Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
November, 2003
Regional Report

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Cutting roses to bring indoors is one of my favorite gardening activities. 'Livin' Easy' has outstanding apricot-orange blossoms and a wonderful fragrance.

Deciphering the Language of Roses

With their great beauty, tremendous variety, and luscious scent, it's easy to understand why gardeners are passionate about their roses. But for those unfamiliar with roses, the wide variety available can be a bit overwhelming. Before you go rose shopping, it's helpful to understand a little about the different rose classifications and how they are each used in the landscape. Here is a quick primer on the various rose types, sizes, and uses:

Hybrid Teas
The hybrid tea rose was first introduced in 1867, and today thousands of cultivars or varieties exist. Hybrid teas are tall, elegant plants, producing the classic long-stem rose. Hybrid teas are the most widely grown of all roses. The flowers are usually borne singly, one to a stem, rather than in clusters. In the garden they are often featured as single specimens or massed in a traditional rose cutting garden.

Blooming throughout the growing season, these upright, branching plants grow 3 feet or more tall. They are available in a wide range of colors, and many are fragrant. If you plan on cutting your roses often, this is one rose variety that you'll want to grow in your garden.

The name "floribunda" means "abundance of flowers." Floribundas are more hardy and disease resistant than other types of roses, which makes them especially good choices for new gardeners. Floribunda roses are a cross between a hybrid tea and a polyantha. (Polyantha roses are a hardier, low-growing, low-maintenance, shrub-style rose.)

Developed during the last century, these roses have the large, showy blossoms of the hybrid teas, but they bloom more freely, setting clusters of blossoms rather than a single bloom on a stem. The foliage, flower form, and color range is similar to hybrid teas, and many varieties are fragrant. Because these hardy, compact, 2- to 3-foot bushes bear great quantities of flower clusters on medium-length stems all summer long, they are excellent additions to the landscape.

Grandiflora roses are a combination of hybrid teas and floribundas, with some one-bloom stems and some cluster blooms. These relatively new roses were introduced in the 1950s. They exhibit the best attributes of hybrid teas and floribundas, including the large showy blossoms, but they grow to be much larger, reaching anywhere from 5 to 8 feet. This makes them striking accent plants for the back of the flower border. Grandiflora roses are hardy and continually in bloom.

Shrub roses have an upright growth habit with gracefully arching canes. Most are very hardy and require little maintenance. The flowers may be single (five petals), semi-double, or double, and are borne at the ends of canes and on branches along the canes. Some types bloom just once in the spring while others flower continuously during the growing season.

Shrub roses frequently produce red, orange, or yellow hips (seed pods) after flowering. These are high in vitamin C and can be used in cooking, plus the birds like them for winter food. Depending on the variety, they reach 4 to 12 feet tall with many canes and thick foliage, making them ideal for hedges as well as for background and mass plantings.

Ground Cover Roses
Ground cover roses are prostrate or slightly mounding plants with canes trailing along the ground. Although they do not grow high -- only 1 or 2 feet at most -- they have a wide-spreading habit and will eventually cover up to 4 or 5 feet. They are hardy and require virtually no pruning or maintenance, making them perfect for containers or near the edge of a flower bed. Ground cover roses will start blooming in early summer and continue right up to the frosts in the fall.

Climbing roses don't really climb the way vines do. Climbers are just roses that grow very tall, long canes that require tying up on a support of some sort. They can be trained to grow around a trellis, arbor, or even sideways along a fence. They usually have big showy blossoms and will bloom for several months.

There are two popular types; ramblers and large-flowered climbers. The ramblers are usually older roses with long, thin canes bearing clusters of small flowers in late spring or early summer. Because the canes are pliable and the blooms are small and come in large clusters, they are excellent for training on pillars, pergolas, and trellises.

The large-flowered climbers are more modern, with stiff, thick canes that grow 8 to 20 feet in height and bloom either continuously or at least several times during summer and fall. The blooms come in many colors, and the canes can produce blooms singly or in clusters.

Miniature Roses
Miniatures are a tiny versions of any of the other types, usually growing less than 2 feet tall. Blooms and foliage are proportionately smaller, too, but still quite perfect in form. They are hardy and excellent for edgings and mass plantings, among herbs, and in raised beds and containers.

Tree Roses
A tree rose is any rose variety that has been bud-grafted on a straight, sturdy trunk. These trunks may be 1 to 2 feet tall for types like miniatures and floribundas, or 3 to 4 feet tall for hybrid teas. Climbers budded on 6-foot trunks create a weeping effect. Any of these require careful pruning and special winter protection in all but the mildest areas.

Tree roses bear full-sized flowers and are very elegant when planted along a walkway or featured in a bed of their own.

Now that you're more familiar with the jargon of roses, you can select with confidence. Somewhere out there is a beautiful rose with your name on it!

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