Roses are, undoubtedly, our most beloved flower and the one many people think of first when beginning a garden or just adding to an existing landscape. One can get lucky after searching all of the delights offered at the local nursery and planting that glorious specimen in just the right spot. Often, though, that beauty hoped for, is compromised by factors not even hinted at in the growing instructions on the label.

A few years ago, a good-sized area on a property where I worked was designated to become a rose garden.  Three large trees had been removed from this spot. We applied gypsum as the soil was very hard and we applied a lot of compost. I did a lot of research on my favorite kind of roses, David Austins, to select for color, shape, height and, most importantly, disease resistance. We planted 55 roses with a planting scheme based on the above and spaced them as recommended by the grower. The garden thrived and in 2 years, the roses looked like mature plants. But I had trouble with black spot! [expand]

Since I planted that garden, I have done research and tried numbers of things to control the dreaded fungus, which can leave a garden that was flawless in June, leafless in August. I refuse to use chemical fungicides for many reasons and after trials with various oils and anti-fungus funguses I went to the soil. I apply compost, shredded leaves, worm castings and more compost. I think with these regular applications and more diligent care than I was able to give this garden, it would do well as the measures I took did almost well. But, I planned to begin removing selected roses and replacing them with the newer disease resistant roses just becoming available on line and if I could do it again, I would not put a rose garden in the same location.

Roses have needs and since they have been, for decades, hybridized “to within an inch of their lives” to produce the flowers we see in the nurseries today, they have NEEDS. They need eight hours of sun, a location with good air movement, soil with a high organic content and a ph. of 6-6.5, three inches of mulch, and water, but not on their leaves and, ideally, cool dry weather. Each fully-grown plant needs one foot of clear space around it. And even with that, given the humidity, salt in the air, and high heat and deer, thriving roses, without chemicals, can be tricky.

But there are possibilities. One can plant with the above in mind. When choosing a rose, pick one with dark green, shiny leaves (this should be in the description on the rose). Plant it in your garden with other non-roses. Look for the words “disease resistant” on the label. If it is not there, the plant is not disease resistant. And the best thing is research. In the past few years, rose hybridizers have been working hard and with success to produce roses that are beautiful, fragrant and disease resistant. Unfortunately, these varieties are not readily available except online. To find them on line, look for “disease resistant roses” and look for breeders like Kordes, Radler, Meilland and Buck. The New York Botanical Garden’s Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden has begun to use these varieties extensively in its collection and has a lot of very good information on its website.

And let us not forget the hardy and tough rugosa rose, also called beach rose. There are many types now that are quite beautiful.

Lastly, I was asked for my favorite climber. It is Pierre De Ronsard commonly known as climbing Eden, produced by Meilland in France in answer to the David Austin roses, and it is a stunner. It has those dark green shiny leaves so it does well with the black spot. The large luscious flowers are soft pink to white. It fits my description of a rose to a tea!


Jeanelle Myers is the proprietor of Jeanelle Myers Fine Gardening 631-434-5067.

Feel free to call for gardening discussion. [/expand]


More from Our Sister Sites