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… or at least that is how the old saying goes. Roses have been around for quite some time (nearly 5000 years by some accounts) and as early as 1800 there are records of rose collections numbering in the thousands. Being such a traditional favorite it may be interesting to many of you the dramatic turnaround roses have taken over the past few years.
Not many years ago rose gardening consisted primarily of what are known as Hybrid Tea Roses. These plants grew tall and erect producing the typical “Valentine’s Day” rose flower we all think of… tight buds opening into fragrant ripples of velvety petals. While the flowers produced were highly sought after they came at quite a dear price to the gardener. Only the best of soil and sun conditions would do for these cut flower beauties. Specific pruning techniques, frequent applications of pesticides and replacement after difficult winters were just a few of the many factors that eventually led to a tragic and dramatic decline in the growing of roses.
During the 1980’s roses began their rebound in the gardening world with the introduction of many new shrub-like rose bushes. These new roses offered many of the positive aspects of the old hybrid teas with much less care and maintenance necessary. Flowers are generally smaller and borne in clusters on spreading plants that grow wider than tall. Pruning is much less specific with general shaping being all that is necessary. Some selections provided better disease and insect resistance than others but overall these early shrubs opened the doors for roses to be widely planted into the new American gardens.
English rose breeder David Austin recognized the value of old-world roses as well as the easy care aspects of the new shrubs and set to work at combining the best of both worlds. Today, Austin offers roses with the large, ruffled, fragrant blooms of heirlooms while maintaining the disease resistance and easy care of the new shrub-rose group. ‘Mary Rose’ is a most popular pink selection while ‘Graham Thomas’ is a vigorous growing yellow variety that can be grown as a shrub or climber. ‘Heritage’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ are a few of the many varities of Austin roses available. Have someone you would like to name a rose after? For a mere $50,000 you too can name your own rose. David Austin is waiting for your call!
The most influential rose introduction over the past 100 years has to be the Knockout series of shrub roses. Knockouts have taken easy care to a whole new level making these shrubs un-rose-like in their lack of maintenance needs. Simply an easy shrub that flowers all summer long, Knockouts have become the most popular rose ever in spite of the fact their flowers produce little or no fragrance. The original Knockout is a shocking bright red and has been followed by Double Knockout, Pink, Double Pink, Blushing, Sunny, White and Rainbow. (I am certain more are soon to follow!) Not all Knockouts share the performance of the original so consult your local gardening professional for advise on what Knockout may be best for you.
New plant breeding technology is bringing us more and more roses to choose from every year as well as new control methods to help make rose growing easier. Even the new roses will occasionally have a bug or fungus problem that may need attention. New products allow for very infrequent applications of granules that are simply applied to the surface of the soil. Leaves absorb the necessary elements through the roots and control is achieved… no muss no fuss.
Today it is safe to say for every gardener there is a rose; climbing, shrub, miniature, hybrid tea, grandiflora, rugosa, antique or groundcover… so many rose types to choose from you can surely find one that fits your needs. Don’t let the roses of old taint your view of all that is possible with the new easy to care for care roses available today.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!