Think roses are difficult, fussy, whiny-baby flowers that aren’t worth the time or effort? Not so. The key is to use the right roses and to mix them with other perennials.
Roses have been cultivated for many centuries, but according to legend it was Empress Josephine who created the modern rose garden. Her ambition was to acquire every known variety, and her collection was laid out in orderly rows. Now 200 years later, many rose gardens are still planted out in this style. This formal effect often doesn’t leave much room for the creative expression of today’s gardeners.
The problem is that to look great, certain types of roses require frequent spraying with fungicides and insecticides that are toxic to other ornamentals, and so these plants must be quarantined from the rest of the garden. Fortunately, there are many roses that don’t require regular doses of chemicals to succeed. Even when not in bloom, these robust plants give structure, height and interest to a mixed border.
It’s easiest and most satisfying to design with roses when they are incorporated with other shrubs and herbaceous plants into a mixed border. Here the texture, color and scent of the rose plays off the contrasting shapes and colors of other plants. And roses are great for providing interest during otherwise quiet times in the garden, usually blooming heavily in late spring and often again in the fall.
From miniatures to climbers that can reach 30 feet or more, roses are available in every size. The statuesque varieties below are a few of the taller, shrub-like varieties that will hold their own in a colorful mixed border. They don’t need special care, and most importantly, don’t need chemical applications to stay healthy. Like all roses, they have the same basic cultural requirements. Heavy feeders, they need rich, friable soil and at least six hours of sunlight a day. And while established roses will survive a drought, they will stop flowering during dry periods, so access to regular moisture is important.
‘Celsiana’ (Zone 5) — This 5-foot heirloom will delight with its extravagant show of pale-blush extremely fragrant semi-double blossoms. After it finishes blooming, the blue-green foliage of this shrub provides a backdrop for summer flowering plants. One of the best varieties for culinary use and potpourri.
‘Champneys’ Pink Cluster’ (Zone 6) — A repeat-blooming Noisette variety whose sprays of beautifully shaped pointed pink buds open to pale pink, fragrant flowers.
‘Stanwell Perpetual’ (Zone 3) — Decorating the fernlike foliage of this 6-foot shrub are 2-inch double blossoms of pale pink, fading to white. Extremely hardy, this repeat bloomer will perfume the garden until late fall.
‘Belinda’s Dream’ (Zone 6) A newer shrub rose with all the charm — including fragrance — that is found in antique varieties. Belinda’s deep pink flowers are held singly and are great for cutting.
Rose 'Stanwell Perpetual'
Rose 'Champneys' Pink Cluster'
From State-by-State Gardening May/June 2012.