Roses are the grande dames of the garden. They are striking and fragrant, and once planted, can enhance a garden for decades. Many gardeners, once they make the decision to plant roses, get bogged down in the selection process. There are thousands of rose varieties to choose from. Sometimes it’s helpful to divide them into a few groups. One of the largest rose groups is the shrub rose. An understanding of this versatile rose type will aid the gardener in selecting the perfect rose.
Rather than being leggy like the classic tea roses, these roses are shrubby. They tend to be round, rather than vase-shaped. Shrub roses can be low-growing, hugging the ground like a groundcover.
A universal feature of shrub roses is their proclivity to branch, giving them a full, shrubby form and many flowers. One stem can have anywhere from a dozen to 100 flowers.
Many shrub roses are repeat bloomers, beautifying the garden from spring through autumn.
The flowers of these roses can be anything from open and single to fully double like the ostentatious cabbage rose. Many shrub roses can be used as central features, while others can be used as background plants in a perennial garden. Choose a full, round plant as a foundation planting or for use as a hedge.
Look at any list of disease-resistant roses, and you’ll find shrub roses at the top. They are generally bred from stock, which has not had disease-resistance bred out, like the modern hybrid tea. Look for varieties resistant to powdery mildew, rust and black spot.
Shrub roses are easy to care for. They require the same sunny locations and moist, well-drained soil as their fancier cousins. They need to be fed, but not as much as hybrid teas. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage continued flowering. If you choose a disease-resistant variety, you won’t have to spray.