I have always loved flowers! My favorites are roses, peonies, and hydrangeas. It wasn't until a few years ago, when I began to work on finishing the last section of my garden that I really began to study the different kinds of roses. At my first home, I had a small rose garden in the corner of my yard. I had tree roses, a few shrub roses and a couple of climbing roses over an arbor that my husband and I put together.
My grandparents and parents always had roses in their backyards, and I love the smell of roses. At my first home, however, I didn't really know much about what I was choosing. I just went down to the local garden center (where usually all you find are tea roses) and picked out some colors that I liked. In fact, all of the ones I chose were the classic American tea roses. One rose in particular that I put in my garden was Chrysler Imperial. This rose is a deep crimson red rose with an amazing strong fragrance. It was one of my grandmother's favorites. Don't get me wrong, there are some beautiful tea roses. In fact, the tea roses usually grow quite well. One tea rose that I think is very pretty is the Eden rose. It comes in a few different colors but I love the creamy pink variety.
After about five years, we moved to another city and sadly I left all of my roses behind. When we moved to our new home, I didn't really plant any roses. My garden slowly started to take shape and even though we hired two landscape designers, we only had one pink modern shrub rose that was planted in a shady part of our garden. About two years ago, however, I took a hard look at my yard one day from my kitchen window. The weeds had come up after the winter rain and my yard was looking neglected. I knew I needed to make some changes.
I decided that I wasn't loving some of the plants that we put in, and I wasn't really loving the direction my garden was going. With my love of all things French and English, I realized that I needed to add more roses to my garden. I got several books from the library, created a few rose boards on Pinterest, and purchased a few rose books. Vintage Gardens book of Roses, by Gregg Lowery & Phillip Robinson and Old Roses and English Roses by David Austin. What I discovered was that I was drawn to the French and English roses which makes perfect sense because that is the style of decor I love.
So I began making my list of must haves for my garden. The roses I picked were in three main color palettes, white, white with pink, and pink roses. I began choosing different varieties that were full of petals, had a great fragrance, and were continual or repeat bloomers. I wanted roses that were what they call old roses, with English or French history if possible. One of the roses that I decided was my most favorite was Souvenir de la Malmaison, named after the French chateau Malmaison owned by Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte. This rose has full quartered petals, opens flat and a beautiful soft pale pink color. It also has a musk rose smell. It is one of my favorites. Souvenir comes in both climbing and non-climbing growth habit. I have the climber and am currently training it up a wall on the back of my home.
This leads me to my next point, I soon discovered that there were different classes of roses in the old European rose variety. They are as follows: Alba, Centifolia, Moss, Damask, Bourbon, Gallica & China. Each of these type of roses have their own characteristics and each class of rose usually has multiple growth patterns varying in size. When I first selected my roses, I chose based on color and style, and sometimes by growth habit. Now I realize how important it is to select the type of growth pattern for the location that you are planting your rose. For example, you could choose a rose like Madame Ernest Calvatt with a growth habit of long canes that flower from the bottom to the top of the cane or the non-climbing version of Souvenir de La Malmaison that will be short and compact in its growth. This is also important to consider because if you want roses for cutting or arrangements, the climbers are not going to be your best bet. This is because they will be on short thin stems not good for flower arranging.
Gallica and Centifolia roses on the other hand are beautiful roses, many have wonderful full quartered shapes with a beautiful fragrance, but no re-bloom. They just have a one time show. So it is up to you to decide what you want and what best meets your needs in your garden. Another item to consider is thorns, Moss roses have a beauty with their mossy foilage, but can be very thorny.
Some of my other most favorite varieties of rose are the English roses by David Austin. David Austin's roses are usually vary easy to spot, with their cabbage like shape and thick lush petals. Some have soft musk smells and others, strong rose fragrance depending upon which you choose. One of my favorites by far is the Spirit of Freedom rose. This rose has a tall growth habit and this spring one of my bushes produced 55 blooms. The roses were so full that one of my relatives thought they were peonies. The downside to this was however that the roses were so heavy that they had to be staked up for support much like my peonies as well. Their strong fragrance and beauty was however well worth it. This rose also makes an excellent rose for arranging because the roses are produced on long stems.
Some of the other helpful information I have learned in caring for my roses, is a regular feeding each month after the new growth begins in about February or March works great. This year with all the rain, my roses suffered with black spot. I find that plucking off the leaves as they yellow or get spots encourages new growth and keeps my plants looking healthy. Roses also hate to be watered from the top of the plant. It is best to water at the base and clear away any old leaves from around the bottom of the bush.
Additionally, some of the climbing varieties don't like to be pruned too heavily or you may not get as many blooms on the old wood the following year. Each year that I have had my roses I seem to learn a little bit more about them and how to best care for them. One thing is for sure, I love looking out my window now and seeing the different rose varieties that I have spread all around my yard. It brings me great joy to see the new blooms that they produce. I feel certain that I will be adding a few more in the future. Even though they require some extra attention on my part, for me it is worth it!