Rose Garden consultation

The Sophora, the Moongate and Rose Garden in AugustI could use some help. Every year about this time I start thinking about getting new roses for the Rose Garden and every year about this time I go certifiably nutty trying to read between the lines of rose catalog descriptions. My kingdom for a disease resistant rose! Some of you already know that we don’t spray the Rose Garden with any kind of fungicide or pesticide – we clean up dead and disease-y leaves and we handpick beetles (though fingers crossed that the milky spore disease that Dan applied a year and a half ago makes a noticeable difference this year). And we’ve begun to interplant the garden with a mixed up mix of shrubs, perennials and annuals so that there’s other stuff going on midsummer besides black spot and beetles.

The Moongate underconstruction 1913Traditionally the Rose Garden was a mixed garden heavy on roses. Word is that the family didn’t spend much time in this garden although they had a beautiful moongate built in 1913 and had tall fences erected (similiar to what surrounded their tennis courts) for the climbers to grow on. And Estelle Clements (Bessie’s live-in companion, friend and helper) mentioned in her journal when her favorite roses were in bloom.

June 10, 1922 Most of the standard roses are in bloom and the ramblers are beginning to come out. Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, Waltham Rambler, Goldfinch, Gardenia are flowering and Thousand Beauties is beginning to come out.

(I love the archives!) But the Rose Garden might have been enjoyed even more by the family’s staff. Situated next to the carriage house and barn (where the family wouldn’t have had much occasion to go), and surrounded in the summer by a thorny fence and stone walls, this private eden would have been the ideal place for a smoke break.

Now it’s our entrance garden – a visitor’s first peek at Blithewold’s 33 acres and we desperately want to make a good impression. –Very difficult to do that with unsprayed roses along midsummer! Ginny, Gail and Julie in chilly conferenceSo we asked one of our favorite (retired) garden designers, Ginny P. to give us her thoughts and I’d like some of yours too. I really want to know if any of you have favorite roses that you don’t treat like roses – do you have any that look good even without weekly hosedown of chemistry? I know you do!… ‘Morning Has Broken’ in November after the garden clean-up - this picture doesn’t do it justiceOne of the Florabundas (our Thursday Rose Garden volunteers) gave us the most perfect rose last year – and just what I’m looking for more of. ‘Morning Has Broken’ is a beautiful butter yellow non-stopper with a sweet fragrance and best of all – not a spot of fungus amongus all summer! And we had it jammed in with annuals probably stifled and it just never stopped or dropped. We also have the ‘Knock Outs’. They don’t knock my socks off but they do seem to stay healthy. Can you recommend any others before I place my order for a boatload more of ‘Morning ..’?

I checked the All American Rose Selections website for recent winners. Winners are chosen based on a list of characteristics including disease resistance. On the page describing their test gardens I found this: “The rose varities in these trials receive only as much care as your average home gardener would be likely to give. In fact, AARS members recently voted to remove fungicidal spraying from the testing process, to ensure that our AARS Winners are natural top performers.” And I have to admit to being irked. Call me naive but I didn’t realize testers were allowed to spray the roses. Just how exactly can they tell if a rose is disease resistant if they’re spraying it? And when exactly did the fungicide ban go into effect? I couldn’t find that information anywhere on their website and so far no one has gotten back to me. I’ll happily try more AARS winners if I know they won the award fair-n-square. Anybody know the scoop?

11 thoughts on “Rose Garden consultation

  1. No point me giving you my selections, but I’m horrified about the fungicidal spraying too!

    Chookie, now I’m curious about what roses you grow! Maybe there are some cross-overs. Why not?! -kris

  2. I sure wish I could help, but I avoid growing roses because I don’t want to spary them all the time and I’m not sure what is really disease resistant. I do have one small white “flower carpet” rose which seems to be pretty green all summer. I’ll be watching for comments to see if I can get some tips for my own garden.

    Carol, we have some pink “flower carpet” roses in a drive-by bed and they are amazingly clean. Roses for me are one of those things like orchids – once I got started I couldn’t stop. It’s good that I get to expend some of that obsession at work. We’ll see what happens in my (still new to me) garden at home… I’m going to keep an eye on you to see if you grow a new addiction. -kris

  3. I grow a pile of hardy roses, and nothing gets sprayed, Kris. Let’s see, I have a whack of rugosa roses and hybrid roses (Thomas Lipton, Hansa, Topaz Jewel, Roserie de la Haie, Blanc Double du Coubert, Souvenir de Philemon Cochet, several of the Pavement Series), a few gallicas (Charles de Milles, Rosa Mundi), a few shrub roses (Alchemyst, Golden Wings, Robusta, Parkdirektor Riggers, Stanwell Perpetual, Carefree something or other) and some of the Canadian Explorer series too. My favourite rose, however is Rosa hugonis, or Father Hugo’s Rose; only bloms once a year but the foliage is gorgeous even out of bloom. But I’m a hardheaded rose grower–they get no pampering, only a bit of pruning when needed.

    Thank you for that list, Jodi – I’ve got some research to do now! I think if they look good in your foggy climate, they might work for us too. And I always forget about Father Hugo — we’ve got a couple giant ones by the greenhouse but not in the Rose Garden. It is a lovely rose – especially when I remember to notice it blooming! -kris

  4. Second the motion on the Rugosas, especially the Pavement Series. I grow Snow Pavement; lilac buds opening to fragrant white doubles without any maintenance–gorgeous!

    The best resource for roses are two nurseries: High Country Roses and Spring Valley Roses. Both are online. I deal a lot with High Country since they are in state. The specialize in hardier roses and have a wealth of knowledge. If I ever have a question or need a recommendation, they are the people I call. Spring Valley’s website has a wealth of information too. Both nurseries’ stock is always impressively vigorous and healthy. I’ve never had a problem getting barerooters started here, and in my arid climate, and alkaline, sandy soils, that’s saying something.

    Susan, Thank you for those nurseries – they ring a bell but I definitely haven’t checked them out lately — I will now! -kris

  5. I never spray my roses either. Just a bit of trimming as needed and organic fertilizer three times during the growing season. I grow them with cacti and yuccas, so they don’t get a lot of water either. My favorite is ‘Belinda’s Dream.’ Also like ‘Carefree Beauty,’ ‘Marie Pavie,’ ‘Valentine,’ and ‘The Fairy.’ I’m trying ‘Radrazz’ Knockout rose for the first time this year.

    Thank you, Pam! I’ll be looking all of those (that we don’t already have) up. – It’s a great test of their toughness if they’re not getting much water in your garden either. (I wonder what everyone would say if I tried to sneak an agave or two in the Rose Garden… – too many thorns?) -kris

  6. Again with the no spraying here… but my ‘Dortmund’ is too new for me to verify its disease resistence past one year. :)

    Barry hasn’t posted in ages, and he’s from GA so you’d have to check all of the zones for the roses he posted about, but if you go through the archives on his “Garden Mob” blog there are some great recommendations for disease resistent roses. I’ll go through a book I have at home (which is heavy on OGR–Old Garden Roses–so may be appropriate to the feel of the rose garden at Blithewold) and post a few more of their recommendations later tonight.

    Kim, keep us posted (har) on ‘Dortmund’ and thanks for the blog referral (I’m not sure I’ve been reading his and will have to do a little search…) and I’ll look forward to hearing what your book recommends – what book is it? -kris

  7. Oh my goodness. Forget the roses, I have to build a moon gate!

    Absolutely! Just remember to build it low enough that you at least think you might hit your head on it – the point is to bow when entering the garden. (How cool is that?) -kris

  8. Kris: I love that archive photo of the building of the Moon Gate! What a treasure! I love the Father Hugo and just put one in my long border. It blooms pretty early. I also love the Rose rubrifolia which has those glaucous, burgundy leaves and pretty, single, small pink flowers. You may have this one already. Other than those, I am a rose novice as they don’t grow all that well here in ‘High’ country!

    Layanee, the archives are one of the coolest things about Blithewold – I hope to share more pictures as I come across them. We do have a Rosa rubrifolia and for some reason it looked better last year than I’ve ever seen it. I wonder what we did right?… -kris

  9. Sorry, Kris… got a bit sidetracked and just got back to this now. :) The book (which I really enjoy) is:

    Seriously, after looking through this again I think that you might want to go ahead andd check it out of the library or something. This is a good book. They have lists of roses with all of their susceptibility to blackspot, tolerance of shade, and so forth. It’s not a huge amount of roses, but those that she does list are vetted for easier organic growing. (Wilde grows her roses organically, and this is a Rodale book.) I could type up lists–and I would be happy to–but I’d need a size idea of what you’re wanting because the roses she lists go from short to rambling! :)

    (Or you could email me: blackswampgirl AT yahoo DOT com. I don’t mind typing a list out via email later this week if you prefer.)

    Kim, Thank you very much for your offer! I think you’re right though that this might be a book we need. I’ve got it on order from the library (there are several in the RI system, if anyone else nearby wants it too – no waiting!) and it looks like it will be one we will have to have on our shelf for keeps. -kris

  10. I went to a great lecture at the RI Flower Show called “Hardy Roses for New England Gardens” and it was all about what types of roses to pick for both hardiness and disease resistence. The speaker, Mike Chute, helped pick out the roses when the Roger Williams Rose Garden was recently renovated. Here is an article about it:

    May be he could give you some help?

    Sue, Thanks for that article – I hadn’t seen it. They’re growing one of my faves (First Light) that I had when I lived on that other coast and hadn’t come across it here yet. I’ll be on the lookout! -kris

  11. Kris I just wanted to update you on my recent visit to the Roger Williams Park Victorian Rose garden. This rose garden was fantastic! Loved all the ideas I got from this garden. This garden is maintained by the RI Rose Society. Check out my photos in my website above. A visit to the Roger Williams Park may be in order soon to see the peak bloom period.

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