Growing Roses

[dropcap style=”dark” color=””]O[/dropcap]ur most popular flower is also one of the very oldest flowers in cultivation. There are over 2,000 different rose varieties to lure us with their history and fragrance. This is because the rose, like the orchid, cross-breeds readily—a trait exploited first by nature, and then by horticulturalists.

Finding your way through the rose’s large extended family can be both confusing and intimidating. Damasks, musks, gallicas, centifolias, hybrid perpetuals, Bourbons, hybrid teas, ramblers and climbers—even the most distinguished rosarians have a difficult time determining which rose is which.

The important thing is to select a rose that you find beautiful, and that suits your garden.


How to Select a Rose

There are thousands of beautiful roses, far more than any of us will ever have the opportunity to see, much less grow. When choosing a rose for your garden, there are five considerations that should make the selection process easier.

2. Growth habit
Though roses are usually planted for their flowers, it is important to know what the plant as well as the flowers will look like, in order to determine where it will fit in your garden.

Hybrid teas and floribundas usually grow no more than 2 to 3 feet high. Their form is coarse, and hardly very appealing, but they do have the ability to produce an abundance of flowers throughout the growing season. The hybrid tea has large, single blooms on long, stiff stems, whereas the floribunda has slightly smaller clusters of blooms on stems that are not as stiff.

Miniature roses have tiny flowers, and may be only 10 to 36 inches tall. Dwarf roses grow up to 2 feet high, and their flowers are produced in clusters. Shrub roses, including both the old-fashioned and the modern types, and ground-cover or landscape roses, are generally large and leafy.

Climbers and ramblers grow from 7 feet to 30 feet in length, and most of them benefit from some support. Standards are roses that are trained into a tree-like form with a single stem and a rounded bush or weeping display of flowers on top.

– Hardiness
Purchase your roses from a local or regional grower. They will be able to advise you from experience about how a particular variety will perform in your area.

– Bloom time
Many roses have just one flush of blooms per year. This consideration may narrow your choices very quickly.

– Disease-resistance
Selecting a disease-resistant rose is the single most effective way to avoid problems and the need for chemicals. 5. -Stem length
This may seem like an odd consideration, but it’s important if you are growing roses for cutting. The traditional florist rose is a hybrid tea, and it is the only type of rose that flowers on a long, stiff stem. All other roses have shorter, weaker stems, which gives them a more casual—some believe more beautiful—presence in a vase.

Caring for Your Roses

Roses are rather particular, and you should be aware of the growing conditions and care necessary to keep them happy.

Site: For most abundant blooms and greatest vigor, roses need to receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. In hot climates, they will appreciate receiving protection from the most intense afternoon sun. In cool climates, a fence or a warm south- or west-facing wall can add enough extra warmth to boost flower production and reduce winter damage.

Soils: Roses need good drainage and a rich, moisture-retentive soil, with a pH between 6.5 and 7. If your soil is heavy and wet, you may want to consider planting your roses in raised beds. Compost should be added to create a loose texture with a high organic content.

Water: Roses require more water than most other landscape plantings, especially during the first year as the plant is getting its roots established. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.

Fertilizer: Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.

Pruning: Dead, weak and sickly stems can lead to disease problems. Pruning these away will increase air circulation to the center of the plant and minimize fungus problems. Pruning also stimulates new growth, and allows you to shape the plant in a pleasing manner. Spent flowers should be removed during the growing season to encourage reblooming. Use a scissor-action pruner for the cleanest cuts.

Pests and diseases: Prevention is the best way to avoid pest and disease problems. Start with disease-resistant varieties, keep plants in healthy condition (well fertilized and well watered), maintain good air circulation, keep foliage dry, and remove any diseased foliage or spent flowers. For persistent pest problems, you can use botanical insecticides such as sabadilla, neem, rotenone, and pyrethrins. These are broad-spectrum controls, meaning they kill many types of insects, both good and bad. Though they are organic, these controls are potent and should be used sparingly.

Photographer: Frank Behrens

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