily well. With 130 Austin roses to choose from today, gardeners can match plant with place in almost any landscaping scheme.

The success of Austin's creations has prompted catch-up efforts from other hybridizing houses. While Austin went right back to the start, crossing true old garden roses such as gallicas and portlands with modern floribundas and climbers, some of his competitors appear to rely on roses that might have been viewed as accidents or rejects a generation ago. Seedlings that would have once been discarded for lacking high-centered hybrid tea form are now being named and introduced. In some cases their foliage, color, and habit all say "modern," and only their full, quartered blooms say "old." (Quartered refers to many-petaled blooms that open in four sections around a center "eye.")

Meilland's Romantica roses, named for French literary and cultural personalities, appear more like very full-petaled hybrid teas and floribundas than a group with close affinity to any of the heritage rose classes. The Romanticas are most notable for their strong, pure colors, usually standing up to heat better than other brands. Pink-and-white 'Honore de Balzac' has been indestructible in a part of my Ohio garden (USDA Hardiness Zone 5) that does not get regular attention. Like the Romanticas, most of Poulsen's Renaissance collection boasts glossy foliage. The real charm of this group is in their impressive sprays of large, full-petaled, often nodding blooms. Ivory 'Susan' is a particular favorite. As one would expect from roses bred in Denmark, the Renaissance collection has proved to be winter-hardy. The blooms are also reliably rainproof (blooms don't get spotted, and open even when wet), a boon to gardeners in coastal climates.

In the 19th century, the Guillot family of Lyon, France, created the first hybrid tea and the first polyantha roses. Today, their Generosa roses are the most old-fashioned-looking of the new-old roses, with full-petaled, fragrant blooms on graceful plants. Heights range from nearly dwarf (pink 'Marquise Spinola', reaching 2 feet in my garden) to almost rangy (cream 'Manuel Canovas', reaching 7 feet).

Climate-specific Choices

Brownell's series of Sub-Zero hybrid tea roses, bred in coastal Rhode Island in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s and usually sold today by Midwestern mail-order seed houses, may represent a triumph of marketing over genetics. In my garden, these are no hardier than most other hybrid teas. The Brownells always sent careful planting instructions with their stock, emphasizing the importance of planting the bud union of the rose 2 inches below ground in cold-winter areas. This rational strategy will make many roses "sub-zero."

The Canadian Explorer series has been bred in Quebec with extreme winter hardiness in mind. All are hardy at least to zone 4; a fair number can be counted on in zone 3. Most Explorers are deep pink, but there are also some reds, one good white ('Henry Hudson'), and several in gentler shades of pink. Habits range from low and spreading (bright red 'Champlain') to climbing (deep pink 'William Baffin').

The Morden series was developed in zone 3 Manitoba. These are best thought of as ultrahardy floribundas. Mordens don't grow large, and won't make sense for anyone in zones 6 through 11, where floribundas can overwinter without problems. For gardeners in colder areas, soft pink 'Morden Blush' is the most attractive of a sometimes harshly colored lot.

Gardeners in zones 6 and up can look forward to the Dream series, bred by Twomey and introduced this year by Anthony Tesselaar. These roses are bred to be low-maintenance and free-flowering; 'Dream Orange' and 'Dream Yellow' do very well in Los Angeles (zone 9).

Landscape Roses

Bred for the effect of the plant rather than for the impact of individual blooms, landscape roses must be low-maintenance. Jackson & Perkins's Simplicity series led the way, and remains remarkable for the uniformity of its members. The original pink 'Simplicity' has now been joined by white, red, purple, and yellow cousins. All make great hedges, although gardeners in zone 5 will occasionally find a gap in their living fence after a difficult winter.

Meilland's Meidiland series can be divided into two groups. The 1980s Meidilands included several ground-huggers that offered indifferent repeat bloom. These are gradually disappearing from catalogs in favor of more recent introductions featuring graceful shrubby growth and nonstop bloom. 'Fuchsia Meidiland' is a real star, never out of bloom for me in Ohio.

The Flower Carpets are the most strongly branded roses, all being sold in distinctive pink pots. In my garden, Noack's 'Flower Carpet' resists black spot. Note that while 'Appleblossom Flower Carpet' is a mutation with all of the characteristics of the deeper pink original, the other members of this series are not as closely related. 'White Flower Carpet', sold as a floribunda in Europe, will grow taller than the rest of them.

Other, less likely-to-be-encountered series include Kordes's Game birds, a range of rampageous ground covers named after such birds, Mattock's Counties, ground covers named for the counties of England, and Harkness's new Floorshow roses. All are competing for the loyalty of gardeners who will return for more of a brand that performs as promised.

Peter Schneider is the autor of Peter Schneider on Roses and co-editor of the annual Combined Rose List.

Landscape Roses

Bred for the effect of the plant rather than for the impact of individual blooms, landscape roses must be low-maintenance. Jackson & Perkins's Simplicity series led the way, and remains remarkable for the uniformity of its members. The original pink 'Simplicity' has now been joined by white, red, purple, and yellow cousins. All make great hedges, although gardeners in zone 5 will occasionally find a gap in their living fence after a difficult winter.

Meilland's Meidiland series can be divided into two groups. The 1980s Meidilands included several ground-huggers that offered indifferent repeat bloom. These are gradually disappearing from catalogs in favor of more recent introductions featuring graceful shrubby growth and nonstop bloom. 'Fuchsia Meidiland' is a real star, never out of bloom for me in Ohio.

The Flower Carpets are the most strongly branded roses, all being sold in distinctive pink pots. In my garden, Noack's 'Flower Carpet' resists black spot. Note that while 'Appleblossom Flower Carpet' is a mutation with all of the characteristics of the deeper pink original, the other members of this series are not as closely related. 'White Flower Carpet', sold as a floribunda in Europe, will grow taller than the rest of them.

Other, less likely-to-be-encountered series include Kordes's Game birds, a range of rampageous ground covers named after such birds, Mattock's Counties, ground covers named for the counties of England, and Harkness's new Floorshow roses. All are competing for the loyalty of gardeners who will return for more of a brand that performs as promised.

Peter Schneider is the autor of Peter Schneider on Roses and co-editor of the annual Combined Rose List.

Climate-specific Choices

Brownell's series of Sub-Zero hybrid tea roses, bred in coastal Rhode Island in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s and usually sold today by Midwestern mail-order seed houses, may represent a triumph of marketing over genetics. In my garden, these are no hardier than most other hybrid teas. The Brownells always sent careful planting instructions with their stock, emphasizing the importance of planting the bud union of the rose 2 inches below ground in cold-winter areas. This rational strategy will make many roses "sub-zero."

The Canadian Explorer series has been bred in Quebec with extreme winter hardiness in mind. All are hardy at least to zone 4; a fair number can be counted on in zone 3. Most Explorers are deep pink, but there are also some reds, one good white ('Henry Hudson'), and several in gentler shades of pink. Habits range from low and spreading (bright red 'Champlain') to climbing (deep pink 'William Baffin').

The Morden series was developed in zone 3 Manitoba. These are best thought of as ultrahardy floribundas. Mordens don't grow large, and won't make sense for anyone in zones 6 through 11, where floribundas can overwinter without problems. For gardeners in colder areas, soft pink 'Morden Blush' is the most attractive of a sometimes harshly colored lot.

Gardeners in zones 6 and up can look forward to the Dream series, bred by Twomey and introduced this year by Anthony Tesselaar. These roses are bred to be low-maintenance and free-flowering; 'Dream Orange' and 'Dream Yellow' do very well in Los Angeles (zone 9).