Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Shrub Roses

by Karen Dardick


Use a low growing roses such as 'Flower Carpet Pink' to border beds and ponds.

There's been a revolution in the world of roses, and it's good news for gardeners. There is a renewed interest in roses of all kinds, and a more liberal sense of their landscape possibilities. No longer confined to the rose garden, these roses are freely integrated into the landscape, according to their size and shape. Much more so than just a few years ago, I see them used as garden plants -- in perennial borders, aligned in rows for colorful screens or borders, spilling out of hanging baskets, blanketing fences and posts and massed for ground cover.

Please keep in mind that all roses are, technically, shrubs. Furthermore, the terms "shrub rose" or "landscape rose," are loose designations and can include rose varieties from almost any class. Those I focus on here all grow into healthy, well-shaped shrubs without much attention to pruning or training required.

The characteristics of a good shrub rose are simple to list:

  • Profuse and continuous bloom;
  • Pest and disease resistance;
  • Hardiness in most climates;
  • Only light or infrequent pruning needed;
  • Attractive and functional plant shape.

You can buy and plant container-grown roses now, or order bare-root roses now and plant this fall or early next spring. Many nurseries sell blooming shrub roses in containers, just like any other landscape plant.

Shrub Varieties Proliferate

Shrub Varieties Proliferate
'Flower Carpet White'

Many kinds of shrub roses have been introduced in recent years, especially the ground covers, such as 'Cliffs of Dover', 'Flower Carpet' and 'Jeepers Creepers'. These are ideal for slopes and large vistas. In smaller gardens, try them as specimens in containers and hanging baskets. There are also new shrub roses that are reliably hardy in cold climates. The Morden and Explorer series are hardy to -25°F, and there are repeat-blooming varieties of Rosa rugosa that are hardy to -30°F.

At the other end of the spectrum are David Austin's English roses. Although lacking the ironclad constitution of the sturdiest shrubs, these new roses combine the fragrance and shape of old-fashioned roses that bloom once per season with a modern reblooming habit.

Finally, there are numerous roses that don't easily fit any existing category or group. These include 'Iceberg', 'Lady of the Dawn', 'Simplicity' and 'Festival Fanfare'. Officially classed as floribundas (shrubbier versions of a hybrid tea), these roses meet or exceed all requirements of a shrub rose. Another example is 'Magic Carpet'. Classed as a large-flowered climber, it serves beautifully as a ground cover.

Older roses that fit the shrub category include the Kordesii, musk and Buck hybrids, ancestors of some of the new shrubs listed here. Kordesii hybrids include the eight-foot-tall 'Dortmund'. It's hardy to -15°F and is very disease resistant. The nearly everblooming musks like 'Buff Beauty' and 'Kathleen' grow five to 10 feet tall and produce two-inch fragrant flowers in clusters; plants are hardy to 0°F. Buck hybrids, such as 'Apple Jack' and 'Prairie Princess', grow three to five feet high and are hardy to -15°F.

To be honest, I love hybrid teas, and I will probably always grow them. No other type of rose offers such beautifully shaped flowers on long, cuttable stems, and many are highly scented. Many modern shrub roses, products of the environmental awareness of the early 1970's, don't require spraying, and that's good. But notable exceptions (such as the David Austin's) aside, I've noticed that few offer much in the way of fragrance, or make extra-long, elegant stems.

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