After my last post, I received a lot of questions about growing roses. I'm not a rosarian but I can share some thoughts on what I've learned from growing roses over the past 20 years. And if that doesn't interest you, enjoy the photos of more roses that I took yesterday afternoon.
The climbing rose 'Climbing Pinkie' at the front gate
I love roses - when I first started gardening, that was the plant I wanted to grow. Like most beginning rose growers, I bought hybrid tea roses because that is mainly what the local nurseries sell. Mistake number #1! Unless you have a lot of time on your hands (like being retired!), caring for hybrid teas might be a discouraging experience. I realized quickly that I just didn't have time to spray, prune, fertilize and coddle these roses to keep them looking their best. I love spending time in the garden but not doing that. I'm also pretty much an organic gardener - I will use chemicals on occasion but only in extreme situations. After battling blackspot (which is inevitable) and other woes, I discovered antique roses, or "old roses" as some people call them. These roses don't have all the hassles that hybrid teas do and to my eye, they are more beautiful.
An old Bourbon rose 'Maggie'
I like the look of these roses. Hybrid teas tend to look like blooms on thorny sticks whereas most old roses are fuller. I think they look great in the landscape.
'Buff Beauty' on the left - the rugosa rose 'Hansa' can be seen in the distance to the right (click on photos for a larger view)
Old roses do have a few drawbacks. Most only bloom well in the spring so unlike hybrid teas, you don't have blooms all summer. Some can get very large but there are also others can stay smaller. There are certainly varieties that are excellent choices for smaller gardens.
This rose, 'Marie Pavie' is an excellent little rose that I would highly recommend. It doesn't get above 3 ft. high, I've never seen blackspot on it, and it blooms off and on all summer long. Another plus, mine gets mostly shade - just a few hours of direct sun in late afternoon. What more could you ask for?
I really love the climbers. Here are a few that are blooming right now.
And several shot of 'Climbing American Beauty'
There are many different classes of old roses, far too big of a subject to go into here (check my website for more in-depth information). Some do better in the south than others. Hybrid perpetuals and rugosas, for example, perform better in northern climates. I've tried a lot of them and if a rose is being a pain, I've learned that the best thing to do is just dig it up and try another one.
Pruning - The only pruning I do is to cut out dead wood or if I'm trying to restrain certain plants. After the roses finish blooming in late spring I'll cut back wayward canes on my arches and pergolas. Sometimes I'll cut a rose back severely if it looks scraggly. It all depends on the rose - some grow differently than others and require more attention. For the most part though, not a big issue!
Fertilizing - After these roses are established, fertilizing is not a requirement. I mulch mine every year (sometimes twice a year) with rotted leaves, pine straw or humus, which breaks down and makes the soil rich. This gives these roses plenty of nutrients. Sometimes I use fish emulsion and even Miracle Grow. I don't have a set method and I'm not particular about it.
Japanese Beetles - A lot of people have asked me about these pests. Yes, I do have them and no, I don't have a good answer as to how to control them. The good news is that they arrive in June after most of the roses have finished blooming. There are some roses that are still around though and seeing them swarmed by these devouring creatures can be discouraging. I've tried using Sevin which doesn't seem to help much. The best thing to do is to take a bowl of soapy water out and knock them off. Other options are applying milky spore to your lawns. This kills the grubs that turn into the beetles but it will take a few years before it is affective. I would not recommend using the Japanese Beetle traps. I've heard that they attract more beetles to your garden and unless your neighbors are doing something to combat theirs, it is a never-ending process.
Buying them - So, have I sold you yet on growing old roses? Like I said, not many local nurseries carry them. I rely on mail order nurseries and I have listed my favorite sources below. The Antique Rose Emporium, headquartered in Texas, used to have a gorgeous facility in Dahlonega, Georgia. Michael and I used to take a trip there every year (about 5 hours from us) and come home with a load of roses. We heard that a wealthy foreign investor and his wife feel in love with the place and offered them so much money that they couldn't refuse. It was a beautiful setting - an old house that had been renovated and surrounded by a beautiful rose garden - but I digress.
Here are the best sources for old garden roses:
Chamblees Rose Nursery in Tyler Texas - They have the best prices and I've never received a bad plant from them. They don't have a huge selection though and they are often out of stock on certain varieties. Plan ahead!
Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas - I haven't ordered from them in a while. I preferred going to their branch in Dahlonega, Georgia. Their website is very friendly and beautiful.
Roses Unlimited in Laurens, S.C. - Their website leaves a lot to be desired but they have the most impressive selection of plants. I've actually visited them and they are really nice people. Pat Henry, one of the owners, has a beautiful rose garden that has been featured in several publications. The roses that I've ordered through the mail have always been super healthy and large. Just give them a call.
If you have any more questions, just let me know!
An old tea rose called 'Lafter'