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Spaces: Stop and Smell the Roses

(Photos by Angelina Marie, Short Eared Dog Photography

It started with the steady rain in March. Then came the sustained moisture in late April and early May. Roses bloom multiple times per season, but the conditions were right this year for a spectacular rose bloom—all over the city—before the triple-digit temperatures put a stop to it in June. Luckily, we were able to capture some of these local rose bushes at their peak. We’re looking forward to seeing them flower again this fall. Warren Reid of Coulter Gardens shared with us the varieties of roses that perform well in the local climate.

Classic Varieties

Hybrid Tea Rose

Celebrated for their long-stemmed cut flowers, these are some of the most fragrant and recognized flowers in the world. They produce a single large bloom per stem and the bush can grow up to 8 feet tall. These roses prefer full sun (5 to 6 hours a day) and can be finicky, but reward patient gardeners with beautiful blooms for arrangements, especially when temperatures are between 65 and 95 degrees. Reid cautions that the strong fragrance of this rose makes it more susceptible to disease. 

Care tips: “Supplement the soil with Down to Earth organic compost and gypsum,” Reid recommends. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry—around once a week in summer and once a month in winter. “Severely prune them at Easter and deadhead weekly,” he adds. Reid also recommends feeding and spraying every month from April to October. 

Best for: Hobbyist gardens

Floribunda Rose

This variety produces shorter stems than Hybrid Tea, with clusters rather than a single bloom. That makes these less attractive for cuttings but full of color. Less fragrant, these also require less maintenance. However, they are still susceptible to disease. Floribunda roses require a similar amount of feeding, water and care as recommended above. 

Best for: Sun areas

Grandiflora Rose

The huge, eye-catching blooms of this heirloom cross between Hybrid Tea and Floribunda aren’t currently as sought after as they once were. But the clusters on long stems make these roses lovely for cut flower arrangements. This fragrant rose is also susceptible to disease. 

Best for: Giant, showy blooms

Climbers 

These varieties require training to climb, but can bring beautiful color and vertical height to a garden. “Some varieties bloom best when growing horizontally,” Reid says. In vertical rose bushes, the top bud on a branch secretes hormones to repress bud growth below it. But this doesn’t happen on a horizontal “branch,” allowing for multiple blooms. Note that it can take one-to-two growing seasons for climbing roses to bloom, because they are expending so much energy to grow to full height. 

Best for: Trellises, fences, and pergolas

English Rose

Delicate and fragrant, the large double blooms of English roses are becoming trendy once again. Reid often points customers to the award-winning David F. Austin rose variety, with a caveat: “It produces lots of thorns, making it difficult to touch,” he says. But this hardy rose is less susceptible to disease and requires less maintenance—and very little pruning. 

Best for: Low-maintenance gardens 

Modern Varieties

Shrub roses

Gardeners have fallen in love with a new generation of roses, including the popular Knockout. Its flat, clustered blooms add grace and color to a garden, making it ideal for beds and borders. These roses grow fast and bloom frequently, but are less attractive for cuttings. According to Reid, Top Gun shrub roses are a very are an attention-getting new variety. These roses require less maintenance and grow quickly.

Drift roses

A cross between Knockout roses and other spreading, low-growing ground cover varieties, Drift roses are smaller than Knockout and beloved for adding color to borders and beds. “These are more pest-resistant because they’re not as fragrant,” Reid says. They require less maintenance and can grow waist-high.

Carpet roses

“These are one of the newest trends in roses,” says Reid. Growing knee-high and producing a carpet of blooms in ideal conditions, these are miniature versions of Shrub and Drift roses. Gardeners love carpet roses as ground cover in flower beds. Reid says these less fragrant varieties are extremely pest- and disease-resistant.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn(s)

Roses may be beautiful, but that beauty is hard-won. These flowers require regular maintenance and are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. Pruning and fertilization can help, but local rose enthusiasts are always on the lookout for powdery mildew, leaf rust, black spot disease and stem cankers. “Winter damage is common,” Reid says. Several fungal pathogens can survive the winter cold.

Insects also present problems. Thrips can cause damage in May. Aphids often arrive when roses are in bloom. Dry heat brings spider mites and cutter bees are attracted to rose bushes in the late summer. The fall brings rose cane borers, which lay eggs in cut ends of roses and can cause extensive damage.

To prevent these pests, Reid recommends once-monthly feeding, from April to October, with Fertilome Rose Food. Additionally, he says, “systemic spraying once a month with Fertilome Triple Action prevents 90 percent of the most common problems on beautiful roses.”

One disease that has worried local gardeners like Reid, however, is not as easily avoided. First reported in California and parts of Canada in the 1940s, the rosette virus (“Rosa multiflora”) has slowly spread across the United States and has recently been confirmed in our region. Tiny mites transmit this virus, which deforms and destroys the vascular system of the plant. It results in excessively thick and thorny stems, distorted flowers, and sometimes tiny clusters of blooms—these “rosettes” are what give the disease its name.

“I’ve been worried about [this disease] for years,” Reid says. Only nine states have so far avoided infestations, and southern states report the highest incidence of the virus. If you suspect the disease on your roses, first report it at roserosette.org, a USDA-funded site which helps universities study the disease. There, you can upload photos and receive expert confirmation of the virus.

Once confirmed, you’ll be given instructions about removal. Unfortunately, you’ll need to remove the plant entirely, containing it in a plastic bag to prevent additional spread. Pesticides won’t help. Don’t replant roses in the same spot either, because any roots remaining in the soil can also remain infected, Reid warns.

Special thanks to the Amarillo Botanical Gardens for allowing us to photograph their beautiful roses.