Easy Roses

When I was a kid Grandpa still tended Grandma’s rose garden behind the apartment house where we lived. My dim recollection is that they must have all been some kind of tea roses, because they smelled great. No longer able to do it herself, she would lean out the window and bark her orders. This was a typical city yard, about the size of a postage stamp, with a central walkway and flower beds on either side.
Grandma’s side had the roses; our side had what I then considered the ugly plants: Hydrangea, Lily-of-the-Valley, and my arch-enemy, Rose of Sharon. Today my own garden has all of these very same plants. I guess they are classics for a reason.
In the past, I have struggled and struggled to grow roses, all to no avail. But within the last few years, I was fortunate to discover shrub roses, which seem to need no assistance from me. One of my favorites, and most prolific, is a pinky coral that had no tag when I got it. The two brands that have done best in our garden are Knock-Out and Weeks. Knock-Outs generally have a very faint scent, but an abundance of flowers, plain or fancy, and come in many colors, from yellow, to double and single pinks, to rich single and double reds. Some have red stems and thorns, which I find attractive. Another is the newer single, Rainbow. When I first put this plant into the ground, it was immediately attacked by gray mold, to which I had understood it was highly resistant. But come spring, it recovered and started growing like gangbusters. I gave it a precautionary squirt of fungicide and never had another problem. In fact, three of my Knock-Outs are still blooming (our Fall has been exceptionally warm) even though the nighttime temperatures have dropped below 40°F.
My Weeks roses include the shrub rose Home Run, which I received in a field trial. It was initially hard for me to love because its dark red color seems a little off, but this plant quickly redeemed itself in my eyes. Nothing can hurt it; not dogs, not handymen, not clay soil, not drought, and not disease (it doesn’t seem to get any).
My other Weeks rose, also a field trial specimen, had no name, only a number. When I saw the hideous rusty orange buds emerging in the middle of my pink and red flower bed, my first impulse was to yank it out (I am not a fan of orange-colored anything, except pumpkins and Baltimore Orioles). It was a field trial, however, so I thought I should give it a chance. Worst case, I could give it to one of my Master Gardener friends. To my surprise and delight, within two days large ruffled flowers opened to reveal yellow and pink coloring reminiscent of a Peace rose, but stronger. Mine was a slow starter, so be patient. I decided to keep it myself – two days of orange is not such a high price to pay for these abundant flowers. This rose will probably be introduced in 2008 (I’m guessing this is their floribunda Mardi Gras).
Finally, my two favorite “regular” roses are the grandiflora Melody Parfumée (Jackson & Perkins) and Oklahoma (Weeks), a hybrid tea. Both grow like weeds for me, reblooming all season, although I’ve had to fight off black spot on Melody, occasionally.
Oklahoma has its own story. This is my fourth one; the other three each died after very successful growing seasons. With the fourth plant Dan, who grew up in Minnesota asked, “Aren’t you supposed to cover them up with three feet of leaves?” Evidently, yes.
Oklahoma has huge deep black-red flowers with a very strong scent; Melody is a purpley lavender that lightens as the blooms age, with a lighter scent.
One of Dan’s major hardscape projects this year was our new arbor (shown above), so I’ll be spending the winter dreaming about what climbing and rambling roses I can grow over it.

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