Every now and then, if you're lucky, you come across a rose that surpasses your expectations. Roseraie de Chatelet is one of those roses. Named after a famous rose garden in eastern France, near the borders of Germany and Switzerland, this little known gem is a floribunda bred by Bernard Sauvegot in 2000. It is an award-winner in Europe, having taken home a Silver Medal at Baden Baden in 1999. However, it is still a rarity in American gardens. What a pity. I took a chance on this rose a couple of seasons ago, buying it as a bare root from Palatine. This year she has rewarded me greatly, producing gorgeous blooms and pristine foliage during the blistering 100+ degree heat of Summer in my no-spray garden. She did all of this with only a handful of Rosetone at the beginning of the season, no mulch, and no supplemental water. Her companions were self-sown Nigella 'Love-in-a-Mist' seedlings, their feathery foliage visible in the photo below of her first bloom of this season, taken on April 27, 2017:
The lady has been producing her mildly fragrant blooms continuously since April. What more could a rose lover ask for?
I suppose you could call me an impatient gardener. When I plant a rose, I want to see flowers and I want them STAT! Remove all buds for the first year? Sorry, I just can't do it, which is why I've always ordered grafted roses instead of own-root. The grafted plants are large when they arrive at my doorstep and they establish quickly, leaving puny, own-root seedlings in the dust. At least that's what I used to think. In addition to being impatient with my roses, I am also demanding. I not only want blooms, I want fat, gorgeous, fragrant, take your breath away blooms. To that end, I have been searching for a good supplier of the famous noisette rose Marechal Niel for as long as I can remember. Marechal Niel is a repeat blooming, strongly fragrant, deep yellow climber with very large, very double, globular blooms that nod on dainty stems. Bred in France by Henri and Giraud Pradel, the rose was introduced in 1864 and named after a French general, Napoleon III's Minister of War. Paul Barden described Marechal Niel as being "one of the first truly deep yellow repeat blooming.... and much adored as such." The image below is a photograpgh of the 1919 painting by Massachusetts born artist Childe Hassam, entitled "Marechal Niel Roses", owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D. C. I have loved this rose from afar for many years, but it wasn't until this Fall that I had any hope of ever acquiring her. That was when I discovered a new own-root rose nursery called A Reverence For Roses.
Based in Florida and owned by husband and wife team Don and Jan Rogers, A Reverence For Roses is committed to preserving and distributing these historically significant beauties so that future generations will be able to enjoy them. Among their offerings are many rare varieties not sold anywhere else, along with many desirable modern varieties. A quick internet search produced excellent reviews, and when I sent an email asking for advice, Don and Jan were quick to reply with thoughtful recommendations. I decided to give them a try. Online ordering was easy, and my roses were shipped via USPS 2-day priority mail. The plants arrived perfectly packed, and they were the biggest, healthiest own-root plants I have ever seen.
Now that Rose Rosette is in our midst, many rose lovers think twice about purchasing plants grafted to Rosa multiflora rootstock. If you are considering own-root plants but don't want to sacrifice vigor at the outset, give A Reverence For Roses a try. I think you'll be glad you did.
If you've ever thought about adding Tea Roses to your garden but didn't know which varieties to try, then this is the book for you. "Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens" was written in 2008 by six avid rose gardeners in Western Australia, affectionately known as the "Tea Bags". Discouraged by the lack of information available about Tea Roses, they decided to write a book filled with exhaustive detail, including gorgeous color photos of each variety and useful information such as growth habit, special uses, and disease resistance.
A lengthy review of this book was published in 2008 in Pacific Horticulture Magazine, written by California rosarian William "Bill" Grant. Grant wrote then: "The importance of this new book cannot be emphasized enough, as it fills a gap in rose history and cultivation that has existed since the Tea Rose was first introduced into Europe from China in the 19th century. Only one previous book, in German, by Rudolf Geschwind, has been devoted to this classic group of roses". Grant's words remain true to this day, and "Tea Roses" remains the authoritative text on the subject. You can find the rest of Bill Grant's review here:
The thing that I liked most about this book was that the authors did not shy away from picking and naming their favorite varieties. They even broke it down further, naming the best varieties for container culture, thornless stems, winter blooms, hot weather blooms and cut flowers. The following varieties and their sports were named the most reliable and rewarding overall: Anna Olivier and Lady Roberts, Comtesse de Labarthe (aka Duchesse de Brabant) and Mme Joseph Schwartz, G. Nabonnand and Peace, General Gallieni, Hugo Roller, Lady Hillingdon, Madame Antoine Mari, Madame Lambard, Maman Cochet and White Maman Cochet, Marie Van Houtte, Monsieur Tillier, Mrs. B R Cant, Mr. Dudley Cross, Papa Gontier, Papillon, Rosette Delizy, and Souvenir d'un Ami.
"Tea Roses: Old Roses for Warm Gardens" is available for preview at books.google.com and for purchase at Amazon.com, or you can contact Botany Librarian extraordinaire Robin Everly at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Library to make arrangements to view their copy. It makes for great reading on a cold, winter day!
Perhaps you have been thinking about starting or redesigning your garden. If so I hope you will be adventurous enough to explore the charms of growing roses, beyond the popular Knockout™ cultivars. Because most rose varieties benefit from regular attention, their cultivation makes you feel like a true gardener and the results are so worth it!
There are so many roses, how do you choose and where do you start? In this article I will share some of my personal favorites.
When deciding which roses to try, do your homework. Look through catalogs. Go to local garden centers in April/May, when most of the roses are stocked. Browse the web. Ask your neighbors. Attend rose exhibitions in our area.
To discover which roses do well in the mid-Atlantic, check out rose displays in public gardens several times over the growing season. We are fortunate to have several rose gardens in the metropolitan area, including the Smithsonian Garden and the U.S. Botanic National Garden on the National Mall, the U.S. National Arboretum, Brookside Gardens in Maryland, Bon Air and Meadowlark Gardens in Virginia, and several more.
Of course all the usual steps for selecting the “right plant for the right place” apply. Know how much sunlight you receive at the planting site. (Roses like to sunbathe.) Improve your soil. Improve it again. (Roses are heavy feeders.) Make sure that water is accessible. Drip irrigation is helpful. (Roses do not like drought.) Acquire good pruners, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and stout gloves.
Take note of your preferences. What colors do you like? How important is fragrance to you? Do you want lots of blooms? Do you want roses primarily for cut flowers? Do you like the flower forms of old garden roses?
Although I may not always choose the perfect roses for our climate, I try to make selections that will do well in this area without heroic effort. I use organic fertilizer. I add compost twice a year or more. I choose not to use synthetic chemicals so I tolerate occasional black spot and partially munched foliage. All of that goes with the territory. (If you demand exhibition quality roses, you will need to use toxic chemicals.) I like fragrance, although I am willing to choose beauty over fragrance on occasion. My taste in form is eclectic. I adore the high-centered, ovoid buds of some hybrid teas and grandifloras, but I also love the cupped, quartered, and expanded forms of old garden rose blooms. I like both single and double flowers.
When it comes to color, I favor pale shades—light pink, mauve, and pale yellow. I also like strong colors—copper, red/yellow, and dark purple. I prefer dark green, glossy foliage but, truthfully, if the flowers are spectacular and the foliage is mediocre, I’ll still take the plant. Although I fancy recurrent (repeat blooming) roses, I find myself charmed by several old garden roses that bloom only once a year. The limited space of my row house garden nixes ramblers and vigorous climbers. (Again, do your homework, before you purchase.)
As I name my favorites, I will include a bit of a primer on how roses are classified. To prevent boring you, I will only include enough information to help my rose selections make sense. If you want further background, information abounds on the Internet and in print.
There are three major categories of roses: species, modern, and old garden roses. My roses fall in the latter two categories.
Old garden roses are those that were know to gardeners prior to 1867. Among the old garden roses I grow are Bourbons, and Gallicas, but there are an additional thirteen major classes. Most old garden roses only bloom once a year and many are vigorous growers. Old garden roses are among the most fragrant. Many are pest resistant. Their blooms have more variety in shape but are generally smaller than modern roses. Their color palette tends to vary from white to many shades of pink.
The modern roses in my garden, four of the eight major classes, include hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and shrubs. My shrub roses are a hybrid musk and several English roses, often called David Austin™ roses for their primary breeder. The latter are repeat bloomers that mimic the old garden roses in form, fragrance, and disease resistance—some, more successfully than others in my experience.
Hybrid teas are distinguished by large flowers that grow individually on long stems. Grandifloras have a similar growth habit, but their blooms may be smaller and tend more toward sprays. Floribunda roses often have smaller flowers and stems than hybrid teas and their flowers grow in clusters. In general, floribunda roses will flower more prolifically season long than will hybrid tea roses, but hybrid tea blooms will be more spectacular—closer to roses we find in florist shops. In rose competitions, a hybrid tea bloom is almost always selected as queen of the show, the highest honor. Breeding may have altered modern roses’ growth habits, but it has also increased susceptibility to pests and diseases and, in many instances, diminished fragrance.
With that background, I’ll cut to the chase. If I had to select my absolute favorite rose, well, I just couldn’t. I could probably pick my favorite five. Among hybrid teas, Granada would be one. This neon pink and orange bi-color is beautiful, fragrant, and very showy. Another favorite is Dainty Bess, a beautiful pale pink single rose with dark pink and yellow stamens. I find its flowers fragile—one good rain or stiff breeze can denude it of petals, but it’s so endearing that I overlook its ephemeral nature. My only red is Veterans’ Honor®, a hybrid tea with large, long lasting blooms.
Hybrid teas may command the lion’s share of the attention, but I find that floribundas definitely have their charms. When properly tended, they provide consistent blooming during the height of the summer. One favorite is the lavender Blueberry Hill™. Apricot Nectar (light apricot) is fragrant and attractive. If you are after unusual colors that thrive in the mid-Atlantic, you will find them among floribundas like Hot Cocoa™ (brown) or Cinco de Mayo™ (orangey ocher). I do not grow either, but see them happy in public gardens around town. My Ketchup and Mustard (red and yellow) is eye catching. I find people love it or hate it.
When July’s heat and humidity causes many of my roses to take a nap, Scarborough Fair®, an English shrub rose, blooms like a champ. This small bush with its sweet light pink cupped flowers is perfect for row house frontage. Try it on a townhouse patio in a large pot. Dead-heading by occasional sheering is an almost effortless way to keep it blooming all season.
Some of the English roses are among my favorites. Pat Austin™ (copper) puts on a spectacular show every May. Wow! Unfortunately, I do not find it a prolific bloomer at other times. The Dark Lady (dark fuchsia) beautifies my vegetable patch admirably while occupying little of its precious real estate. One note of caution—I find that David Austin™ rose bushes can grow larger than forecasted, so plan your spacing accordingly. I recently planted Desdemona™, a rose that Austin rates among its most disease resistant. Time will tell.
For me, no garden would be complete without at least one old garden rose. My love of these roses goes back to childhood, and they were the first roses I planted in my own garden. One of my favorite old roses is planted smack in the middle of my perennial bed. Souvenir de la Malmaison, a light pink Bourbon that looks and smells great and repeats well. If you prefer a darker pink try the Portland rose, Rose de Rescht. Both of these varieties will grace relatively small spaces. Next to Souvenir de la Malmaison, I grow the hybrid musk rose, Penelope. It has large clusters of small pale pinkish-yellow flowers. I find the two roses lovely in combination.
My Gallica roses bloom only once, but glorify the month of June and, thankfully, tolerate a bit of shade. They include the sublimely fragrant Belle Isis (light pink) and the temperamental Cardinal Richelieu (which I plan to replace with Tuscany Superb, another purple rose). If you want that quintessential old rose fragrance, try the Apothecary’s rose or one of cabbage roses (rosa centifolia).
So there you have it—my favorite roses, at least for now. There are always more roses to discover and new introductions to consider. Rose companies like Kordes, and rose trial competitions, like EarthKind™ are giving us more information about disease resistance and sustainability every year. So try roses! With a bit of diligence and luck, the reward will be worth the effort.
One final note, local garden centers have a limited variety of roses, particularly of old garden roses. Many of the roses in my garden were ordered through catalogs. Do not be afraid to order bare root roses for fall or early spring planting. I have been quite successful with them. If you have questions, remember the consulting rosarians of the Potomac Rose Society and their other helpful resources. Happy planting!
You can “go green” with roses! With a bit of planning, observation, and care, it’s simple. So get ready to set aside those chemicals and see just how successful you can be. Here are seven steps to set you on the path to success.
Choose a small, compact rose. Before purchasing, check the mature height and width of the rose, which you can find on the label or with an internet search. Miniature and Mini-Flora (slightly larger) roses are good choices because they remain small at maturity. Floribunda, Polyantha, and Shrub roses can be appropriate for large containers. Although most small roses have a shrubby form, miniature climbing roses are available. Roses appropriate for container growing come in many colors and flower forms, from singles to many-petalled. Some are fragrant. Select disease resistant rose varieties if you do not want to use chemical insecticides or fungicides. Join the Potomac Rose Society and get ongoing advice from our members! With a bit of research, you are sure to find roses that you will like.
Choose a large sturdy container, one that can remain outdoors during the winter. Plant Miniature and Mini-Flora roses in containers that are at least 2’ wide x 2’ deep, and Floribunda, Polyantha, or Shrub roses in containers that are 3’ x 3’. Choose a sunny location for your container, with good air circulation. The good news is that you can move the container as needed.
To plant your rose, use high quality potting soil, preferably without pre-mixed fertilizer. Place a layer of soil in the bottom of the pot. Make sure that the soil drains well. You may want to drill a few extra drainage holes in the bottom of the container before potting and add some perlite or expanded slate to the potting mix to improve drainage. Spread the roots of the rose and fill the remainder of the pot with soil. If the rose is grafted, add enough soil to cover the bud union.
Check your roses frequently to make sure they are well watered—an inch or two per week. During hot, dry spells it may be necessary to water your containers more frequently than normal. Container grown roses need fertilizing—three to four times between April and September. A slow release granular fertilizer supplemented with a liquid fertilizer, like fish emulsion, during the summer months should keep your disease resistant rose healthy. Read and follow directions; more is not better! If you have deer, fence your containers or spray the roses with repellent. Remove spent blooms and dead wood as needed. Prune your container roses lightly in the spring if needed, just as you would roses planted in the ground.
In the winter it may be necessary to protect your container grown roses during cold spells. Remember that roses need sun and some humidity all year, so do not plan to winter your roses indoors unless you have a greenhouse. Try surrounding your pots with hay bales and leaves. Move the container to a protected spot, sheltered from wind and, if possible, near a brick wall that may radiate heat during the daytime. Even during winter roses will need water. During a prolonged dry spell, you may need to water the container, but make sure that the temperature will be above freezing for a couple of days afterwards. To protect the container from cracking, make sure that the bottom is off the ground or patio so it does not ice over. Most nurseries carry pot feet for this purpose.
Internet mail order sources for listed roses: Antique Rose Emporium, Chamblee Nursery, David Austin Roses, ForLoveofRoses, K&M Nursery, Northland Rosarium
The Coral Knock Out® Rose (RADral) was awarded the George and Edith Vanderbilt Award for the most outstanding rose of the 2019 Biltmore International Rose Trials.
The 7th Annual Biltmore International Rose Trials were held the weekend of September 28, 2019 in the historic walled garden at Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
Since 2013, Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials in which nearly 200 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s expert horticulturalists. A permanent jury of rose experts judged the plantings four times a year during the trial’s two and a half years for a total of 10 times.
The Coral Knock Out® Rose was also awarded the Chauncey Beadle Award for the most outstanding shrub rose. This rose was bred by William Radler and is available from Star Roses & Plants.
The Coral Knock Out® Rose (RADral)Sweet Hips (KAPswehp) also received two awards. The William Cecil Award for Best General Impression and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant Rose of the Trials. Sweet Hips was bred by Jay Kapac and is available from Weeks Roses.
SKU 69586 Rosa ‘Sweet Hips’ Rosa rugosa KAPswehpCupids Kisses® (WEKtriscala) received the Gilded Age Award for Best Climbing Rose. It was bred by Christian Bedard and is available from Weeks Roses.
Cupids Kisses® (WEKtriscala)The Edith Wharton Award for best Floribunda went to Bliss Parfuma® (KORmarzau). It was bred by Kordes Roses in Germany and is available from Star Roses & Plants.
Bliss Parfuma® (KORmarzau)The Pauline Merrill Award for best Hybrid Tea went to Moonlight Romantica® (MEIlkaquinz). It was bred by Meilland in France and is available from Star Roses & Plants.
Moonlight Romantica® (MEIlkaquinz)We want to congratulate all the winners from this year’s trials and also to thank all who entered for being a part of our trials. Images of the winners are on Paul Zimmerman's website here.
© 2021 Potomac Rose Society. All photos and content are © their respective owners. All rights reserved.