Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2008
Regional Report

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'Carefree Beauty' is one of many disease-resistant roses that make great landscape plants.

Shrub Roses for an Easy-Care Landscape

I am not a fan of plants that need pampering. I will occasionally tolerate a particularly unique plant's demand for special care just because I really want to grow it, but those initial intentions of providing frequent nurturing most often are abandoned when reality sets in and my time is required elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. I love unique and beautiful plants, even if they are hard to grow. But I love to visit them in someone else's garden. Take our beloved American hybrid tea roses, for example. I can appreciate the exquisite beauty of their picture-perfect long stems in a neatly tended garden. My hat is off to all of you rose lovers who have embraced the pursuit of the perfect rose.

I suspect that some readers will identify with me on my preference for less demanding plants. Perhaps some of you have avoided growing roses for just this reason. Well, for those of you who are reluctant to include a rose garden in your landscape, I would suggest you give roses another look, except as a landscape plant.

There are a number of roses that make great shrubs. Many are disease resistant and retain most of their foliage for all but the coldest time of the winter here in the lower south. These roses are easy to grow. Forget trying to figure out the right way to prune a rose bush. Shrub roses can be hedged, and even if you don't do it just right, they'll regrow and provide you another chance to improve your pruning style.

Bloom Forms
I'll grant you that the blooms on most of these shrub roses are not what the average person thinks of when they picture a rose; you know, the perfect long-stemmed hybrid tea. There are so many types of rose blooms, including the simple five petals to shaggy, strappy petals to flat-topped blooms with swirls of petals inside.

The response, "That doesn't look like a rose," is a frustration to me. I suppose if we gave some of these great roses a new name that doesn't include the word "rose," then folks would embrace them as the wonderful landscape plants they are.

Consider adding some shrub roses to your landscape this year. They are great as specimen plants or massed or lined up and sheared periodically. Visit with local experts to find the ones most disease resistant and dependable in your soil and climate. There is no sense spending your weekends spraying your shrubs when there are a number of great roses that don't require it.

A Few Favorites
Knock Out is very disease resistant. I like the old cherry red type best, but there are some new ones such as Pink Knock Out, Rainbow Knock Out, and Sunny Knock Out.

'Belinda's Dream' may be the most complete rose. It has good-to-excellent disease resistance, blooms that are more rose-like, and a nice fragrance.

'Marie Pavie' is an antique rose that is almost entirely thornless. It gets a little black spot but will do fine without spraying. Blooms are pale pink to white, with a baby powder fragrance. The plant grows about 3 feet. A pinker form called 'Marie Daley' is also available.

'Carefree Beauty' produces large, open, semi-double, fragrant blooms. Forms a medium-sized shrub that is a showstopper when in bloom.

Fall is the best time to establish new roses. Do some bed preparation now by adding in a few inches of compost and building raised planting beds for spots with marginal drainage. Make sure to choose a location with lots of sun or your roses won't bloom well.

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