Yes, You Can Have Roses and Be Lazy Too

Posted by @lovemyhouse on
Want roses? Don't want to baby and coddle and cosset? You don't have to if you are willing to make an effort at first and have less than perfect forms later.

My grandmother had a small farm when I was growing up, and at least part of every summer was spent with her.  I had the greatest fun digging potatoes and picking corn and strawberries and gooseberries.  But the best part of being outside at Gramma’s was the sight of the irises and the peonies and the lily of the valley she grew, seemingly without effort.  I later learned they didn't really need much effort, especially not in northern Indiana, but back then it seemed like magic. 

I loved flowers of all kinds and rarely did anyone bring them to me.  I thought, well, dadgum it (sanitized version), I’ll just grow my own flowers one day!  I didn't really believe I would ever be able to have a garden, but I could dream.  When the miracle of my house came along 10 years ago, I was elated, excited…and so absurdly and profoundly ignorant that there should have been a warning sign on my forehead.  Oooo, an apricot azalea!  Stick it in the ground anywhere and walk away. What’s that?  A potentilla?  Yep, THAT one will do just fine in the driest part of the yard.  No water, no care, just dig a hole and plop it in.  {{groan}}  Dozens and dozens of plants were lost that way, including clematis, lavatera, daylilies, and, to my belated, more educated distress—roses and roses and roses.  Four Gizmo, three Touch of Class, two Sunset Celebration, two Julia Child, and a Brilliant Flower Circus, all lost to neglect and ignorance.  You have to do what?  Whadda ya mean you have to water them?  Spray them?  For what?  You are joking, right? 

Well, I learned, slowly.  But I still insisted on at least some form of neglect.  We have extreme summer heat.  I have MS.  We have droughts and water restrictions.  I have clay soil.  While I do deep water in spots about once every three or four weeks in summer, I do not regularly irrigate.  The soil cracks all around.  Foliage turns yellow and then withered brown, and then it drops off.  Buds get munched by something that eats from the outside in.  They get black spot.  On the rare occasions when I have given in and bought a bottle of systemic spray, they perked right up and looked great…for a while.  Then it was right back to scraggly.  But I still kept adding one or two here and there, until when I counted recently and discovered there are 25 roses in my garden!  Alive!  Blooming!  Wow. 

Part of the secret of their survival is afternoon shade.  I am deeply certain that, under their current care conditions, none of these would still be growing if they were subjected to full Texas sun all day.  Another part is that I do give them a little water periodically.  Another is that I finally learned the miracle of applied mulch (which means I learned I have to spread it around the plants, not just leave it in the bags and look at them on occasion).  Another part is that some roses just seem to be more rugged than others.  The shrubs will be wimpy, the flowers smaller and less numerous, but you CAN have roses even if the conditions are harsh and/or you are less than enamored with regular outside maintenance.  These are some of the tough-as-nails roses that grace my garden and earn my devout appreciation.


Gardenia Climber (buried to the right) and a NOID pink climber.  The pink has taken over and will have to be drastically cut back.  But, my goodness, does it produce some flowers!  Twice a year, too.



Gizmo.  After losing several, I found the right spot.  This is one of my favorites.

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Just Joey.  It gets to be nearly six feet tall, now, and is a prolific bloomer.



Opening Night.  Planted too close to Just Joey, so it hasn’t had a chance to really flourish, but those glorious red blooms!



Pope John Paul II.  Even though it is advertised as highly disease resistant, this one is subject to brown rot and black spot in my garden.  But my mother was Polish and Catholic, so I had to try it.  It is the only one I spray with any regularity because it is in memory of her.



Fourth of July.  I love, love, love the variegated/broken coloring of this one.  I thought I had lost it when the top of a neighbor's tree came down on it during Icemageddon in December, but aside from a few outside canes that had to be removed, it seems to be just fine.

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Heritage.  If I had to choose just one to keep, it would be this one.  Very few thorns and blooms well into late fall.



Wild Thing.  Perfect for making a don’t-touch-me short fence because its thorns are wild, all right.  I keep saying I’m going to get rid of it, but then spring rolls around again and…



NOIDs given to me by a departing neighbor.  These are the ugliest shrubs I have ever seen—and some of the most beautiful flowers. They rebloom, too.




Coral Drift and Red Drift.  Not too tall, not too wide.  Fit neatly into tucked-away places.




Julia Child.  THE most rugged rose I have.  It also blooms for me well into fall and often into December!  It sometimes produces light apricot buds right next to the yellows, which makes it entertaining. :-)



My garden is very small and I really don’t have room for any more roses without ripping out something else to make room.  Yet, somehow, I keep finding places for new ones.  You can, too.  It probably will take some experimentation.  You will most likely lose some.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew how stupid I was going to be, which is why I confined my acquisitions to sale or clearance plants at first :-D.  But if you want them, you can have them.  You just have to give them a little TLC the first year and check in on them every so often after that, then awaaaay you go…

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Very interesting method of Growing Roses by Newyorkrita May 25, 2014 2:33 PM 27
Encouraging! by TBGDN Feb 4, 2014 6:48 PM 1
Gives this desert gardener hope ! by quietyard Feb 3, 2014 9:13 PM 1

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