The most recognized flower in the world is a rose. It has been the symbol for love and for war, for beauty and for nationalities. It is also one of the oldest known flowers, with historical evidence showing fossils of roses that are 35 million years old. Through plant breeding and easy accessibility, the rose is more popular today than ever before.
Roses come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. There are miniature roses, bush roses, tree roses and climbing roses. There are antique varieties and modern ones, wild ones and highly hybridized varieties. There are thornless varieties and excessively thorny ones. Some have an intense aroma, while others have no scent at all. Some varieties only bloom once in the spring, while others can bloom almost from frost to frost. Some have huge, showy blooms, while others are covered in miniature flowers. So, when you say you want a rose bush in your yard, there are more choices than you may have imagined.
When choosing a rose for the landscape you have several things to consider. What mature size do you want the plant to be? How much sunlight do you have? And how much time do you have to invest to care for the rose bush? Today we have a plethora of easy-care roses that can serve as blooming shrubs and don’t need a rigid spraying schedule. These include the ubiquitous Knock Out series, but also include, Drift roses, Simplicity roses, Flower Carpet and O-so-easy roses. These roses rarely get black spot disease and don’t need specific pruning like the older Hybrid tea roses. But rarely do you get much fragrance from them, and they are not the best cut flower for a vase display. These roses are probably the most popular today, and the easiest to find, but there are other great carefree roses for the garden, including Buck Roses, and some specific varieties like: Fairy, Belinda’s Dream, Belinda’s Blush and Spice.
Hybrid tea roses are the largest and showiest roses, but an enormous amount of breeding has gone on behind the scenes to achieve these attributes. While they may be the largest and most colorful of roses, they are not always the strongest, being the most susceptible to diseases — particularly, black spot disease. For a while, the breeders were searching for specific colors and sizes, and the rose “scent” was lost. Recently there have been many breeders looking for fragrance along with beauty. There are over 6,000 named varieties of hybrid tea roses, with more appearing yearly. Some have proven more reliable than others, but most rosarians follow a fairly rigid spray and pruning schedule to achieve these results.
Antique roses are classified as roses that were in existence before 1867, when the first hybrid tea was bred. Others call any rose grown from 100 years ago an heirloom rose, so do a little research before you purchase your roses. Other classifications include floribundas, grandifloras, polyantha, miniatures and climbers.
All roses bloom best with a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day, but a few will bloom in limited sunlight. The plants may not grow as rapidly as they would in full sun, nor will you have as many blooms, but you can have flowers in partial shade with Zephirine Drouhin, Knock Outs, Buck roses and some David Austin roses.
For best flowering, roses like a well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. Most roses will bloom best with monthly fertilization from spring through September, but some varieties will do well with more limited inputs. While roses can be fairly drought-tolerant, once established, they grow and bloom best with ample moisture. If you are growing disease-prone plants, avoid overhead watering if possible, opting instead for drip irrigation or soaker hoses. If those aren’t available, make sure you water early in the day to allow the foliage to dry before nightfall, or disease issues will increase. Mulch around your roses to conserve moisture, moderate soil temperatures and help prevent weeds.
All roses need pruning every year. Timing and amount of pruning will vary by variety. If you have roses that only bloom once a year in the spring, let them bloom before pruning. For roses that bloom all summer, prune before new growth begins.
Roses can add beauty to a garden, but some do it with less care than others. There are many chapters of rose societies in Arkansas and nationally, with plenty of people willing to share their expertise. They can help you stop and smell the roses this summer!