The Gardener keeps us supplied with fragrant roses for seven months each year. He regularly gets asked his advice about growing roses and starting a rose garden, so I interviewed him to share his knowledge with you.
How did you begin rose gardening? I started about 30 years ago. I had a very sunny backyard and I knew that roses would grow well with a lot of sun. I like fragrant flowers so that led to me planting five rose bushes. Now we have over 40 plants!
What kind of roses should we grow in a rose garden? When I first planted roses, I had 5 hybrid tea roses. I also planted some shrub roses that only bloom once a year. The hybrid teas require a lot of maintenance because they are not disease-resistant. The payoff is big blooms up to 4 times during the year. The shrub roses don’t need much work to maintain them.
There are also floribunda, grandiflora, and antique roses. You can look at the American Rose Society to see how many kinds there are.
Currently many people like the Knockout Rose, probably the most popular shrub rose. Its advantage is that it has multiple blooms during the season and it’s easy to maintain.
You can get roses that are fragrant or non-fragrant. I personally don’t see a reason to grow a rose that is not fragrant! Long-stem roses from the florist these days are not fragrant because they’ve been bred to last a long time in the refrigerator, have long stems, and no thorns.
What do you mean by maintenance? For hybrid tea and floribunda, they need to be sprayed for bugs like mites and mold like blackspot. They can attract Japanese beetles and other pests. They need to be cut back in the fall and late winter. They need to be shaped and fertilized in the very early spring. Shrub roses don’t need all this care.
How do I start a rose garden? The best time is very early spring. In Raleigh, I would say March. Roses like well-drained soil and 6 to 8 hours of direct sun each day. The best way is to build up a bed of sand, soil, and organic material like mulch. This is the method we have to use because of our clay soil. For one rose, mound up a cone of soil mixture then put the base of the rose on top of the mound and spread the roots along the sides of the mound. Next cover the roots up with soil mixture. You can fertilize or use growth stimulant. In the spring they need to be watered at least once a week, 60 seconds with the hose.
If I already have roses, how do I get them ready for the season? In Raleigh, you begin in March (you will need to check your growing zone to see if you need to do it earlier or later: Raleigh is in zone 7b). I use secateurs (hand pruners) for this and wear leather gloves. I also check on my tetanus shots with my doctor. The main thing you need to do with hybrid rose or floribunda is shape them. You cut the canes (stalks) down to three feet.
Cut away any dead canes at the base. Generally you will cut some canes in the middle of the bush to allow for air movement. For the live canes, cut them off just above a bud that is pointing in the direction you want it to grow. Then I add slow-release granular fertilizer. Now you wait for about 2 months to see your first big bloom.
This sounds like a lot more work than planting impatiens. Why is worth it to you? When the roses bloom you will have beautiful roses that you can cut and bring into the house. You can have a wide array of colors and you can have intoxicating fragrance. Some roses rebloom in 40 days, some in 60, so we have roses from May to December.
How do we find out about fragrant roses? At the nursery, there will be a tag with the height and the strength of fragrance. I also look at catalogs and search the Internet for “fragrant roses.”
I’ll come back for another chat when my rose garden is blooming in May. I’ll be intoxicated by the scent of my roses!
Resources for how to start a rose garden
The American Rose Society has helpful videos on starting your own garden: http://www.rose.org/about-roses/1319-2/
Growing Roses from New Mexico State University: http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-165/welcome.html
When I met the Gardener, I was very happy that he had a hobby. It’s good for men to have something to be passionate about, that is not his job. And 40+ roses at my house? What could be better? For a time, I was encouraging him to get into rose competition. He went to the meetings to learn about using Q-tips to shape rose petals and using the refrigerator to keep a rose ready to compete (shades of “Best in Show”). He never competed after he found out that fragrance is not a show category. So we don’t have any blue ribbons here, but we are very happy with our “smelly” roses to enjoy and share with others.
What’s your favorite flower? I’ll be looking for your comments!
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