Basic Care Corner: “Wish Lists”

By Nancy A. Edgar


The holidays are long over, winter is here to stay, and I’m getting cabin fever.  This is the time of year to take inventory, access the necessities and make wish lists.  The garden stores have started putting out shiny new garden tools, gloves, pruners, fertilizers, …gotta have plenty of Epson salts for the spring.  Most of all, it’s time to find those must have roses.  You know the ones I’m talking about, the one you read about, the ones seen at the Rhode Island Flower Show, that incredible show stopper at the rose show, the what’s its name I saw during the garden tours.  So, where do I start to look?

First of all, write a list of the specifications you need to make a good choice.  Certain requirements may be, height x width, color, shape, type, fragrance, shade tolerance, disease resistance, leaf color, zone hardiness, exhibition quality, size of bloom, petal count, remontancy (repeat-flowering), hybridizer, etc.

Catalogues are excellent sources of information.  Most contain a color picture, a brief description, and a few specifics, i.e. AARS winner.  All-American Rose Selection (AARS) is a title of excellence given by a committee of rose industry producers and marketers.  The organization is non-profit and not affiliated with the American Rose Society (ARS).  This year’s president is Phil Edmund of Edmund’s Roses.  New roses are grown for two years, in a dozen-plus test-gardens, located around the country, (Elizabeth Park in Hartford, CT is one) and evaluated by a set criteria.  AARS winner denotes a measure of assurance that this rose will perform in a variety of soils and climates.  Be aware, this does not mean the rose will grow well everywhere.  A combination of catalogues will provide a well-rounded description and most of the pertinent facts for your rose choice. 

The American Rose Society has the Handbook for Selecting Roses, published every year, at a nominal cost of $3.00.  It contains an abbreviated description, awards and a garden performance score.  Many exhibition winners are not necessarily good garden performers.  A list of last year’s exhibition winners, in all categories, can be located at www.ars.org and www.roseshow.com, and is also published in the ARS American Rose magazine.  Also, the Rhode Island Rose Society will be publishing its own compendium of roses grown in this area, with an evaluation and comments.

Descriptions of roses and their qualities may vary slightly or wildly, depending on the source.  Industry catalogues such as Jackson and Perkins, Star, Weeks, and David Austin may have skewed opinions about the roses they produce or are introducing.  Comparing commentary about the same rose from a couple of sources will give a clearer picture.  If you can’t verify, then consult with people who are growing that rose. 

Interpretation of rose descriptions is an art onto itself.  If it doesn’t say ‘disease resistant,’ it’s not.  ‘Disease tolerant’ may be interpreted to mean that it probably gets powdery mildew and blackspot, but can be managed with treatment.  ‘Glossy leaves/foliage,’ may be disease resistant.  ‘May need winter protection,’ probably means it does.  ‘Very large, heavy petalled blossoms, that open slowly,’ will probably ball in our humid climate.  ‘High centered’ is a hybrid tea exhibition attribute.  ‘Arching growth,’ may mean that the flowering is too heavy for the stem.  ‘Bloom heaviest in the spring and fall,’ means that the variety likes the cool weather, and has few if any blooms in the summer heat.  ‘Strong stems,’ ‘sturdy plants,’ ‘floriferous,’ are all good descriptions. ‘Blooms in June’ or ‘early summer bloom’ or ‘heaviest bloom in June with some repeat in fall,’ may indicate little to no color after June bloom.

 (Reprinted from Rhode Island Rose Review Feb. 2003)

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Date last edited: 01/21/10
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