I have spent my life in gardens filled with roses. Every home I lived in had a beautiful rose garden. Roses were my mother’s passion. In the seventies she opened a nursery specializing in roses. My father often teased her saying the nursery was an excuse to grow roses by the thousands. And that is what we did for the next thirty years – every kind imaginable. Over the years I have been asked many questions about roses. There are five questions that I hear most often.
Are they easy to grow?
That’s an easy one. The genus rosa has survived just fine for thousands of years. The world’s oldest species rose is at Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. It is said to be one thousand years old. A modern rose can last years in the garden averaging about twenty to twenty-five unless you fall in love with a new one and replace it.
What is the difference between hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas?
Hybrid teas are the queens of the garden. Tall, stately, upright growers from five to six feet with florist type perfect blooms and long stems for cutting. Grandifloras are the same as hybrid teas but will have side buds.
Floribundas are shorter and bushier, usually three to four feet, with medium-sized flowers that are in clusters of five to seven or more blooms. These are usually planted for mass of color in the landscape. The most well-known one is Iceberg.
What about English Roses and French Romanticas?
These are both marketing names, not actual rose classifications. English are bred by David Austin and are shrub roses. They can be from three feet to climbing. The Romanticas are either hybrid teas or floribundas. Both have big, yummy blooms with upwards of 100 petals, almost peony-like in shape.
Which rose is the most fragrant?
What is the first thing you want to do when you see a rose?
Fragrance can be the most alluring aspect of roses. For years the demand was for perfect flower form, sometimes at the loss of fragrance. The breeders have worked very hard to bring fragrance back into roses. Now most new introductions have fragrance. Sugar Moon, Elle, Barbra Streisand, Lasting Love, Neptune, Pope John Paul II, and Grande Dame are a few of them.
What is your favorite rose?
This is the most often asked and hardest to answer. I have so many favorites. A long time favorite is Just Joey. When I first fell in love with Just Joey I ended up with seven of them. I bought it every time I saw it. Its huge blooms with sweet intoxicating fragrance got me every time.
Years ago I asked one of my mother’s friends, who was know by her wonderful collection of climbing roses, if she could only have one climber, which one would it be. And without a moment’s hesitation she said Pierre de Ronsard. I searched everywhere for it and finally purchased it mail order from a Canadian nursery. In America it is known by the name “Eden.” And now when asked which is my favorite climber without a moment’s hesitation I say Eden. It is everything a climber should be with big romantic blooms tumbling everywhere.
Another favorite is Julia Child. She has it all – great color, beautiful foliage and growth habit. Everything about this floribunda is wonderful. This is one rose you can rely on to be consistently beautiful all year long. It is a great selection for a beginner and one of the best roses on the market today.
Scent is one of the most powerful senses. A certain fragrance can bring on a treasured memory. Ambridge Rose does that for me. Its soft, subtle fragrance takes me back to a time when I played at my grandmother’s vanity.
Yves Piaget with its big, mauvy-pink cabbage blooms — what a showoff. Its beautiful flower form makes up for any faults the rose bush has. The large peony-shaped flowers can have up to eighty ruffled petals. My granddaughter Katie likes to bury her face in the blooms. She says they “smell like heaven.”
And to leave you with one parting thought for next year’s garden, I’ll give you a sneak peak of a new favorite of mine that’s not yet on the market. Get ready to make room for this beauty, one of the new introductions for 2014.
By Laurie Chaffin, Rosarian