Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
May, 2008
Regional Report

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Considering her namesake, it's only fitting that 'Julia Child' rose is delectable.

A Summer of Easy-Care Roses

What if there were plants you could grow around your home whose beauty and fragrance stopped you in your tracks every time you walked by? And what if that's about all the attention they needed? A multitude of roses offer all these attributes and more, and the most difficult part of growing them is choosing which ones to bring home.

Old-fashioned roses that bloom once and then retire for the rest of the season are no longer the mainstay of the rose garden. Rose breeding has given us many varieties that bloom for months and are scarcely bothered by disease. In some cases, fragrance has been lost in the development of longer blooming or other traits, but fragrant choices abound, too. More versatile than ever, roses make good hedges and ground covers as well as shrubs and trellis climbers. The key to keeping the blooms coming is providing nutrients all summer with slow-release or organic fertilizers.

Floribunda roses, with their candelabras of blooms, generally have good disease resistance, hardiness, and a strong fragrance. They grow about 2 to 4 feet tall with a rounded shape. Fragrant favorites include 'Julia Child' with butter yellow flowers; 'Livin' Easy' with apricot-orange blooms; and mauve-lavender 'Magenta', which is well suited to cool summers. The unusual color of 'Hot Cocoa' is described as smoky-chocolate-orange; 'Ebb Tide' is deep plum; and bushy 'Gruss an Aachen' has pale pink flowers that fade to creamy white.

The low-growing Flower Carpet series make beautiful ground covers at 2 feet tall with a 3-foot spread. Colors include pink, white, yellow, red, coral, and apple blossom, and the flowers keep coming even without deadheading. The only thing they lack is fragrance.

The Pavement series of roses may not have the most evocative name, but the name rightly suggests you may want to rip up the pavement to make room for more of them. A dozen different varieties in purples, pinks, and white are fragrant, disease resistant, and tolerant of partial shade. And they are especially suited to coastal conditions. While some grow low to the ground, others, such as deep pink Foxi Pavement, reach 5 feet tall.

The Knock Out series of low-growing shrubs include Knock Out (red), Rainbow Knock Out (coral-pink), and Pink Knock Out (rose pink). All are disease resistant, lightly fragrant, and don't need deadheading. They bloom even in part shade.

Modern shrub roses include easy-care varieties such as the fragrant, durable pinks -- 'Carefree Wonder' and 'Carefree Beauty'. 'Golden Wings', with single, pale yellow flowers and a sweet scent, has more tolerance for poor soil than most roses.

The Meidiland group of landscape and ground cover roses, bred in France, are fast growing, hardy, vigorous, disease-resistant, and tolerant of poor growing conditions. These include numerous varieties with "Meidiland" in the name such as Alba Meidiland, Coral Meidiland, and Fuchsia Meidiland, as well as Bonica and the Oso Easy series. Oso Easy roses are good choices for cascading over a retaining wall or for ground covers. Peach-colored 'Peachy Cream', reddish coral 'Paprika', and pink 'Fragrant Spreader' all have dark, glossy, disease-resistant foliage and grow 1 to 2 feet high.

David Austin English roses combine old rose style and scent with the more compact growth habit and reblooming aspect of modern roses. These include magenta 'Gertrude Jekyll', blush pink 'Wildeve', and butter yellow 'Graham Thomas' -- all a treat for the eye and the nose. They are more susceptible to disease than the other groups mentioned but their gorgeous, many petaled flowers earn them a spot in the garden anyway. They are less reliable in cold pockets of New England (generally zone 5), but even a summer with the apricot-yellow flowers and fruity fragrance of 'Abraham Darby' is memorable.

Rugosa roses, with their crinkled foliage and tough constitutions, often have colorful fall foliage and rose hips that linger. Dazzling white, fragrant 'Blanc Double de Coubert' is a must-have. Silvery pink, fragrant 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup' has hips resembling cherry tomatoes -- a simply yummy plant!

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