Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
July, 2010
Regional Report

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This ground cover rose has great potential, with bright yellow blossoms and great vigor.

Ground Cover Roses-Hardy and Vigorous

Now that the heat has arrived, times can be tough in the rose garden. My roses have already endured an early hail storm that stripped them of foliage and buds. Luckily, there are some roses that don't give up. I've been testing a few samples of ground cover roses in my Rocky Mountain garden and become quite fond of their growth habit and resiliency after abrupt changes in weather conditions, like the hail.

These so-called ground cover roses are generally short and sprawling; I let mine ramble over shredded cedar mulch. Like all roses they need attention to watering and feeding for the most robust growth and abundant flowering. However, the ground cover roses I'm growing are mostly undemanding when it comes to pest problems. They're yet to be bothered by insects or diseases. So if you have better things to do than lug around a sprayer, consider giving them a try in your landscape.

A ground cover rose is typically defined as a rose that's shorter than average, topping out at one to three feet. It is usually wider than tall. When reading the description on the plant tag, look for key words such as "compact" or "low-growing"; roses that are termed "landscape roses" sometimes fit into the category of ground cover roses. Blooms are abundant and will repeat into the late summer and early fall.

Even though they are termed "ground cover", these roses don't necessarily behave like a true perennial ground cover such as woolly thyme that forms a dense mat to choke out most weeds. I've had bluegrass creep into my rose plantings and try to go to seed. As long as the soil beneath the mulch is moist, it is easy to pull out most invading weeds as they appear. You might want to put down an edging barrier to prevent other sprawling perennials from growing in among the ground cover roses.

Ground cover roses can be grown in a variety of settings. I've found that they are good candidates for accenting a pathway to the front door, adding some contrast to the front of a perennial bed, spilling over a retaining wall with swaths of colorful blooms or growing in containers for the summer months. I'm trying a vigorous, pest-resistant one that's loaded with colorful yellow blossoms along a hot sidewalk.

Some other roses that are doing very well during the heat of summer are the miniature roses. They possess the same characteristics as many of the larger roses, except everything is in miniature. A rainbow of colors is available on plants with tiny pointed buds, fully formed blooms (some are fragrant), delicate foliage and compact growth habit. They can be grown as tiny bushes, cascading from planters and even as climbers. These close-to-the-ground roses are well adapted to our fickle climate. Miniatures are excellent for gardeners who have limited space. They can even be grown in containers and brought indoors for winter if you have a cool, sunny location. They are generally much hardier than other roses and usually don't need extensive winter protection. Light mulching will provide some winter protection as well help retain moisture.

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