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Garden Dirt | A Rose is a Rose…


Is there anything quite as romantic as a rose? For centuries, roses have been associated with love and beauty. But roses have a reputation of being difficult to grow, prone to disease, needing to be pruned just so, and on and on. These classic beauties don’t deserve the bad rap. Today’s roses have been selectively bred for disease resistance and hardiness. Like the “Knock Out” rose with its prolific and bold red, pink, blush and yellow flowers that persist right up to a hard freeze – without any fuss or muss.


With so many choices available at the nursery, finding a rose for your yard can be confusing, with labels reading “hybrid teas” or “floribunda.” What is the difference between roses?


The three most common roses on the market today are hybrid teas, floribunda, and shrub roses.


Hybrid tea roses – or “old roses” – have been in cultivation since 1867 while floribundas, a cross between a hybrid tea and a polyantha rose, is a relative newcomer, having been introduced around 1940.


The most striking difference between a hybrid tea rose and a floribunda is the flower. Hybrid tea roses grow as a single blossom on a long stem, making them a favorite for cut flowers. The “long stemmed roses” you buy from florists are likely hybrid teas. These stately roses can grow anywhere from three to seven feet tall and three to five feet wide, and bloom from late spring to early fall. Hybrid teas burst with a big flower show in May, then produce less abundantly for the remainder of the growing season. And they can put on quite a show. Like “Tropicana” with its tangerine blooms. Or the bright yellow “Gina Lollabridgida.” And the classic red, “Mister Lincoln.” The famous “Peace” rose is a hybrid tea. While stand-outs as cutting flowers, hybrid teas also have a place in the landscape. Their upright growth habit invites perennials or herbs to be planted at their base. Lavender is a terrific choice for a companion plant.


Floribunda means “many flowered” or “abundance of flowers.” True to their name, these roses flower in clusters, with blooms from early summer to fall. Floribundas are usually grown as a landscape plant rather than for cutting flowers. They are more cold-hardy than the hybrid tea, and are generally smaller growers, reaching about three feet wide by three feet tall. Floribundas are available in a large assortment of colors and styles. Like “Rainbow Sorbet” with its multi-colored single flowers. Or “Mardi Gras” pink-to-lavender-to red blooms reminiscent of a Mexican sunset. Pretty spectacular.


The term “shrub rose” is somewhat confusing because a rose, any rose, is a shrub. When it comes to roses, the term “shrub” refers to the appearance of the rose plant, which grows like a bush. Probably the most popular shrub rose in landscaping today is the Knock Out rose. Shrub roses are winter hardy with excellent disease tolerance. These are not shy roses; they can easily reach six feet tall, but are fairly simple to tame to a manageable height, even trained into a hedge. Although the flowers from shrub roses carry little fragrance, they are available in a wide assortment of colors. Red, pink, yellow and white are the most commonly found colors.


Some roses are sold by the name rather than the type of rose. Like David Austin roses. These are referred to as English Roses, and can be hybrid teas or floribundas. These sturdy, disease-resistant roses can grow to five feet high and wide and are available in many colors. “Graham Thomas” is a well-known choice with its yellow blossoms, “Darcey Russell” blooms a deep dark pink, and both “Heritage” and “Alnwick Rose” are pale pink, outstanding for their old rose scent.


Hardy enough to withstand salt water spray on a sea-shore, rugosas are the workhorses of the rose family. These thorny shrubs form a thicket. Covered in single petal blooms, they are often called “wild roses.” Their huge red rose hips that persist into winter make these toughies a stand out.


Then there are climbing roses. They do just that – wind and climb their way up arbors and along fences. Some varieties can climb up trees, reaching 15 to 20 feet at maturity.


All roses appreciate a sunny location with good airflow and well-drained soil.


With so many varieties to choose from, roses have a place in just about any landscape. Add one, or more, to your garden and take the time to…stop and smell the roses!


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