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Roses are probably the most popular flower in the country. The glowing descriptions of rose virtues, however, fail to point out some of the weaknesses of the rose as a part of the overall landscape. Roses are deciduous and offer nothing but naked silhouettes during winter months. Homeowners must rely heavily on broad-leaf and narrow-leaf evergreens to provide year-round enjoyment of their grounds. Pest control is a major problem for most rose owners. Frequent applications of fungicide, insecticide, and miticide are required to keep most modern rose plants healthy.

These thoughts are not presented to discourage purchasing and planting roses. They are merely pointed out to advise against hasty or careless selection of plants or planting sites. Some roses may not enhance your garden, and others may utilize an excessive amount of time that could be spent more enjoyably elsewhere.

Plant Selection

Before purchasing rose plants, analyze your garden or yard to determine what size, type, and color would be most pleasing. Consider your own interests and ability in gardening. Perhaps a rose requiring relatively little care would be more attractive than a hybrid rose whose potential is never reached due to lack of extensive care. Above all, do not purchase a plant and then rush home in search of a place for it. If you do not have a landscape plan drawn to scale to work toward, at least give some thought to the effect you are striving for.

Each year the American Rose Society rates and reports on the newer rose cultivars (varieties). These ratings could be consulted for expert opinion. For added information, check with your local nurseryman, the local rose garden manager, or with a well-informed rose grower in your locality.

Select dormant roses as soon as they become available. They should have three to five bright green stems about thumb-sized. No new growth should have broken the wax stem covering. If several leaves and new white stems are showing, the rose will be difficult to establish. If weather prevents immediate planting, bury the roots in a slanted shallow trench. Cover them with moist soil or peat and water. Stems should be left exposed. They may be left in this manner for several weeks. 

Roses are usually classed into two general categories according to their habit of growth--bush roses and climbing roses. The following classification is taken in part from "Roses for the Home," (Home and Garden Bulletin No. 25, USDA).

Bush Roses

Bush roses are divided into several categories because of differences in flowering habit, winter hardiness, and other traits. These include the following:

Hybrid Teas are the most popular type of rose grown today. They bloom from May to frost and range from two to six feet in height. They commonly produce one bloom per stem. Many cultivars are semi-hardy and may require winter protection. They have large buds and are valuable for cut flowers and specimen display.

Floribunda flowers resemble small hybrid teas borne in clusters. This type produces a vigorous bush and blooms prolifically. It is hardy and requires less care than hybrid tea roses. Floribundas are useful for bed plantings and massing in a shrub border.

Grandifloras bear the same type of bloom as the hybrid teas, but the flowers are in clusters. They are hybrids of floribunda and hybrid teas. Grandiflora roses make fine cut flowers and may be used as a specimen plant or in mass plantings. The plants are usually large and vigorous.

Tree Roses

Tree Roses consist of large heavy understocks with bush cultivars or varieties budded onto them several feet above the ground surface. These roses are semi-hardy in most cases and may require winter protection. Tree roses are useful for accent and specimen purposes but seldom prosper in western Oklahoma.

The foregoing roses have an average of five leaflets per leaf, while the following rose species have seven or more leaflets per leaf. Healthy roses produce the maximum number of flowers.

Polyantha Roses bear large clusters of small flowers. These clusters are similar to many of those found on climbing roses. Polyanthas are hardy and are well-adapted to Oklahoma conditions. The rather dwarf, vigorous bushes require relatively low maintenance.

Miniature Roses are dwarf plants that vary from a few inches to one foot or more in height. Flowers are small, but most cultivars flower freely over a long period of time. These roses are useful for borders or edging and rock gardens. However, most cultivars are disease and pest prone.

The foregoing rose types flower repeatedly in the growing season. Hybrid tea, floribunda, and grandiflora types usually make up the yearly All American Rose Selections. They usually require weekly pest control, though some have good disease resistance.

Hybrid Perpetuals produce one heavy spring crop of large, fragrant flowers and often a few autumn flowers. The plants are about twice as large as the average hybrid tea and require minimum care. The hardy plants require no winter protection. If used as a bed planting, a low shrub border should be provided to screen the leggy appearance. Hybrid perpetuals and Old-Fashioned roses are seldom found in the trade. (Frau Karl Druskchki is a good white hybrid perpetual cultivar.) 

Shrub Roses comprise various wild species, hybrids, and varieties that develop large, dense bushes more closely resembling shrubs. Their small spring flowers and fall seed pods contribute to their value as ornamentals. Most shrub roses are hardy throughout the state. Their primary use is for mass, screen or hedge plants. The fragrant pink or white Musk roses are typical of the group.

Iowa State University has introduced a truly carefree wild hybrid rose that blooms like a floribunda. Carefree Beauty, a lovely pink cultivar, is currently available. Carefree Beauty responds to fertilizer.

Rugosa roses have been hybridized into some fragrant repeat blooming Carefree Beauties. These semi-double roses range from bright red to white and yellow in color. Rugosa roses produce the most disease and pest free plants in rosedom. They are extremely salt tolerant and should be one of the better roses for beginners.

The new Meidiland roses are generally drought tolerant and somewhat disease resistant. Most have seven leaflets, and most grow five to seven feet tall with wide arching branches. They are available in red, pink and white cultivars that bloom throughout the summer. Cultivar Ferdy is covered with coral flowers for 3 to 4 weeks in spring of the second year, so avoid overpruning. Cultivar Bonica is shell pink, grows like a floribunda and flowers all summer and into fall.

Old-Fashioned Roses have been in cultivation since Colonial times. The abundant spring flowers are generally less attractive that today’s varieties, but their fragrance is usually better. These very hardy roses require little care and flower abundantly in the spring. Cabbage or Moss roses are typical types. They bear buds covered with dense moss-like growth that open to fragrant pink blooms.

The New English Hybrid Roses were crossed with old roses and modern hybrids for really fragrant beauties with a great deal of disease resistance. For example, Othello is a carmen red rose with little or no disease, and it produces a steady stream of red roses from June to frost.

Climbing Roses

Climber is a general term for roses that produce long, vigorous canes that cannot support their own weight. They are usually trained on trellises, fences, walls, posts, or arbors. Many of these varieties can be used as ground cover when no supporting structure is used. This category is usually divided into several groups, although many individual roses may qualify for one or more classifications.

Ramblers are one the most vigorous of all the climbing roses. Some canes may produce as much as 20 feet of new growth each season. The small flowers are borne in clusters in the spring on the previous season’s growth. Unfortunately, many of these cultivars are subject to severe mildew damage. Most are hardy and require little or no winter protection. Seven Sisters is an old, mildew-prone, pink flowering rambler found on many farm fences in southern Oklahoma.

Everblooming Climbers are much less vigorous than ramblers. They are sometimes called pillar roses. Their slower growth makes them better suited for use in a small garden. The usually flower heavily in spring, and if conditions are favorable, may flower again in the fall. A few cultivars bloom as often as hybrid teas. Blaze Improved blooms both spring and fall. Father Hugo rose freely produces single yellow spring flowers followed by red pods in the fall. Some cultivars bloom more freely if the branches are trained horizontally rather than vertically. This group is quite winter hardy and more disease resistant.

Climbing Hybrid Tea roses are in most cases identical to their bush parent plants. In general, climbing hybrid teas do not bloom as continuously as their bush parents. Climbing hybrid teas are just as subject to disease and winter damage as the bush forms.

Climbing Floribunda and Polyantha roses are climbing cultivars of bush-type plants. They flower fairly continuously and are more hardy than climbing hybrid teas.

Trailing Roses produce long canes that trail on the ground, on banks, or on walls. These ground cover roses produce small fragrant flowers in late spring. They are hardy and have a place in some gardens. Rosa wichuraiana, the Memorial Rose, is typical of the trailing roses. It grows just two feet tall and roots where stems touch the ground. Flowers are white, but the cultivar Hiawatha has red blooms with white centers.

If your local nursery doesn't have the type of rose you want, ask them to order it, preferably in early fall.

Information provided by the Oklahoma State University Extension Service