Roses, the crowning touch for every garden
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, roses are the queens of the garden. My romance with roses began early via my Hoosier grandmother who prized her hybrid teas. Like most growers of roses, Grandmother Reba attended her roses as if they were visiting royalty. She taught me the importance of giving roses the best soil and supplements and plenty of sunshine.
Of course she gardened during that era of those big-guns rose chemicals which she applied liberally and regularly lest some wayward beetle or bug take a liking to her thorny charges. And those bushes bestowed garlands of elegant blossoms upon her. Occasionally, however, all her attention and ministrations proved futile as one ailment or another assassinated one of her favorites, then melancholy ruled.
But there was one rose, a blood-red beauty, a murderous climbing rose that triumphed over all growing higher and higher each year. With a trunk as thick as a man’s arm and thorns like scimitars, that rose thumbed its nose at any insect or disease that might come its way. It bloomed all through the hot Indiana summers and perfumed the air of that little backyard. No wonder Grandmother Reba tolerated its anarchy.
As the summer season wound down and the climbing rose’s blooms began to fade, she mounted her annual attack — counterattack would be more like it. Wearing one of Uncle Morris’ cast-off long-sleeved shirts for protection over her housedress, and with pruners in gloved hands, she mounted the stepladder to restore some semblance of order.
Hours later, bruised and with that shirt ripped to shreds and splattered with blood — her blood — she’d descend her perch triumphant. At her feet would lay long treacherous tendrils bristling with thorns as big as my little finger. Rose petals and leaves carpeted the grass. The battle was over for yet another year and order ruled throughout the realm.
Perhaps it was the childhood trauma of that annual carnage that tempered my own addiction to those roses that tend toward the more pantywaist varieties. Many of those are susceptible to winter die-back or summertime fungus woes which can be heartbreaking when they succumb and kick the bucket. Thankfully in recent years I’ve discovered the charms of heirloom, old fashioned roses. They may not produce the classic rosebuds on elegantly long stems, but they make up for any of those shortcomings with fragrance and abundance of blooms. Plus they are less susceptible to those diseases that bedevil hybrid tea roses.
As I've matured, I have come to appreciate those roses that perform with less effort on my part. Enter the landscape rose. Oh sweet landscape roses, where have you been all my life?! Here are roses that bloom, and bloom and bloom — all summer long — and shrug off disease like Grandmother Reba’s murderous climbing rose of my youth.
Of course the answer to that rhetorical question is that many of the landscape roses that I love today are recent introductions. These roses are easy to grow, don’t require pruning, are resistant to black spot, powdery and downy mildew, and provide color throughout the season. Forget plagues of disease, fussy plants and spotty flowering. And now there are thornless varieties too. Yes! No thorns. I wonder what Grandmother Reba would have to say about that.
Oso Happy “Smoothie” thornless landscape rose provides sprays of single, hot-pink flowers from June to frost on mounded plants with deep green foliage. Smoothie grows to five feet. One of my favorites in the new lineup of landscape roses from Proven Winners Color Choice line of flowering shrubs is Oso Easy “Honey Bun.” This little charmer provides continuous petite, semi-double blooms of the creamiest pale yellow frosted with tender pink on two-to-three-foot bushes covered with deep green foliage. Beautiful! These roses are winter hardy to Zone 4, and are heat tolerant as well.
Oso Happy “Candy Oh!” is also a smaller shrub, growing three to four feet tall and wide. This one crowns itself with brilliant, single red blooms that almost glow with intensity. I’ve been growing all three of these selections, and not only have they proved to be easy and colorful, they bestow an extravagant pageant of luxuriant bloom all summer. Landscape roses may well define the future of my rose empire. Maybe for you too?
Other royal choices include varieties with names that suggest flower color such as: Oso Easy “Mango Salsa,” “Peachy Cream,” “Paprika,” “Fragrant Spreader” and “Cherry Pie,” and Oso Happy “Petit Pink.” Give all these landscape roses moist, well-drained soils and full sunshine for best success. Pruning is not needed, though plants can be shaped in the spring when a controlled-release fertilizer should be applied. No monarchical treatment required. How grand is that?
Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the Garden Writers Association’s Silver Award of Achievement for 2012, National Garden Bureau's Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association's Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or “friend her” on Facebook.