Sunday, January 31, 2010


This is an article that ran in 2004 in either 'Colorado Gardener' or 'The Rocky Mountain News'....I forget which. Except for the reference to the local fertilizer 'Mile High Rose Feed', the contents of this article should be useful to anyone wishing to grow roses reliably and easily in a cold dry climate in a region with alkaline soils like Colorado.

Have you ever pulled into your driveway and felt utterly underwhelmed by the bland "mustache" of boring junipers strangling the front of your home? Do you feel hemmed in by the insipid privets that form passionless parentheses constricting your property like cheap bookends? Is your shrubbery in general about as exciting as reruns of "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" ? Do you lurch instinctively for the loppers and shovel to happily render a radical juniperectomy, only to feel paralyzed by not knowing of alternative INTERESTING replacement shrubs that are are also drought-resistant, winter-proof and low maintenance?
Believe it or not, some beautiful and TOUGH varieties of richly-colored and deeply fragrant Shrub Roses increasingly available in Colorado can artfully fill the void created by joyously tearing out colorless, scentless, soul-less overgrown junipers and privets. And unlike the the frail, finicky, short-lived grafted "garden roses" that convince so many folks they have "brown thumbs", these drought-defying Shrub Roses, when grown on their OWN ROOTS, mature into beautiful flowering landscape shrubs that need no chemical coddling, and little watering once established.

Let’s face it; few of us lovingly admire a prickly blob of junipers...but a privacy hedge that bears hundreds of richly scented pink, red, white or yellow roses each summer, plus perfumes the yard while providing luscious Victorian style bouquets for the dinner table, fragrant petals for potpourris, and a bonus of bright red hips for winter color and attracting wild birds, now THAT would be awesome and waterwise!

While many different kinds of near-xeric, cold hardy yet lusciously fragrant varieties may be lumped under the catch-all label of "Shrub Roses", those listed below share the same minimal care needs: one optional annual pruning in early to mid-July after last petal drop, a 6"-8" deep mulch of tree grindings (usually free from a tree trimming service) to keep their root zone moist, 1 or 2 deep waterings per month in summer, and one annual feeding of organic nutrients in April (try 2-4 cups of ‘Mile High Rose Feed’ per bush). All are remarkably resistant to disease, insects, drought and winter freeze damage, and thankfully are sold by more and more Colorado nurseries.

Beware: those offered for sale in some quite famous mail-order catalogs are almost always GRAFTED onto a rootstock often grown in mild southern regions near the Mexican border; avoid these wimpy wannabes! These grafted, namby-pamby impostors are rarely vigorous or long-lived despite the alluring pictures in those glossy catalogs; bu only OWN ROOT Shrub Roses if you want the hassle-free toughness of junipers and privets PLUS wonderfully fragrant roses to plunge your nose into......breathe deep! is good!

Seek out juniper replacements from this list of fragrant Shrub Roses known to thrive on the plains of Colorado with minimal care; those followed by an (R) can bless your landscape with a Repeat flush of blooms in late summer and early fall. Remember that Own-Root roses are generally small when when purchased...a turn-of-the-century saying about own-root roses’ slow initial growth rate is: "First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they LEAP!". Unlike grafted roses, they initially expend their energy forming an admirable root system THEN get big, living for many decades. That is why so many very old ones are seen thriving in old cemeteries and homes and abandoned farmsteads.....they are true survivors in our harsh dry climate. And the sensual symphony of their heady fragrances and broad range of colors can create a water-wise annual jolt of joy where monochromatic junipers once induced a near-coma with their numbing sameness.

So if you’ve ever felt you had to choose between keeping big boring bushes or yanking them only to have a starkly empty landscape to conserve water, just remember Mr. Spock’s truism: "There is always a third alternative". And own-root Shrub Roses are that alternative, one deserving the long-overdue attention of our eyes, noses, minds and souls.So go ahead....DO that juniperectomy!’s the delicious menu you can select from:

"Desiree’ Parmentier" (Gallica, circa 1848). Deep pink, very sweet, full of petals. True name being investigated for years now.
"High Country Banshee" (Damask, 1928) Light pink, Victorian-style roses; very fragrant. True identity being researched.
Harison’s Yellow (Hybrid foetida, 1830) Bright yellow, odd scent, indestructible.
Alba maxima (Alba, circa 1100 A.D.) Petal-packed wonderfully scented snow white roses. Many red hips.
Great Western (Hybrid Bourbon, 1832) Crimson-purple "cabbage roses", incredibly fragrant.
Complicata (Hybrid Gallica?, ancient) Big pink single (5-petals) fragrant roses, winter hips.
Baronne Prevost (Hybrid Perpetual, 1842) Rich pink, gloriously fragrant Victorian roses. (R)
Fruhlingsgold (Hybrid Spinosissima, 1937) Giant arching shrub, fragrant light yellow roses.
Rosa eglanteria (species, circa 1551) Small, single pink roses, delightful apple-scented leaves, abundant winter hips.
Rosa glauca (species, 1830) Silvery-plum colored leaves, scentless small single pink roses, tremendous numbers of winter hips for wild birds.
Blush Damask (Damask, 1759) Medium pink, lusciously scented Victorian roses, big bush.
"Victorian Memory" (study name; Boursault hybrid?) Oddly-scented lilac-pink petal-packed blooms on a tall thornless arching shrub-climber (R).
Austrian Copper (species hybrid, circa 1100 A.D.) Single, oddly-scented blooms of bright orange-red and yellow.
Persian Yellow (species, 1837) Fully double, oddly-scented bright yellow roses.
Variegata di Bologna (Hybrid Bourbon (?), 1909) Fully double, cupped VERY fragrant roses of pure white striped crimson and purple...very dramatic.
American Pillar (complex hybrid, 1902) Barely fragrant bright pink single roses in clusters on a BIG arching shrub-climber. Indestructible.
Pink Clouds (Hybrid miniature). This MONSTER rambler bears hundreds of small, very sweet single pink roses. Gillions of winter hips!
William Lobb (Moss, 1855) Wonderfully fragrant, decadently dark purple-crimson Victorian style big blooms on an arching shrub-climber. A living treasure!
Rosa woodsii (species, 1820). Native to Colorado. Single, fragrant rose-pink roses followed by numerous hips. Colonizes by runners.
Rosa spinosissima (species, prior to 1600). VERY cold hardy. Single, sweet, creamy white blooms early in spring, numerous and beautiful black hips.
Rosa multiflora (species, 1868). Rampant rambling shrub, hundreds of very fragrant white roses
like apple blossoms. Multitudes of winter hips.
Alba suaveolens (Alba, prior to 1750). Very sweetly-scented, semi-double snow white roses followed by flavorful red hips.
"Fairmount Red" (study name). Wonderfully fragrant, crimson-magenta Victorian-style cabbage roses" in clusters on a big arching shrub. Discovered in historic Fairmount Cemetery in 1990.
Francis E. Lester (Hybrid Musk, 1946) Monstrous climbing shrub, big clusters of medium size single roses of palest pink fading to white. WONDERFUL fragrance. Oodles of winter hips for the wild birds to feast on."

mail order U.S. sources of these include: High Country Roses in Utah, and Chamblee's Roses and The Antique Rose Emporium, both in Texas.

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