Roses, everything’s coming up Roses!

The bareroot roses have arrived. It is quite the selection…over 225 varieties! They are each tempting in their own right. The color, the fragrance, the romance, who doesn’t love roses? Perhaps those who don’t view them like a high maintenance girlfriend. At heart I am not a romantic, but I love to surround myself with a sensual experience. And roses are sooo sensual: fragrant, velvety, colorful, thorny. They embue every landscape with drama. I have fancied roses for as long as I remember. And I remember the long row of roses at the nursery that my mom would cut for flower arrangements. I remember roses around for all my life. The first variety I learned was Tropicana and what a beauty it was. Bold and brassy and very fragrant. I will have an affection for that variety as long as I live. Peace was another hybrid that I loved. In fact, I still have it in my rose garden. And I do have a rose garden, small as it may be. There are 7 roses jammed into a small space. I planted them too close to the sidewalk so we bump into them. Most of them have performed admirably, although I rarely spray or treat them for diseases and insects. I am good at fertilizing and pruning, but they are on their own against the other garden villians.
Having lived in my house since 2001, I am now beginning to redesign my landscape. One of the areas that I want to recreate is my “rose garden”. This project has been on my to do list for 2 years now. I have been trying to convince my husband to remove (perish the thought) several roses that are not performing well. That sounds far better than “I hate them” and they really aren’t performing well! Now I have his permission and I’m ready to re do.
First I want to remove the 4 roses that desperately need to come out. Then I will assess the design and decide if I need to relocate any of the remaining 3 roses. Chances are I will need to relocate the Peace rose. It is too large for its present spot next to the driveway and sidewalk. Then the question is do I try to save it or do I replant? I could give it away to someone that is willing to baby it, because in my experience older roses are not easy to transplant, although I didn’t lose any of the ones I transplanted in my youth. Next, I will prune the roses that will remain where they are, possibly two. To prune, I look at the plant and select 5 to seven strong canes to leave. If they are young (non-woody) and large, I choose those. I remove the rest of the canes. I prune out any that are in the center of the plant. I like to envision being able to place a basketball in the center of the plant. Then I prune the remaining canes back to 12 to 18 inches high, always pruning back to an outward facing bud. The cut I make is angled downward. I would recommend thorn-proof gloves, a hat, long sleeves (or long rose gloves), and thick pants. I recommend the hat because one year Mitch came home to me dripping blood down my forehead. It startled him a bit.
Then I need to design the placement of the new roses. I must admit that I enjoy the design and planting process the best. I am ruthless once I have decided to remove something, and I will work diligently to create a clean slate, but the thing I like the best is the creating, the combining of elements and the planting of hopeful new plants.
The next item on my list is to select the varieties that I want to grow. I am trying to find fragrant, disease resistant roses. I want primarily hybrid teas. I like all colors but white. I have yet to find a truly disease resistant purple rose, so I may not even try to incorporate that color. I want to have a David Austin English rose and a tree rose. My greatest dilemma is whether to replant a Peace rose, which is my absolute favorite rose, but will get black spot, or to replace it with a more disease resistant yellow. I have a feeling that emotion will win the battle and I will have Peace in my garden once again. The two roses that I am considering leaving where they are are Double Delight and Ingrid Bergman. My past favorite red is Olympiad. That rose is sturdy and very disease resistant. However, it is totally devoid of fragrance. In my mind, that could be a toss up. A friend that I worked with loves Ingrid Bergman, so I planted one in this rose garden. It has performed well and it is fragrant, so I probably will keep it. When I first saw the Double Delight I planted I was horrified. Here was what I considered a scrawny rose with a tepid color contrast, certainly not what it was hyped up to be. My husband, the flower lover and plant peace activist that he is, thought it was positively delightful. I must admit that the fragrance is worth it. It is wonderfully scented. It has proved to be more resilient than I expected. Considering that I do not treat at all for disease, it has performed admirably. A little bit of black spot is all. Now I move on to the 4 open spots, unless I am able to design in a 5th, perhaps a tree rose. Currently I am leaning toward Fragrant Cloud, Peace, a David Austin variety like Lady Emma Hamilton, and a pink variety, any ideas? I am leaning toward a Sexy Rexy tree rose, so that could count as my pink and I could find another variety.

I am so excited to get started. There is of course the soil preparation. My husband is still robust and strong and he can mix in the planting mix. We have an established drip irrigation system that my husband will have to reconfigure a little bit. Once again, not too much of a problem. I think we can tackle this in a weekend. I want to get it done in February while it is still a good time to plant bare root roses. That doesn’t leave much time, but I’m sure we can get it done. I will finish the project by fertilizing with an organic fertilizer containing alfalfa meal and mulching with bark mulch. I’m planning on adding sweet violets and bulbs at the bases of the roses. I potted up some small bulbs just for this bed. It’s all shaping up to be the perfect rose garden. I can’t wait!
Happy Gardening. Brenda Powell

About Brenda Powell

I'm one of the owners of a family-owned retail nursery. I have a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. I love to garden and read. My technically savvy but horticulturally challenged husband, Mitch, spends most of his time as slave labor in the garden. Thank goodness he adores me! My goal in this blog is to share my enjoyment of gardening, my love of nature, and my addiction to books. Did I mention I like to cook, too?
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2 Responses to Roses, everything’s coming up Roses!

  1. Carol Hiler says:

    I have a smokey-purple rose called “Rhapsody in Blue”, a very unusual color, and fragrant – one of my favorites. My other two favorite roses are “Honey Perfume”, a golden-yellow flower with intense fragrance and very prolific, and “All That Jazz”, a bright rusty-rose color and also very prolific. All get some black spot but not enough to diminish their performance. Give these last two at least 4 square feet of room.

    Lovely article. You write from the heart!

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