Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
April, 2008
Regional Report

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'Gruss an Aachen' is a small, bushy, disease-resistant floribunda rose with wonderfully fragrant flowers.

Roses All Over

Long gone are the days of quartering roses in a dedicated rose garden. Partly, this due to gardeners becoming more adventurous, but it's also because many of the modern hybrids are more adaptable and low maintenance. 'Knockout' and its kin have brought roses into wide use in mixed flower borders. But even this use is too narrow. Roses can adapt to naturalistic plantings, survive in containers, become a hedge, flourish on steep slopes, or even brighten a shady spot. Plus, few other garden plants offer the possibility of flowers from May until October. So be inspired this spring to consider where in your garden roses could bring their beauty and charm.

Hedge Roses
A thorny rose hedge makes a serious barrier that also offers lots of flowers. Select varieties that grow to the height you require, as well as ones that are especially disease resistant and prickly with an upright shape and dense, twiggy stems. For a low hedge, most floribundas, polyanthas, low-growing shrub roses, and miniatures work well. Some of the best to consider are 'Anabell', 'Bredon', 'Escapade', 'The Fairy', 'Wife of Bath', and 'Sunsprite'. Some of the good choices for taller hedges include 'Ballerina', 'Buff Beauty', 'Bonica', 'Carefree Beauty', 'Carefree Wonder', Rosa eglanteria and cultivars, 'John Davis', 'Mary Rose', 'William Baffin', Rosa rugosa and cultivars, Rosa spinosissima and cultivars, and Rosa sericea var. pteracantha.

Roses for Dry, Exposed, or Windy Sites
Granted, few roses will survive poor, thin soil, but if amended with some compost or composted manure, at the top of the list is Rosa rugosa and cultivars. Most of these bloom off and on all summer, plus produce attractive hips. They do well even on the seashore. Two other rugged species, along with their cultivars, are Rosa pimpinellifolia and Rosa eglanteria. Both are once-blooming.

Roses for Naturalistic Gardens
Any of the species roses as well as the single, five-petaled roses look appropriate in a meadow or wildflower garden. Those that produce hips, such as Rosa rugosa and Rosa moyesii, also provide food for the birds. Rosa glauca is attractive for its silvery plum foliage, while the large, translucent thorns of Rosa sericea var. pteracantha make interesting additions. For single flowers, some of my favorites are 'Nearly Wild', 'Golden Wings', 'Rainbow Knock Out', and 'The Alexandra Rose'.

Roses for Shaded or North-Facing Sites
No rose will excel in shade, but some varieties do better than others. Most of the Rosa rugosa cultivars will produce some flowers in partial shade, as will many of the ground cover roses, such as the Oso Easy series. Of the David Austin English roses, consider 'A Shropshire Lad', 'Brother Cadfael', 'Abraham Darby', 'Benjamin Britten', 'Teasing Georgia', and 'L. D. Braithwaite'. Other roses to consider include 'Danse du Feu', 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain', or 'Alberic Barbier'.

Roses for Arches, Trellises, and Fences
Nothing is more romantic than a rose-covered arch, that is, until it needs pruning. To avoid such pain, try varieties that are relatively thorn-free, such as 'Kathleen Harrop', 'Mortimer Sackler', or 'Zephirine Drouhin'.

Otherwise, when choosing climbing or rambling roses, keep in mind their eventual size, as many of the older varieties can get quite large. Better suited for smaller gardens are compact climbers that won't need much pruning. For instance, try 'Altissimo' , 'Dublin Bay', 'Dortmund', or 'Eden'. Two shrub roses that also work well as climbers are 'William Morris' and 'Constance Spry'. If you've had problems with winter injury on climbing roses, try 'Henry Kelsey', 'John Cabot', or 'William Baffin', all hybrids from Canada. Personally, 'New Dawn' is one of my all-time favorites.

Roses for Slopes and Banks
Ground cover roses may either be short and bushy, such as the Flower Carpet series, or long and lanky with trailing stems. The recently introduced Oso Easy roses are an example of this. Some of these varieties to look for include 'Peachy Cream', 'Paprika', and 'Fragrant Spreader'. These are also beautiful cascading over a retaining wall. When using roses as a ground cover, be sure to mulch well to inhibit weed growth or cover the area with landscape fabric before planting.

Roses in Containers
In theory, any rose could be grown in a container, but the smaller types that tend to produce abundant flowers usually look the best. Miniature roses are, of course, perfect in containers. Polyantha roses, which are compact and bear a great many small flowers, are another option; consider 'White Pet' or 'The Fairy'. A tree rose makes a dramatic statement growing in a container. Try underplanting container-grown roses with thyme or prostrate rosemary. For most full-size roses, the minimum pot size is 14 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Miniatures needs pots at least 6 to 10 inches in diameter. Overwinter container-grown roses in an unheated garage, basement, or other shelter.

Roses for Easy, Non-Stop Color
For all the utilitarian reasons we can include roses in our yards, we mainly grow them for their beautiful flowers. With that in mind, of course it makes sense to utilize them in any area of our gardens where we want nonstop color. By choosing varieties that require minimal maintenance, we can have the pleasure of their beauty with far fewer headaches. 'Knock Out' has changed the way people think about roses, but there are many other varieties to try, including its sister varieties in shades of pink, yellow, and white. Another of my favorites, 'Home Run', was bred from 'Knock Out' and has flowers in a much prettier red color.

Looking for extra cold hardiness? These David Austin English roses should fit the bill: 'Gertrude Jekyll', 'Charlotte', 'The Mayflower', 'Crown Princess Margareta', 'Winchester Cathedral', and 'Mary Rose'. As mentioned, the Canadian Explorer Series of roses are also very hardy, plus very disease resistant. Also, look to the roses bred by Dr. Griffith Buck of Iowa.

The challenge for rose hybridizers in the future is getting those tougher, disease-resistant roses that also have that marvelous rose fragrance. The Austin roses come the closest so far to fitting that bill. Hopefully, some of these ideas inspire you to add more roses to your yard this spring.

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