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
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
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
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.