Thinking of Summer Roses

Iceburg Rose

Iceburg Rose peeking through the hosta

Roses are one of my favorite, easy to grow garden plants. Eeerrrr… I ment to say they are easy once I learned the rules of roses in MY garden……

When I first decided to grow roses many many years ago. I went to the store and picked out something pretty. I was either luck and it grew well or died. And this is the way it worked, until one day I visited a friend who had the biggest, tallest rose bush I had ever seen around here. She told me it was a rugosa, a Hansa to be exact. This got me to asking her questions about my roses and I have learned a lot from her.

Around here winter is hard on roses, it’s a fact and there is no getting around it unless you want to put alot of work into protecting them over the winter, along with this is also pampering them all summer too, black spot, mold and who knows what else. Some are just plain wimpy and not for growing in our climate. Me I don’t have the time or desire to baby them. 

Distant Drums

Distant Drums

My care is basic:

 In the spring I pull back the winter protection, gently dig in the manure and add new mulch, keep them watered. When they leaf out I cut back the dead canes.

In the fall I simply mound the mulch up around the canes as high as I can and cover them with fresh horse manure and top off with leaves, when the snow hits I shovel snow on top of them to cover them even more. When the first frost hits I will stop cutting the Flowers so I won’t encourage them to produce more.

In the Summer I keep them watered deeply about once a week, try to keep the Japanese Beetles off them by picking them off the plants early morning and evening. I apply compost and mulch a couple of time during the growing season and once or twice a good drink of alfalfa tea. (This year I will have worm tea for them) I never have any problems with weeds. I might also dig in a banana peel or two, or maybe some fish heads if I think of it. I will also give them a sprinkle of Epsom salt once or twice. Not all at one time but when ever I think of it, this is low maintenance gardening, I’m not to fussy. and keep them dead headed.

Distant Drums

Distant Drums

There are different meanings to the words winter hardy around here:

First is cane hardy-this means there will be little to no cane die back. Rugosas fit into this type.

Then there is winter hardy but these die back to the ground and regrow all new each year. They will never reach their full heights or fullness around here. Flouribundas fit into this type.

There is also something in between with some die back, my Buck roses fit in here. Last are the rest that are wimps and don’t grow well here. These are the teas and hybrids.

My thinking and selecting of roses years ago I have found this to be backwards thinking. Now I choose a rose only when it meets the requirement in the following order.

  • What is my purpose for it- do I want something tall or do I want a climber, or something small? Knowing this will help me choose either a winter hardy or cane hardy variety.
  • It must bounce back from winter without my pampering it much.
  • It must fit into the physical space I have in mind for it both height and width without me monitoring it. Is it going to be a bush, shrub, climber or ground cover?
  • next I choose the color- what will be growing with it, do I want contrast or complementing color.
  • choose if it is a repeat bloomer or not-again I consider the location. Tucked into the border I like repeat bloomers, out on display maybe a once bloomer to give large impact while the border is in transition? Or maybe for a flash of color away from the house, but I don’t want to always be cutting the dead flowers off.
  • choose if it is to be a single, double or triple-again where is it going.

A Peony saying hello to Apothecary Rose

I am smitten over rugosa roses. I have a Nearly Wild, a Rosa gallica officinallis (Apothecary Rose) and an unknown simply bought as “Rugosa” from our farm extension (around here they call it a sea rose), and an unknown once blooming a friend gave me.

The Nearly Wild and Apothecary does bloom on and off all summer for me and have the prettiest hips. The other two are once blooming and put on a lovely show for about a week or until the first rain and they ball up and that’s the end of them. These I just simply clean up the fallen leaves, mound the mulch up a bit, give them a wink and say see you in the spring.

A new one I am trying is Theresa Bugnet (boo-NEY). This one grows into large bushes and is a repeat bloomer. I have over wintered it in the house along with her sister Marie Bugnet. Sadly Marie didn’t make the winter, that intrepid Avery the cat ate the leaves off it one to many times…I’ll order another this year.

Rugosa roses are very winter hardy with little or no cane die back each year, this makes for some of the  tallest roses in the garden, when a tall variety is choosen. They will bloom earlier because of the very little if any cutting of the canes. These typically are thorny little buggers with your choice of single, double and a few triple blooms available mostly in white and many shades of pinks from deep to very light and almost purple.

Golden Celebration

Golden Celebration

I also LOVE the old garden roses known as the Flourabundas. A few I have are David Austin roses, Heritage, Golden Celebration, & Teasing Georgia. These fall into the category that they are winter hardy but have extensive cane die back and must grow from the ground up every year so they will never be a large full rose here.

I have a lovely ground cover rose called the Fairy that fends for itself every year and every year gets a bit bigger, it’s a tough little rose with the tiniest little buds and full flowers in light pink that fade to almost white. I have seen reports that they in some areas do grow taller but not mine, it will reach about 2′ by the end of summer.
The Fairy Rose

The Fairy Rose

I have a cute little Iceburg that dies back each winter to the ground and will reach about 2′. This one is grown along side taller bleeding hearts and hosta so the small size is OK.

And of course my favorites the Buck’s Distant Drums. The color is unbelievable from first bud when it’s a dark burgundy to when it first opens with a rusty, pink color to the last day when if fades to a nearly white light pink. These will die back quite hard without lots of winter protection.

I’m not sure what this year’s rose orders will bring but here is a nice site to look over. Of course some of these roses are available in the US but I have always had luck with this company.

Although a few months away I am thinking about them already and looking forward to making jelly from some of them.

Roses don’t have to be complicated but can get that way if you let them. I don’t have shelves full of fertilizers, powders and potions to grow these roses, they make due without complaint what I give them and reward my work with beauty all summer long. As my rose gardening friend once told me, “Roses are nice to look at when you pass by on your way to doing something else, don’t spend much time on them, they are bash-full and will take notice and pout.”


Posted on March 23, 2009, in Gardening and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Mitchell Webster

    I used to have about 30 David Austin Roses, that I just loved, I will always plant David Austin, however down here in VA, they tend to just die back 1/2 way, so mine would over a 3 year period reach a height of 5-6 feet, and literally be covered with 100’s of blossoms per plant.

    Before that I had all Hybrid T’s some of which even if I were to have David Austin’s again, I would have just these Hybrid T”s
    Garden Party
    Chrysler Imeperial
    All of which are intensely fragrant roses, the problem today with Hybrid T’s is that so much of the fragrance has been bred out of them, this is where David Austin Roses are the exception, there you get old world roses and super charged fragrance with hybrid T disease resistance.
    For maximum bloom, I fed as required, but also double fed with a 0-60-0 fertilizer, 1-2 cups of Epsom Salts around each bush per year, and incorporated Alfalfa Pellets into the soil each spring. Also an application of Triple Super Phosphate in the spring around each bush. Then slacked off all feeding for down here about July 15 was the last intense feeding, sometimes I would push it until Aug 1, so they would not be growing lushly in early winter.

  2. Hi Mitchell,
    I can just “see” all those lovely Austins! They are sooo pretty and smell good too… you have just the right climate to grow them. I’m glad you like the t’s, I like to look at them but they are just to fussy for me. Glad to hear you treat your roses mostly the same way I do, we must be doing something right. I also have an Austin Cottage Rose I forgot to mention. It has been hanging on for the past few years. I had it planted in a planter and the propaine driver ran it over, never said a word about it, just dragged the poor thing down the driveway. I replanted it in the island bed in the driveway but it has pouted ever since. I plan to move it this spring and see if it does any better.

    I also have another peach Austin but can’t think of the name just at the moment. It’s very pretty and will grow to about 2-3′ tall by the end of summer.

    My hope is on the Theresa Bugnet this year as well as one other Canadian Rose I haven’t picked out yet. I have to limit myself to 1, yes just 1 new rose a year. I have plenty of room but not always the time to care for them.

    My other new interest in the garden is the daylily. These are very hardy here, grow, spread and flower well. I have a new orange triple I’m waiting to see how it over wintered….

    Glad to hear from you! 🙂


  3. Is this really your yard, Karyn? If so, will you please come down here and help me with mine? We’ve not much in the way of landscaping or plantings. I’d just love some rose bushes! My grandmother had tea roses when I was a child. So beautiful. Ah, perhaps someday when I’m not having babies and little ones running around!

    Thanks for sharing this!!

  4. Hi Kristin,

    You are so sweet! There is lots of work to be done here in the yard. It’s just a bit at a time. 5 years ago it was nothing but dirt and more dirt. I don’t know the “rules” of landscaping so I quite sure I have broken every one of them. 🙂 I simply plant things where I would like them and with other plants I think look good together. I play with color and texture. The best thing about the short growing season around here is if I don’t like something I have either the spring or fall to dig something up and move it. Plants are pretty forgiving at being moved. I will say roses will sulk for a couple of years if you move them. My gardening friend always tells me about roses the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap! She is right.

    Like I said I like things that don’t require lots of attention. For ideas I notice plants/plantings in other people’s yards what looks good or grows good, how things are planted together that I like and don’t like. I stick with what I know grows well around here, our co-op extension is a great source as well as friends and neighbors, local plant sales. I stay away from the big home improvement type stores as well as department stores for plants. They get huge shipments mostly of things that aren’t for our area. Last spring I saw the most beautiful rose & I really wanted it. I researched it a bit and discovered it would only grow in zone 7or higher. We are zone 4, come on I thought to myself this store doesn’t care that the thing will die, they just want to sell me another rose next year. Ticked me off a bit.

    Your yard will get there it’s only 1 hole at a time:) now that’s simple!

    Post pictures of your flowers when you get the chance I love to look at them. A good web site for ideas and info is GardenWeb.


  5. Do you happen to grow Rosa Canina?? It’s not common around the US, in fact most garden stores will say “I’ve never heard of that one”. But it’s the one that is used most commonly in herbal medicine for it’s hips. I’ve only found one place that sells it…

    Oh, and your roses are absolutely stunning! We have some old rose bushes that we found when we moved on to the land… they have the most decadent smell I’ve ever sniffed!!! I’m trying to give them the care they need to nourish them back to their full glory.

  6. Hi Maria,

    No I don’t grow it and don’t think I have ever seen it other than in a picture. You might want to try and Mitchell suggested
    Please let me know if you find it, it is very interesting and I have heard the hips are wonderful like you said they were. I will say the sea rose hips might be the same as the Canina are, possible they are related some how. They are great in a tea and jelly.

    I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the pictures of the roses, they do give a big boost too when I see them. The snow just melted off some of them this week. Before too long they will wake up again.


  7. I’ve found it here:
    But, with shipping, it’s $80!! I’m going to plant some of the seeds tomorrow to see if I can grow some of my own!

  8. Hi Marie,

    That’s good and bad news. At leat you now know it is in the us. Have you found a source for seeds? I spent some time looking for you yesterday in my rose search.

    You might also try Rose Acres
    6641 Crystal Boulevard
    El Dorado, California 95623-4804
    United States

    Also there is this slightly heated discussion over on Garden Web. There is some good info. if you read through the tempers….

    Hope this helps


    One More thought, I haven’t had time to look yet, is Heritage Rosarium They have a great selection of old roses maybe they would know something even if they don’t have any at the moment.

  9. I spoke with Rose Acres yesterday and she said they don’t ship right now… I think they may ship bare root roses in the winter, but she was vague.

    The seeds of the rosa canina I get when I order rose hips from Mountain Rose Herbs (they send hips from the Rosa canina). The hips I use medicinally, but there are always a few little seeds in there, so I’m going to try planting them to see if any grow.

    🙂 It was the gardenweb forum discussion that got me searching:-) I want to plant a rose over Leifs placenta and was looking for either rugosa or canina. I’ve got a rugosa on order at the local garden center, but I want a canina too.

    Thanks for your help!

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