I have only one rose in my garden, but I dream of having dozens. Years ago I planted four or five hybrid tea roses, nursing them along until my life became busier by the day with growing children. The roses were soon neglected and are now all gone. What is the rose that remains? A wonderful shrub rose called Pink Flower Carpet.
This rose landed in my garden by pure default. A nurseryman gave it to me at a trade show I was attending one winter and said I had to try it. I did my research and it looked good on paper, but how would it grow in my garden? I was still loyal to my hybrid tea roses at the time and this one was a shrub rose. Soon I discovered what joy I had been missing by not growing shrub roses. Pink Flower Carpet rose has outperformed any rose I have ever grown and looks incredible in my garden.
There are four Flower Carpet roses available. Pink was introduced in 1995, White in 1997, Appleblossom (a soft light pink) in 1998, and the newest and a must-have for my garden this year, Red. This particular series grows, on average, 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, depending on color. Evergreen to temperatures of 15° F and cold-hardy to temperatures of -20° F makes them very suitable for our climate. They are noted for being resistant to black spot, the most predominant disease of roses. I have seen it on mine occasionally but it was never severe.
The Carpet roses are not the only good shrub roses available today. In fact, some of the best have been widely available for many years. The English roses started gaining in popularity in the late ’60s and are still growing in popularity and availability. By definition the description of an English rose is specific and complex, but simply put they are natural and shrub-like in form, having flowers that are fragrant, large, and generally double, resembling many of the old roses. Old roses were typically white, pink, purple, or mauve and typically flower only once per season. English roses gained colors from many modern hybrids, including flowers that are yellow, apricot, and crimson, and continually bloom throughout the growing season.
One of the first English roses available was Constance Spry, introduced in 1961. The flowers are large, fragrant, and light pink. The plant can grow to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide under the best growing conditions, and looks excellent planted in groups of three where space allows. Another popular variety, Gertrude
Jekyll, introduced in 1986, has large dark-pink fragrant flowers and grows on average 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I enjoy yellow flowers in the garden a great deal and I would like to grow Graham Thomas, introduced in 1983. It has large fragrant yellow flowers and I have seen it growing in beautiful groups of two and three in many gardens.
The same nursery group that brought us the Carpet rose series has a new series out this year, the Dream rose collection. This series, like the Carpet roses, is stated as being disease-resistant, with a long bloom season, and easy to maintain. Look for Dream Pink, Yellow, Red, and Orange this year. The Pink and Yellow varieties are noted for having hybrid tea-type flowers. Give them a try and let me know how they perform for you in your garden.
There are many excellent shrub roses available throughout Kentucky. You may easily find two or three in your area. Look for the
Rugosas. These large shrubby roses have glossy green leaves and they flower all season long; unfortunately they have numerous large thorns, as many of the best roses do. The Carefree series is quite common now. Look for Carefree Wonder, Carefree Beauty, and Carefree Delight.
Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’-Lady Banks’ rose is a thornless, climbing rose that has shown excellent black spot disease resistance, but unfortunately is only marginally hardy here. If you dare, it needs your most protected spot and excellent winter protection.
A very nice, subtle pink shrub rose available is Nearly Wild. It has a spreading form growing only 2 to 3 feet in height, and is excellent for mass plantings on flat land or hillsides. It is also reasonably disease-resistant.
Choosing your rose
It can be almost overwhelming when you start to look at all the roses that are available today. There are hundreds and hundreds of hybrid teas, floribundas, and
grandifloras, and with the revival of the old roses, English roses, and newly developed varieties, there are hundreds more. How do you choose? It’s tough. I think most of us whimsically choose roses just because of the color, and many times it’s because we remember a relative having a particular rose bush.
The exciting part is that whatever rose you dream of having, it is probably available in some form or another. So when choosing, pick flower color first, then find the form and size that your garden can accommodate. Finally, search out the rose whose resistance to diseases and insects reflects the time you have to spend maintaining your rose garden to ensure a beautiful display year after year.