Roses, Everyone’s Favorite!

By Jan Cashman 6/30/08

Roses are everyone’s favorite flower. Their perfect shape, intense colors, and heady fragrance areunparalleled. In spite of the fact that we don’t live in rose growing country, there are quite a few gardenersaround here that grow beautiful roses. How do they do it? It might help to know a little about rose classifications to know how to be successful at growing roses at our elevation, with our low humidity and alkaline soils.

Hybrid tea roses have long-stemmed blossoms–those we buy at a florist for Valentine’s Day. As the name says, they are hybrids grown for their beautiful colors and huge flowers. Although some hybrid tea roses (Peace is one), seem to be more winter hardy than others, most hybrid teas are hardy to only zone 6. Since most of Southwest Montana is in zone 3 or 4 hardiness zones, hybrid teas need winter protection to survive winters here.

At the grower, hybrid tea roses are budded onto a different rootstock, so if the top of the rose plant dies and shoots grow up from the root, they will not be the same flower. When you plant hybrid tea and other tender budded roses, plant the bud a few inches below the soil line for a better chance of winter survival. Some of our customers have had success protecting their tender rosesfrom winter weather with rose cones. Be sure to provide ventilation by cutting out the top of the cones. Fill the rose cones with mulch for added protection.

Grandiflora and floribunda roses are much like hybrid teas but their flowers are smaller and grow in clusters. Most grandiflora and floribunda roses are no hardier than hybrid teas, but a fewfloribundas are hardy in zone 4 and do well here. Nearly Wild, an everblooming rose with single pink blossoms, is one of those. Although Nearly Wild freezes to the ground most winters, it grows back the next spring to be a beautiful low-growing shrub.

Large-flowered climbing roses such as Blaze, common in the eastern U.S., are no hardier than hybrid tea roses. Because it is difficult to cover and protect climbing roses in the winter, large-flowered climbing roses are not for our climate. There are other climbing or rambling roses with smaller flowers that are winter hardy to zone 3. John Davis is a newer hardy climbing rose named for a Canadian explorer. Tied up a trellis, it will reach 6 to 8 feet with fragrant pink blossoms. Ramblin Red is another recently introduced climbing rose that is hardy in zone 3 and can grow up a trellis to as high as 10 feet.

Old species roses like Austrian Copper and Persian Yellow can be found blooming on abandoned homesteads. Although they only bloom once a year in June, the display of flowers from these two roses makes them well worth planting.

Rugosa roses are a class of roses native to Siberia, Alaska, and northeastern North America that have crinkled leaves, many thorns, and are extremely cold hardy and disease resistant. Many of the hardiest roses are Rugosa hybrids such as the old-fashioned red Hansa. Hansa is intensely fragrant and blooms recurrently all summer. In the fall, the big rose hips appear on Hansa and its leaves turn orange.

A number of shrub roses have been introduced over the last 25 years, many from Canada, which have done well for us and our customers. When buying a shrub rose, make sure it has been grown on its ‘own root’. What this means is that the upper shrub is the same as its root, so the rose will be able to grow back from the root if the top has winter killed. Adelaide Hoodless is an extremely hardy (some give it a zone 2) red rose developed at the Morden Research Centre in Manitoba. Morden Centennial, one of my favorite hardy pink roses, blooms recurrently all summer. Champlain, another rose named after a Canadian explorer, has dark red flowers continuously from June through fall; Champlain seems to tolerate alkaline soils better than some shrub roses. Winnipeg Parks is a smaller, easy-to-grow, everblooming shrub rose whose deep pink blossoms look a lot like a hybrid tea rose.

Bailey Nurseries, a grower of hardy plants for Northern climates in Minnesota, has released a new series of roses, called ‘Easy Elegance’ through their rose breeding program. These roses are compact, everblooming, and disease free. Many are hardy in zone 4, which means they might freeze back in a hard winter here. But, since they are all grown on their ‘own root’, they will grow back fromthe root in the spring. Two of the many Easy Elegance varieties that seem promising are Sunrise Sunset, a low-growing shrub rose with yellow and apricot flowers, and Snowdrift, a taller (3-4′) hardy shrub whose white flowers have so many petals they look like an English rose.

Even though roses have thorns, deer love to eat them. If you have deer in your yard, you may need to fence your roses. Deer repellants like Plant Skyyd or Liquid Fence work if they are reapplied regularly. Roses may develop yellow leaves because of alkaline soils and, therefore,need added iron.

Mass plantings of everblooming roses will be stunning in your landscape all summer. What better way to add color to your landscape and flowers to your table!