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Landscaping with Roses: Selecting the Rose

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Landscaping with Roses: Selecting the Rose

&nbsp by Mark Whitelaw

This is the third article in Mark Whitelaw's three part series on
Landscaping with Roses. The other articles in this series are:

Landscaping with Roses: Design Decisions
Landscaping with Roses: Location Decisions

Selecting the right rose for your landscape is central to success of your landscape design. There are three questions one must answer before selecting the right specimen.

Which rose Class will achieve the desired design effect?

Some rose classes have distinct characteristics which make them more or less suitable as landscape ornamentals.

For example, if in previous decisions (the "how" and "why" decisions) the gardener planned to grow a rose up and over an arch, a tall-growing Tea would afford a better view of the rose as it arched over the top of the structure. Teas are famous for their "nodding" blooms, and, as the garden visitor passed under the arch, he or she would be greeted by the full face of the bloom. Conversely, a Hybrid Perpetual or Hybrid Tea with their upward-facing, full blooms might be a better choice if the rose were to be viewed from eye level. And if the rose were to be grown up the back and over the top of an arbor or pergola, then a Species or true Climber might be the best choice. In this case, blooms are not necessarily desired along the vertical growth, but rather across the top of the arbor - where the growth is trained horizontally.

If the rose is to be used as a background splash of color, a modern Floribunda or an "antique" Polyantha with their massive bloom sprays, might be a better choice. However, if the rose is to be placed in front of other landscape plantings, then the obvious choice is a Miniature or a low-growing China. But if the rose was to be used as a hedge, then a modern Shrub or an old Rugosa with its propensity to sucker might be the better choice.

Or if the rose is to be used in a special needs garden, a "thornless" Bourbon or Species rose might be a good choice for visually impaired garden visitors. A highly scented Gallica would also make an excellent choice for these types of gardens if care were taken to ensure the prickly canes were out of harm's way. And if growing roses as an herb, then roses producing the highest attar and best hips like various roses in the Species, Damask, Gallica and Bourbon Classes might be the best choice.

Which rose color is best in this landscape location?

Color choice is essential to any successful landscape design. In roses, the variety of available colors makes the choice easy. But even the best can make a mistake.

If in the previous "location" decisions the rose is to be grown and viewed near a structure with a dark veneer, then a dark-colored red rose may be difficult for the eye to perceive against the glossy green foliage and structure. A white, light pink, peach or bright yellow rose may be a better choice since it will contrast in color more effectively. Conversely, if the rose is to be viewed as a backdrop along a light-colored wall or against a bright sky, then darker reds and deeper pinks will afford more color contrast and make perceiving the rose more easily accomplished.

Nur MahalConsideration must also be given to other blooming perennials and plants, as well as their bloom season, when color decisions are made. One of my worst design decisions was planting a Hybrid Musk called "Nur Mahal" next to a fall-blooming Red Spider Lily (Lycoris radiata). The deep pink of the rose's blooms clashed terribly when viewed next to the red-orange of the Lycoris bloom during early fall flush.

Graham ThomasOne of my best design decisions was planting the Austin shrub "Graham Thomas" with companion Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). The bright yellow blooms of early summer flush complement the purple, daisy-like blooms and coarse-textured foliage of the coneflower.

Color choice may also be given to the gardener's climate, which leads to our third question.

Which rose is best in this environment?

10 Steps to Beautiful Roses

The rose has inspired artists, writers, and composers for centuries. Now you can join the ranks of those inspired gardeners who cultivate roses in their own garden. Whether you’re a novice gardener wanting to know the basics or a seasoned horticulturalist looking for tips on improving your blooms, the author’s expert advice offers all the know-how you’ll need.

In warmer climates, the color of the rose may determine its success in the landscape. Darker roses are more susceptible to heat stress than lighter-colored roses. Generally speaking, in locations where summer temperatures exceed 95°F (35°C), dark red and purple roses will have a more difficult time coping with the heat. Light pink, light yellow, and white roses will have an easier time.

In humid climates, the lighter-colored roses will show "balling" more readily than the darker roses. Nothing is more discouraging than to eagerly await spring's flush only to see white blooms partially open and display petals edge in brown.

Knowing one's hardiness or agricultural zone will also assist in selecting the proper rose for the landscape. Roses hybridized for cooler climates will generally fair more readily in cooler gardens. Conversely, roses developed for warmer zones may well freeze to the ground during cold winters.

Zone ratings applied to roses should not keep the rosarian from trying different rose classes, however. These ratings are meant as a guide and not a restriction. Each landscape has its own micro-environment. It may be quite easy to grow a Hybrid Musk, normally meant for more temperate climates, in the colder zones of northern Illinois if the rosarian is prepared to take some extra precaution during the winter months and a suitable location is found in the landscape.

Length of growing season may also assist in selecting the right rose for the landscape. In areas where growing seasons are short, bloom seasons are also short. A once-blooming rose with its extended flush of blossoms may work equally as well as a remontant rose under the same conditions.

Need a bright pink "climber" with dynamic fragrance, few prickles, and good disease resistance to pillar up a column near the entrance of your home in USDA Hardiness Zone 7? The only answer can be the Bourbon, 'Zephirine Drouhin'! In the weeks that follow, we'll look at just how that inescapable conclusion can be reached by identifying the various rose classes and their distinctive landscaping characteristics.

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