There is no more ubiquitous symbol of Valentine’s Day (and romantic love) than a bouquet of red roses. For a little history of the holiday, and the symbolism behind other well known flowers, check out my post from last year on the Language of Flowers.
This year, I wanted to look a bit closer at the rose family. For many gardeners, roses are an intimidating group of plants. The perception is that roses are all high maintenance. The truth is, yes some varieties are susceptible to mildew and rust and have very specific pruning requirements, but other varieties are resistant to these problems and can offer a lot of low maintenance, long blooming color to your garden.
There are many different varieties of roses (well over 100 species in the Rosa genus). Most roses prefer a sunny location, well drained soil and good air circulation, so if you have those conditions, great! Another tip for healthy roses is to water them at the roots (drip irrigation is good for this) so that the foliage doesn’t get wet and the risk of mildew is reduced.
Otherwise, here are a few common types you will see in the nursery and their most appropriate landscape applications.
Shrub/Hedge: These are perfect for a border, along a fence, or in lieu of a fence (prickly roses can be a great deterrent if you want to discourage people from walking through an area). There are many varieties of shrub or hedge roses, really it is the mature size and shape you are looking for. ‘Knock Out’ roses and ‘Rugosa’ roses (also called Beach roses because they are well adapted to seashore conditions) are both reliable and disease resistant shrubs (getting to about 4′ tall). For a hedge rose, look for one that gets as wide as it does high. The ‘Simplicity’ brand is a good option. These are all great options for the beginner gardener and/or a low maintenance landscape.
|‘Knock Out’ Rose ‘Razzmatazz’|
|Rosa rugosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hartopp’|
Hybrid Tea: Large flowered, fragrant roses on a single stem. These are the classic roses you most likely see at the florist. Great for cutting gardens, or in areas where you can enjoy the fragrance. They are on the more high maintenance side of the rose spectrum, though, and require proper pruning to encourage airflow (and discourage disease). If you are a more seasoned gardener, give these a try!
|‘Opening Night’ Hybrid Tea rose from Jackson & Perkins|
Floribunda: These roses have flowers that are in the classic hybrid tea shape, but the flowers grow in clusters (i.e. several flowers on one stem). ‘Floribunda’ are medium maintenance because they are fairly resistant to mildew and other diseases. Some spring pruning is recommended, but otherwise these typically fragrant roses are a good option for the back of a border or flower bed.
|‘Sunny Days’ Floribunda Rose from Jackson & Perkins|
Grandiflora: As the name suggests, these roses are big. They have the same classic form as the hybrid tea roses, are fragrant, and grow large, often to 5′ or more. Perfect roses for a cutting garden and the back of a border. On the medium side of the maintenance spectrum; proper pruning is important.
|‘Queen Elizabeth’ Grandiflora rose|
Climbing: Just as the name says, these roses climb and twine over structures. Great for arbors, trellises, fences or gazebos, a climbing rose can offer lots of color in a vertical or narrow space. There is some effort to train these roses and keep them in check, but for the most part they are low maintenance. I love the ‘New Dawn’ variety and so do the folks at Gardenista!
|‘New Dawn’ climbing rose|
Groundcover: These roses are meant to cover ground, and fill in spaces. A common brand name of ground cover rose is the “Drift” name. They grow up to 2′ tall and 3′ wide and are great at tying together large beds.
|‘Peach Drift’ Rose from Star|
For more inspiration check out the Star, Jackson and Perkins, or David Austin websites and maybe this Valentine’s Day, instead of buying a dozen cut roses, order a plant that you can add to your garden and enjoy year after year!