Roses may have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but we can make tending them easier by choosing and planting them well.
Do your research! While impulse buys can be fun (and I would never tell you NOT to bring home that rose on the clearance table at the local garden center), choosing your variety with care can mean the difference between a short-lived infatuation and a long-term romance with your rose.
I read books about roses, search websites, and look for blogs by rose growers. Two I like are The Garden Diary and Hedgerow Rose
Almost every rose will stay healthier and bloom better if you can maximize the amount of sunshine it receives. Six hours a day is usually a requirement, but research will help you here, too. There are a few roses that can bloom well in less sunny conditions. One I like (and it’s thornless) is the climbing rose Zephirine Drouhin.
For continued good health, air circulation around your rose is important. You don’t want to plant it out where it will feel the full brunt of a winter wind (though I do have a few roses in just such a spot!), but crowding it into a corner, or letting other plants climb all over it could cause problems down the road.
It’s also important to think about access. Roses will need tending. You will want to cut flowers, prune them, and mulch them well. Don’t plant them where you’ll have trouble reaching them later.
If your rose is grafted (meaning the variety you have chosen has been grown onto the rootstock of a different, all-purpose rose), then you will want to take care with the knobby union where the roots and the rose variety meet. In cold climates, that bud union especially needs protecting. But no matter where you live, making sure that thick knobby portion of the stem, below the canes, is underneath your soil can help anchor your rose and keep it from rocking in the wind.
Consider your soil. Roses love rich soil. If yours is not so rich, you might add some well-composted manure or good compost to the planting hole. However, don’t just drop it at the bottom of the hole. Try to work it in all around the area. You want to encourage those rose roots to grow and reach for their nutrition. My clay soil is fairly good for roses, so I don’t bother adding anything when I plant. Instead, I give the newly planted rose a good layer of rich compost as a mulch, right on top of the soil.
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Roses have a reputation, don’t they?
A reputation for romance, first of all. But also a reputation for being fussy to grow.
Truthfully, the wrong rose will be a very fussy rose. But the right one?
The right one will be so very, very right.
Here are some tips and suggestions for those of you looking to grow roses in hot and humid summer gardens:
- The Antique Rose Emporium is worth a pilgrimage for any rose lover. Located in hot and humid central Texas, the growers there have made rugged roses their specialty.
I have learned so much about both antique and modern roses well adapted to extreme summer conditions by studying their catalog, reading their books, and studying the guides and resources on their website, especially The Rose Reader.
- David Austin roses may come from cool, green England, but their print catalog lists a number of roses that do well in heat and humidity.
The Ancient Mariner, James Galway, The Generous Gardener, Olivia Rose Austin, Princess Anne are the pink roses mentioned. White roses include Desdemona, Lichfield, Angel, and Windermere. Yellow and apricot roses are The Lark Ascending, Roald Dahl, and Vanessa Bell.
Personally, I have found that Lady of Shalott (picture above) blooms well through a warm and humid Pennsylvania summer. Of the roses mentioned above, The Generous Gardener and Olivia Rose Austin are favorites of mine for their good health and near-constant flowering.
- Search out easy-care shrub roses rather than high-maintenance hybrid teas (the formal roses that look like they just came from a florist’s shop).
Shrub roses include the Knock Out family of roses and many others, such as Bonica and Belinda’s Dream.
- Look for rose growers and nurseries in your area.
For instance, a new-to-me resource for Florida gardeners is Angel Gardens in Gainesville, Florida. You will have a head start on a beautiful Florida rose garden if you are buying your roses from a reputable Florida grower.
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I’d never grown lilies until I moved to Maplehurst in Pennsylvania, but I first began to love them at a farmer’s market in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
There was a flower grower there who sold the strongly scented Stargazer lilies in summer. I was a graduate student on a tight budget, but I learned that for the price of one small bunch of lilies I could fill our apartment with perfume for a week.
Lily bulbs were almost the first thing I planted in the flower garden here. I have always planted mine in spring, but I hear that they do even better planted in fall. B&D Lilies is a great source for online ordering.
There are Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, various species lilies, and hybrid mixes. I have my favorites, but I also like planting a variety in order to have a long season of lily flowers. The Asiatic lilies bloom first and are usually without scent.
Eyeliner: I often find the Asiatic lilies are too brash and artificial looking for my taste, but ‘Eyeliner’ is a fun hybrid. It’s a pure white flower with a dark brown “eyeliner” edge on each petal.
Casa Blanca: A much-admired white, strongly scented Oriental lily.
Scheherazade: Tall, rich pink-red color, and dozens of blooms on a single stem. I love the petals that curl back so delicately.
Lilium species regale: Beautiful streaks of pink and white, lots of perfume, and it blooms between the Asiatics and the Orientals.
Peonies are easy to grow and among the longest lasting perennials we can plant in our gardens. It is wonderful to anticipate their late spring flowers all year long.
Here are some of my favorite varieties:
- Sarah Bernhardt: My sentimental favorite. Scented, double pink blooms. An especially romantic peony.
- Bowl of Beauty: Ruffly pink perfection.
- Kansas: Gorgeous deep, pinkish red.
- Duchesse De Nemours: an elegant white peony. I have several of these in my flower garden.
- Bartzella: This pale yellow peony is a special intersectional hybrid, which means it’s an especially garden-worthy plant. These hybrids are a cross between regular herbaceous peonies like those listed above and tree peonies. They die back just like ordinary peonies, but their stems are strong and never need staking.