In the Garden:
'Julia Child' rose serves up disease-resistant foliage and licorice-scented flowers all season long. Delicious!
Choosing Garden Roses
Every year a rose turns my head at the nursery and I simply can't live without it. That is, until I find out that it's an ephemeral bloomer, not disease resistant, and not hardy in New England. So I walk on by and keep sniffing, because there are plenty more to choose from. In fact, there are so many beautiful roses that are fragrant, long-blooming, disease resistant, and with a rugged constitution, that I can afford to be picky.
There are, at last count, a gazillion rose varieties, and each year rose breeders introduce new ones. How is a gardener to choose just one, or even just ten? Here are some ways to help you narrow down the field.
Visit a trusted local garden center or nursery and linger over the rose offerings. Reputable nurseries will sell only plants that are hardy and well adapted to your growing region. They'll also have knowledgeable staff to help guide you, and they will probably guarantee the plants they sell.
Varieties that have won the All-America Rose Selections award have met specific standards for traits such as vigor, disease resistance, and flower production. AARS is a nonprofit association of rose growers with a network of test gardens across the country. Varieties are evaluated under a range of climates and growing conditions; of the many tested, just a few are awarded the prestigious AARS award.
When browsing nursery catalogs, you'll find that numerous rose varieties are described as "award-winning." However, this may refer to awards based on flower competitions, rather than on overall plant performance. There are many gorgeous tea roses that are challenging to grow in home gardens due to disease susceptibility, for example. Don't rely solely on the generic term "award-winning" to guide your choice of plants.
Many states and regions have rose societies that hold meetings, host shows, and publish information in print and online about growing roses. These groups can be a good resource if you really get hooked. Also, some tours are for local rose society members only -- a good reason to join.
Flower Shows and Display Gardens
June is peak bloom time for roses in New England, so there's no better time for visiting rose gardens and attending shows. When roses are in full bloom you can judge for yourself a plant's flower and foliage color, growth habit, and fragrance, plus you'll know it's adapted to your climate. You may also get some growing tips from knowledgeable rose growers. You'll see firsthand why the magnificent rose is our "national floral emblem." That makes it almost unpatriotic NOT to grow at least one!
Below is a list of some regional rose societies and shows. Some shows are specifically cut flower competitions, while others include garden tours and workshops. Double-check the dates and times on their Web sites.
Massachusetts. Visit the Kelleher Rose Garden in the Back Bay Fens in Boston. Established in 1930, the garden contains over 200 varieties of tea, floribunda, and grandiflora hybrids. The Back Bay Fens is part of the Emerald Necklace, a 6-mile linear park in Boston and Brookline. You are free to wander the park. For a map and other information about the park, visit the Emerald Necklace Conservancy Web site: http://www.emeraldnecklace.org/fenway.htm.
Connecticut. The rose garden at Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut, is the oldest municipally operated rose garden in the country. The 2-1/2-acre garden has about 800 varieties of roses totaling about 15,000 plants, and is an All-America Test Garden. June 24 and 25 is Rose Weekend at the Park. For a schedule of events, visit: http://www.elizabethpark.org/.
Another resource for Connecticut gardeners is the Connecticut Rose Society ( http://ctrose.org/index.html ). Their annual Rose Show is on June 25 as part of Rose Weekend at Elizabeth Park, and all are welcome.
Maine. The Maine Rose Society holds tours of members' rose gardens in summer, so if you'd like to participate, join the society by visiting their Web site: http://www.mainerosesociety.com/mrsindex.html.
New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Rose Society will hold its annual Rose Show at Bedford Mall on Saturday, June 24, and you don't have to be a member to attend or enter the competition. There will be a Rose Doctors table where you can get answers to your questions about growing roses. For more information, and to learn about other upcoming events, visit: http://nhrosesociety.org/.
Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Rose Society Annual Rose Show will take place Saturday, June 17, at Roger Williams Park in Providence. For more information, visit the society's Web site: http://www.rirs.org.
Further Afield. June is Rose Month at both the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (http://www.bbg.org/) and the New York Botanical Garden (http://www.nybg.org/), where you'll find activities, Q&A sessions, tours, demonstrations, and more.
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