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Rose Varieties: Roses on Easy Street
"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H. L. Mencken
Although roses do have a reputation as being the "divas" of the flower world -- temperamental, difficult to cultivate, easy to injure, etc. -- some rose varieties are easier to grow than others.
First, you need to select a rose that will do well in your growing environment. (Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for advice.) It's always easier to work with plants that like the climate and the soil that you've got, rather than spending all of your time watering and fertilizing trying to keep them happy. For example, if you live in Montana and have harsh winters, dry summers and a short growing season, you won't want to grow a rose that's designed to flourish in Florida. That's just not fair to you or the rose.
If you're new to the world of rose gardening, consider making your life a little easier by picking roses that not only do well in your climate, but are known to be "easy-to-grow." Ask more experienced gardeners (see Master Gardeners) what they would recommend, or visit a garden forum online for more information. A little research will go a long way.
Also, consider joining the American Rose Society. A membership will provide you with all kinds of advice and give you access to rose gardeners both locally and nationally. The society also publishes a Handbook for Selecting Roses, which is updated once a year and includes a listing of rose varieties, each with a numerical rating. Based on these ratings some of the best roses in each category are:
Climbers. Democracie, Royal Sunset, Clair Matin, Dublin Bay, New Dawn, Altissimo, and City of York.
Floribundas. Anabell, Simplicity, Orange Morsday, Europeana, Bridal White, Iceberg, and Little Darling.
Grandifloras. Queen Elizabeth, Gold Medal, Pink Parfait, About Face, Prima Donna, Dublin, and Double Delight.
Heritage. Charles de Mills, Apothecary's Rose, Celsiana, Nastarana, Crested Moss, Souvenir d'Alphonse Lavallee, and Souvenir de la Malmaison.
Hybrid Teas. Irish Elegance, Touch of Class, Mister Lincoln, Marijke Koopman, Olympiad, Pristine, and Dainty Bess.
Miniatures. Jean Kenneally, Beauty Secret, Irresistible, Minnie Pearl, Holy Toledo, Giggles, and Gourmet Popcorn.
Shrubs. Dortmund, Eddie's Crimson, Henry Hudson, Apple Jack, Surry, Elveshorn, and Immensee.
I've also included a list of recommended rose varieties by garden designer and author, Barbara Blossom Ashmun. These are all considered "low maintenance" flowers and are relatively easy to grow.
According to Ashmun, rugosas and hybrid musks not only are resistant to common diseases such as black spot, rust and powdery mildew, but are known to bloom repeatedly. She specifically recommends Rosa rugosa, the sea tomato, as well as the six-foot-tall hybrid rugosa 'Hansa,' which has huge, fragrant, purple-pink flowers. Or try rugosa 'Scabrosa' with large single pink flowers.
Most roses require a lot of sun, but many hybrid musks do well in partial shade. Ashmun recommends "Ballerina," with its pale pink blooms reminiscent of the subtle pink tint of ballet shoes or a ballerina's tutu, "Felicia," which has silvery pink flowers and the white "Moonlight." "Mozart," a hybrid musk rose is a "looker," but is also reputedly easy to grow.
Finally, experiment and record the results. See what roses work for you. Which are easiest to grow and flourish in your garden? Which bloom the most often? Also, figure out what species you like the best whether it's because of the rose's fragrance, its bloom, it's easy to grow or for any combination of reasons.
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