Growing roses can be both a rewarding and a thorny experience

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Growing roses can be both a rewarding and a thorny experience. Whether the garden calls for romance, old-fashioned nostalgia for grandmother’s garden, formality, or rioting, rambling clusters of blossoms and fragrance, the right selection of roses can create the mood. Gardeners must first, however, consider the time they wish to commit to the care and protection of the sometimes delicate nature of roses.

The hybrid tea rose is the original rose and, perhaps, most responsible for the flower’s fanciful, yet fussy, reputation. The most difficult to grow, the hybrid tea rose features a large, elegantly-formed, single-stemmed flower, ideal for cutting. These are the roses most often found in the coolers and arrangements of florists. Particular about its location, the hybrid tea is especially sensitive to cold climates, making it a winter protection challenge for Maine gardens.

Floribunda roses produce clusters of small to medium blossoms and boast constant flowering. Grandiflora roses are a combination of the hybrid teas and the Floribundas. They feature single, fuller flowers with multiple petals on single stems, but are vigorous in blooming. Both categories of these roses are easier to grow than the hybrid teas, but still require a moderate time commitment to maintenance, especially in preparation for winter.

Roger Roberge, owner of Provencher Landscape and Nursery in Lewiston, stressed the importance of reading the plant labels before purchasing roses. “The label is a good indicator as to a plant’s size and spreading habits and serves as a guide for the successful planting and maintenance of the rose. If the label says the plant will spread four feet wide, it will, so plan accordingly.”

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Roberge, who stated he prefers plants requiring less “babying,” recommended the use of the landscape rose for Maine gardens. “It’s a hardy shrub rose requiring low care and offers fantastic flowering. It’s not fussy and is just like your grandmother’s roses, the ones you could plant anywhere and they would keep coming back.”

Unlike its more climate sensitive cousins, the landscape rose does not need to be cut back to the ground in preparation for cold weather. Trimming and pruning of dead or errant branches should keep the plant healthy and flowering throughout the growing season.

Roberge named the Meidiland rose series and the Rugosa rose as excellent examples of hardy landscape roses. “Rugosa roses are the ocean roses you see along the coast. They’re hardy, vigorous, fragrant, and adaptable. But, they can be very invasive; one plant can take over an area in 10 to 15 years.”

The “Knockout” rose is an excellent choice for beginners. “If you like roses,” said Roberge, “the Knockout is easy, low maintenance, disease-resistant and rewarding with its re-flowering.” The blossoms can be single or double and come in a variety of colors. The David Austin “Easy Elegance” rose is another good choice with its English style and hardiness. David Austin also offers a “floral carpet” rose with continuous flowering that can spread between 18 inches to two and half feet.

Regardless of rose type, all roses love full sun for flower production. The more sun, the better the plant performs. All roses prefer well-drained soil, though hardier roses are more forgiving.

All roses require good nutrition for producing more blossoms and all roses require some degree of protection from insects and disease. Again, following the labels of rose food, fertilizers, and insecticides will aid in success with roses. “More is not always better,” said Roberge. “And it helps to water roses in the morning, around the base of the plant, avoiding the foliage to prevent disease setting in from a plant that stays wet too long.”

Preventing disease and insect destruction can provide the greatest challenge to success with roses. Japanese beetles are common enemies of the rose garden. While some people debate over using beetle bags to attract and capture beetles, Roberge recommended placing bags on property perimeters, away from the garden.

“There are also good systemic insecticides,” explained Roberge. “When mixed into the soil, the insecticide is dissolved into the system of the plant and provides longer resistance.”

Today, the market offers a selection of products, some chemically-based and others organic. Among the organic controls are sulfur, copper, fungicides and horticultural oils and herb-derived insecticides.

There is success to be had with roses in the garden. Willingness to commit to the required maintenance, rose selection, and education in the care of chosen rose types make for the beginnings of what can become a canvas of color, shape, and fragrance in the garden. In the end, remember this old adage: “The best fertilizer is a gardener’s shadow.”

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