By: National Gardening Association Editors
With their great beauty, tremendous variety, and luscious scent, it's easy to become passionate about those all-time favorites, roses. For many, roses are the symbol of a well-cared-for home, evoking images of that picket-fenced cottage awash with rambling roses. Like Oscar Wilde, who could "resist anything except temptation," those who give in to the temptation of roses are richly rewarded. In addition to being beautiful flowers for arrangements, roses lend themselves to a wide variety of crafts, providing everything from petals for creating potpourri, to the vitamin C-rich seed pods (called rose hips) for rose hip tea.
If you decide to plant a rose garden, do it with the understanding that, as with all temptations, there will be a price to pay. To do what they do so well--namely, produce quantities of beautiful, fragrant flowers--roses need special attention. Although it's possible to mix any number of roses in with a shrub border, it's far easier to be lavish with that attention if they are segregated in a small bed. Ten to 12 rose bushes will make a magnificent display, provide plenty of flowers for cutting, and require a bed only 8 feet by 12 feet or so. Any shape of bed will do, but generations of gardeners have favored the formal look of square, rectangular, or round beds, edged with stone or brick, often with a birdbath or sundial placed in the center for a little added interest.
When choosing roses, it's helpful to know some of the terminology and uses:
Hybrid tea roses. These are tall, long-stemmed roses ideal for cutting. They are usually the kind you send from the florist. In the garden, they are often featured as single specimens.
Floribundas. Developed during the last century, these roses are shorter and bloom more freely, setting clusters of blossoms rather than a single bloom on a stem.
Shrub or landscape roses. These can be tall or kept trimmed. They can be treated like a hedge and bloom from spring through fall. Their foliage fills in. They are spaced 18 inches apart in cool climates; 24 to 36 inches apart in warmer climates.
These roses have changed the way many people view roses. Landscape roses, especially when compared with traditional varieties, are impressive for many reasons: their natural disease-resistance, their willingness to grow in a variety of climates with a minimum of attention from the gardener, their compact growth habit (very little pruning required), not to mention the great beauty of their flowers, which are borne consistently over a very long season.
Tree roses. These elegant roses grow in a cluster at the top of a stake. Miniatures grow 18 inches high; patio varieties 24 inches; and full tree roses 36 inches high. Tall ones can frame a doorway or line a walk. Smaller varieties can be grown in containers on the patio or porch.
Patio roses. These grow two to four feet tall, bloom all season, and are well suited to growing in containers in small spaces. Sometimes they are planted in hedges as foundation covers. The foliage tends to be dense.
Climbers. Climbing roses can form dramatic cascades grown over an arched trellis or trained over a fence, pillar, or post. They are sometimes used to create a privacy wall.