Are Roses Difficult to Maintain?
Some are. It is true that some hybrid rose varieties bred during the 1940’s and 50’s needed a lot of attention and were susceptible to fungal diseases. The old garden rose varieties (those bred prior to 1857) were more hardy and disease resistant. However, the color palette was limited to white, pink and red. And, most of them bloomed only once during a season.
So hybrids were developed in order to introduce a greater variety of colors, shapes and sizes and a repeat bloom cycle. There was also a desire for a rose that would be easy to maintain. This quest for a “better” rose has had mixed success through the decades.
The Crowd Pleaser
A hybrid variety called the Knockout turned out to be a hit (and still is) because it tolerates a variety of conditions, blooms continuously May through November (depending on climate region) and has been bred to be disease resistant. The downside of this success story is aesthetic: Knockouts don’t’ have the flowery fullness of an old-fashioned heirloom rose blossom and the fragrance is muted. Knockouts continue to be popular however, because they are low maintenance.
The Rose Reconsidered
Surrounds Garden Designer, Margaret Miley, says she would like to see people fall in love with what she calls the “new old roses”. Her choice for this endeavor are David Austin Roses. Also referred to as “English Roses”, these are modern hybrids that embody the beautiful flower shapes and lush fragrance of the heirloom varieties. The UK based rose breeder has, since the 1960’s, developed a wide aesthetic variety of plants that adapt well to diverse conditions. “Head Rosarian” Michael Marriott, who has worked with David Austin Roses for over 30 years, says they combine the charm and fragrance of the heirloom varieties with the long flowering season and wide color palette of the moderns.
David Austin loved the old-fashioned roses which were fast disappearing. People weren’t growing them because they only flowered once in a season and because they came in only white, pink and red. Whereas, modern roses repeat flower and come in yellow and apricot and just about any single color under the sun except blue. Michael Marriott, David Austin Roses
Today, Austin Roses are produced by a network of certified growers throughout the world including the U.S. Depending on the climate zone, the English roses will bloom once, twice or up to six times in a season.
Margaret Miley’s personal favorite among the David Austin bred roses is the “Crown Princess Margareta”. Named for a Princess Margaret who was a horticulturist known for her beautiful gardens, Miley says, “It’s one of the heirloom varieties with an apricot blossom that opens to a yellow that’s really fragrant.”
The Fine Print: Enemies of The Rose Plant
Almost everyone and everything loves roses—but some things love the rose too much. Both Marriott and Miley acknowledge that fungal diseases such as black spots and powdery mildew have traditionally been problematic for roses. However, if you plant them in a sunny spot where their leaves can dry off quickly in the morning sun, they do well—provided they aren’t being doused by an errant sprinkler head. Roses need good air circulation and a well drained soil to keep them safe from common fungal diseases.
Insect pests are more of a problem, especially Japanese beetles and aphids. But these two pests cause problems with a lot of plants—not just roses. And the problem can be managed. A well planned garden can attract beneficial insects, the kind that go after the marauders.
The trend now is to not grow a pure rose garden because it is a monoculture, and that in itself is a problem. If you mix the roses with other plants in your garden you are much more likely to attract beneficial insects that will control the pests. Michael Marriott, David Austin Roses
It is also extremely important to select the right variety for the conditions in your area. See Michael Marriott’s Tips for Growing English Roses.
Fitting Roses into the Garden Design
The rose plant can take the form of a bushy informal shrub, rambling ground cover, or a climbing vine that scales garden walls or drapes over a trellis. Miley has the suggestions for adding roses to your garden:
- Roses can hold their own as specimen plants at, for example, an entry way where you want something very special to draw focus.
- They work really well at the back of a perennial border to create depth.
- Plant them behind a low boxwood hedge. The roses can grow up four to six feet tall, and when the blooms are done they just blend in nicely into the background.
- In an informal garden mix them with perennials
- In a formal garden, roses can encircle the base of a fountain or statuary.
Since there are early season, mid season and continuously blooming plants you can plan your garden so there is always something to see and enjoy. Really, you can find a place for a rose anywhere in your garden, and we’d be happy to help you do that. If you’d like to talk about adding some English Roses to your garden, contact Surrounds and ask to speak with one of our Certified Horticulturalists.
Our sincere thanks go out to Michael Marriott and David Austin Roses for the gorgeous photography in this post.