I love my roses. Simple as that. I got into roses several years ago, early in my gardening life. I had a sunny border and wanted to plant something that could not only take the brutal sunshine but would look nice doing it. At first I wrote off roses as being too fussy–definitely something that is a deal-breaker in my garden. When I went to my local nursery on a recon mission, however, and saw acres of roses for the offering spread out before me, I just couldn’t resist giving myself permission for just one. Then, maybe another. And, oh my goodness, look at that beauty over there…..and smell this one. While initially I thought that roses would require too much feeding, too much water, and would be too disease- and bug-ridden to be worth my time, I have been proven wrong.
Secrets to success? Plant your roses not too closely together, in areas with good air circulation. Powdery mildew much more a symptom of poor air circulation than temperature or humidity. Forget about those heavy fertilizers–a cupful of alfalfa meal, worked into the soil a couple of times a year, works wonders. When you plant your roses, use good watering practice the first summer to encourage good root systems–water deeply, and not too often. Subsequent summers your roses will be tougher and better able to withstand the sun with less water than you might expect. Be choosy. Don’t just select the latest roses in trendy colors. A rose with a history in the marketplace will likely be a rose that has better disease resistance and has survived the test of time and fickleness of gardeners nationwide. Ask your gardening neighbors what roses have grown well for them, and which have ended up on the compost heap–and why. Lastly, and this applies to gardening in general in my book, don’t seek perfection. Your roses will reward you perfectly well if you’re willing to accept a little blackspot and a bug now and then. It’s all part of the territory–it’s nature, after all.
I confess to a major affinity for David Austin roses, because I love the softer shapes, richer colors, and of course the heady fragrances. These flowers somehow have their own glow that I cannot explain. I use roses as landscape plants, and the shrub rose form has become indispensable in my border. Scent is extremely important in my garden, to the point where I am reluctant to plant a plant that merely looks nice–it needs to engage on another plane as well. To me, there’s not much that is better than being out on a beautiful day, doing my garden check, and taking plenty of time to stop and smell my roses.