Nothing is as rewarding as growing beautiful roses. Richly scented, they turn a fenced backyard into a romantic, relaxed retreat. In such a setting, you can be a Scheherazade to your own cranky king.
1. Roses are not fussy. Many people believe that roses are difficult to grow. This is incorrect. The secret is to first select roses suitable to your plant hardiness zone. The USDA publishes a map, which lists the zones down to the county level. Most of East Texas, for example, ranges from zones 7b to 9a. A good portion of Arizona is zone 6a, but Arizona has a broad temperature range. Higher elevations mean the potential for lower temperatures. Even within a county, there are likely micro zones, but don’t worry about these. Stay within the general range, and your roses should be fine.
2. A good rose begins with a good hole. Roses at risk of freezing need to be planted deeper than those grown in more temperate zones. If you are in zone 6 or lower, make sure you plant the “knot” of the rose at least three feet below the surface. Add ash from your outdoor fireplace as well as horse manure to the hole. You can buy a lot of fancier products, but these will do the job. Spread some woodchips on the top to keep the weeds down and preserve moisture in the ground.
3. Buy own root from a knowledgeable nursery. You can buy your rose from a reputable nursery or a local discount store. If you buy from a specialty nursery, you may get more support when you are first starting out. On the other hand, large box stores may well have very experienced staff. You won’t know unless you ask. Most likely, you’ll pay a little more for expert advice. Get yourself “own root” roses. They’ll stay true to the stock.
4. Choose color, scent and size. Most people have color preferences. Indulge yours. You want what’s pleasing to your eye. No matter how big your lot, eventually you will need to decide which roses you want the most. Consider shape, color and scent. You can usually get all three in one plant. Thornless roses are available, but there are lovely roses worth the occasional scratch. Wear gloves when tending your roses.
5. Antique or nearly wild? Roses that are nearest to wild may bloom less often but are easier to grow. Look for antique roses or David Austin roses. Austin took old English garden roses and worked to make them ever blooming and hardy. Some are quite large. Your rose specialty nursery should have climbers, small and gigantic shrubs, and roses than can tolerate shade.
6. Read a little about the history of roses. Did you know that, while Napoleon was off waging war, Josephine was negotiating with a British agent for a rose for Malmaison? Gertrude Jekyll, a famous English garden designer, made beautiful rose gardens. You’ll find many books on roses in the library. They’ll give you more growing advice as well as suggestions on companion planting. From the sultans of Persia to the priests of Christianity, roses have had an important symbolic history. The Little Prince features the love of a rose. “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was penned as a tribute to a Black woman from Connecticut.
One of the real joys of home ownership is gardening, and no gardening is more rewarding than growing roses.