Habits of Roses and their Uses
Using 'Sticky', 'Short', 'Shrubby' and 'Stretch' Roses
AbeDarbyTrim Phot
Using Shrubby Roses

People who collect roses may find that collecting shrubby roses is inconvenient because they take up so darn much space. This means that a collector must have a large garden.

On the other hand, those who are not collectors, but who just want to plant some nice, foliferous shrubs will find the size of shrub roses to be an asset. It means spending less at the nursery.

I have seen no shrub rose that impresses me more than Konigin von Danemark (Queen of Denmark.) It grows slowly and steadily. It is well branched and densely covered with foliage. Its flowers are perfectly formed, large for their class, and fragrant. Bloom period is about two weeks long. This puts it in bloom for more days per year than any Hybrid Tea I have grown. Several other albas are just about as good including Great Maiden's Blush, and Madame Plantier.

A number of rugosas make for good shrubs. rugosa alba, rugosa rubra, Roseraie de l' Hay, Theres Bugnet, or Sarah von Fleet might all be good choices. A few old roses are worthy of consideration La Reine, Reine Victoria, and Louise Odier are shrubby and dependable. So are Ispahan and Ipsilante.

Ballerina is the densest and shrubbiest of the Hybrid Musks and makes for an excellent shrub. Felicia tends to wow less but is actually a better shub in many respects. It's hard to explain why. It grows more slowly and is less densely branched, but it ends up with a better overall appeal to its shape.

A host of David Austin's English roses can be used as shrubs. Doing so may involve planting them in groups of three to achieve the adequate density of foliage. This can prove to be an expensive proposition since Austin's roses tend to be pricey before this factor of three is thrown into the deal. Still, the results can be rewarding and well worth the investment.

Shrubby roses can be used to anchor perennial borders, to create hedges, or to cover areas with mounds of foliage and sometimes flower.


Using Stretch Roses

Stretch roses are roses that grow to more than head height but are better suited to being treated as climbers than as shrubs. The first roses one thinks of in this category are the overgrown hybrid tea and tea roses; Climbing Lady Hillingdon and Climbing Madame Caroline Testout for example. There exists a long list of climbers that are sports of hybrid teas, and there are a lot of large flowered climbers that are crossses between hybrid tea roses and wichurana or multiflora roses. Next, there is a list of species and near-species ramblers and climbers. Finally there is a kind of mixed-bag assortment of roses that includes climbing miniatures, climbing polyanthas, shrubs used as climbers, and climbing floribundas. Each of these groups presents a different set of strengths and suggests a different use.

There is a kind of embarrassment of riches among these roses. Here we will find roses that are all stem up to eight or ten or twelve feet whereupon there will be some foliage and an occasional flower. Roses such as these can work very well trained on the end of a small rustic building. Their simplicity and spareness can be assets when the color of the rose is dark and the structure is a light color. In such a case the structure sets off the rose rather than the rose's foliage doing this. A most memorable case was Dublin Bay's red blossom held against the end of a silvered wooden shed seen at Petaluma Roses several years ago.

Climbing minis can be ideal for training over the end of a small building. They can be almost as successful as ivy in producing a carpet of foliage just a few inches off the ground. I have seen a photo of Nozomi woven over a pillar, a low wall, and a sizable stretch of ground as if it had been knit by some strange but persistent force of nature. Or poured over it like thick paint.

Climbing Iceberg can have a similar effect when trained on a large lattice. Few plants will be quite so successful in creating a veritable wall of white flowers. A memorable photo of just such an application can be found in Macoboy's Ultimate Rose Book.

Ramblers have been bred from both multiflora and wichurana stock. There are many examples of both sorts which are well suited to covering large arches and pergolas

At Roseraie de l'Hay there are hundreds of arches spanning miles of paths. These paths are typically about six to twelve feet wide. And the roses on the arches cover the arches. This means that the park has hundreds of climbers that will produce canes at least twenty feet in length.

During the brief time I spent there I found myself completely wowed by a number of climbers: Paul's Scarlet Climber, Chaplin's Pink Climber, Niege d'Avril, Imperatrice Rouge, Paul's Tea Rambler, and Le Reve. I have since been wowed by City of York and impressed by Sympathie, Dubloons, The Garland, and Ilse Krohn Superior. Many of these are roses that bloom just once a year. But the glories cannot be expressed in words, and mere photos can only hint at their beauties.

Few plants can give more color or drama per square foot than climbing roses. Whether a garden is improved by the addition of 'sticky', 'short,' or 'shrubby' roses any garden that fails to incorporate climbing roses is impoverished indeed.







Using Sticky Roses

We defined 'sticky' roses as roses that do not branch very strongly and, as a result, end up looking like long sticks with thorns and a flower at the top. Hybrid Tea and Hybrid Perpetual classes have a lot of such roses as members. Such plants are useless for landscaping purposes where shrubs or perennials are needed. But that doesn't mean that they can have no place in the garden or landscape.

Imagine a shrubby border. It might be full of plants that put on a super show during the spring but take a rest during the summer. If, during the summer the plants are a dark, rich green, then some strong yellow flowers - even just a few - could really spruce things up. In such a case a tall hybrid tea might be just the thing. Perhaps Midas Touch would work, its golden flowers nodding above dark foliage.

Consider a perennial border that contains perennial flowers that bloom in late summer. Perhaps it contains phlox or purple coneflowers. It would be easy to weave a few pink or purple roses into the mix to vary the form and color of the flowers. Given the right care, there is some chance that the rose would bloom with the other flowers and add a new dimension of form and color. Thus, if ones tastes for roses is modest, the hybrid tea rose can be woven into the fabric of a normal garden.

The traditional treatment of hybrid tea roses is not out of the question. This treatment lines up dozens of hybrid teas of the same type in a bed. Bedding in a big way is an expensive proposition. Rose collectors may find that the more feasible approach is to find groups of roses with compatible colors and plant three or six of each cultivar close together, building up beds of medium scale.

But it is easy to find such plantings unsatisfying except for the production of cut flowers.

I have rarely seen it done, but it occurs to me that because roses root deeply and many annuals root shallowly there might be some combinations of roses and very low annuals that would work well. One example of such a scheme was where viola cornuta - johnny jump-ups - was planted beneath Purple Tiger rose. The effect was quite charming. And I am convinced that this is a method of gardening roses that has quite a bit of potential - planting small flowered plants among roses. White achilleas would look particularly good among dark red roses.

Those concerned about annuals stealing nutrition from the rose might consider planting clovers or other members of the legume family.


Using Short Roses

Short roses may be the most garden-friendly. They work well near the front of a perennial border. They can be massed to form beds that look good at all angles. They can fill in between plants or be used to line garden paths. They can occupy pots or fill in small areas around architectural features of the garden.

Polyanthas are the roses one thinks of first for amassing lots of color. And there are a number of polyanthas that are ideally suited to bedding. Marie Pavie, Margo Koster, Tausendschoen, and Perle d'Or make this list. Dark colors are a bit more rare in this class, but some diligence might turn them up.

Miniature roses have more personality as individual blossoms, but it is a rare miniature rose that manages to produce the same floral output as the best polyanthas. Rainbow's End, Popcorn, and Gourmet Popcorn are popular minis that I have seen performing well in gardens.

There are surely some floribundas that will work as short roses. I have used Sun Flare on several occasions. It is certainly not as foliferous as the best polyanthas, but it makes a nicely branched compact shrub.

There are a few hybrid musks that are short. The most notable is Iceberg. The greatest objection here is that the rose is so common that it is a cliche. At least it is among rosarians. Most of the non-rose-growing public are unacquainted with it.

Meilland has a number of landscape roses such as Sarabande and Carefree Delight that can work well in this capacity. In a local park Carefree Delight is planted en mass with Iceberg and is backed by a giant specimen of Alexander McKenzie grown as a 14 ft tall x 18 ft wide 'shrub.' The effect is quite remarkable. It is easy to miss this giant shrub entirely because its blossoms face northward and are always in the shadows. But if one stops to look at the design it is very tasteful and impactful.

Sarabande is planted en-mass in front of the giant lattice structure at the center of Roseraie de l'Hay. If one seeks to have scarlet flowers by the acre, it's hard to do better than this.

I have seen Brass Band and Showbiz used very effectively in mass plantings. Brass Band at its peak ( shown above ) is quite striking. And when grown well it can create a blanket of bloom as dense as that of any polyantha. Nothing can beat it for sheer interest at its peak. But once it passes peak the faded blossoms can look a little peaked. It's a good rose to plant if one has a gardener in the household who has nothing better to do on summer evenings than deadhead roses.





Roses for Every Garden