When I first started gardening I didn't dare try to grow roses, as I thought they were temperamental divas that were difficult to grow. That is true of tea roses, but not hardy shrub roses, some of which thrive on neglect and are perfectly hardy here in dry, windy zone 3. Now I'm addicted and I have quite a few in my garden. In fact, I probably have too many and when they get larger I'm going to have to decide which ones to keep or do some major pruning!
I highly recommend rugosa roses for low-maintenance gardens as they are very hardy (to extreme cold as well as intense heat), very disease resistant, drought-tolerant, and can handle light shade, salt spray, strong winds, and neglect. They are easily recognized by their deep green, wrinkled foliage which is very healthy and should never be sprayed with chemicals. They usually bloom repeatedly throughout the summer, and even better - most have scent. Most also have attractive hips that extend their show into fall and winter.
Hansa grows in my Adventure Garden and is hardy to zone 2 and very robust. It is a tall classic hybrid with flowers that are large, vibrant purlish-red and double, with a powerful clove fragrance.
It has repeat blooms with two strong showings - early summer and in fall.
It has large hips which turn deep scarlet in late fall. Mine is fairly new and still small but it will reach a height and spread of just over 2m. Warning: it has tough, very prickly branches so place accordingly.
Therese Bugnet is one of my favourites and I recommend it to friends and clients often. It is similar to Hansa in its size and fragrande. Hardy to zone 2, it is a tall, vase-shaped shrub with intense pink, double very fragrant flowers, and is repeat-blooming.
It is extremely cold tolerant - mine is in a very exposed section at the top of my adventure garden and she doesn't seem to mind at all.
The main reason it is my favourite is because of her gorgeous deep red canes which add interest to the winter landscape.
Blanc Double de Coubert is also hardy to zone 2, and is of medium size (about 1.5mx1.2m or 5x4'). It also grows in my Adventure Garden. It is a true classic with flowers that are white, semi-double, richly fragrant, and repeat blooming, and dark green wrinkled foliage. It sets a few large hips but mostly I grow it for its colour and fragrance.
Pavement roses don't sound very glamorous but they are called this because they are perfect for planting along walkways. Pavement roses are as hardy as nails, are the most tolerant of salt, are fragrant repeat bloomers and are fairly small, reaching a mature size of about 1 m high and wide. They have small but profuse semi-double flowers with prominent gold stamens which don't need deadheading.Snow Pavement has very pale pink blooms with a wonderful fragrance, and it also has a great show of large hips in the fall. It also grows in my Adventure Garden (hmmm, maybe I should call it the rose garden?)
The wild rose is technically not a rugosa but it is super hardy, of course. I found a little seedling in my yard a year ago (a gift from the birds?) and transplanted it into the Adventure Garden. It is a tad invasive so I guess I wouldn't call it low maintenance, but I'm OK with that. It is delightfully fragrant, with delicate pink petals soaked with a heady perfume. And you can't get more sustainable than growing Alberta's own wild rose in your backyard!
Frau Dagmar Hastrup is a rugosa that I am growing in my front Welcome Garden. Also hardy to zone 2, it has a short, spreading habit (0.2x1.2m or 3x4'). Its flowers are large, silvery pink, and single (reminiscent of the wild rose), and moderately fragrant. It supposedly blooms continuously until frost but I got mine as a little cutting a few years ago and it has yet to take off. This past year it had only one or two blooms on it. I'm hoping for better things once it gets a bit more mature. It supposedly sets many huge bright red hips and its foliage turns a bright gold in fall.
Parkland roses were bred for the prairies and are cold hardy, repeat blooming shrub roses. They often tip-kill in the spring, but grow back quickly to bloom on new wood.
Morden Sunrise, hardy to zone 3, is a very short rose and is another one of my faves because of its unique colour. It grows near the front of my Adventure Garden.
Its flowers are a blend of yellow and pink and are semi-double, but I don't find them strongly fragrant.
It repeat blooms and in fact was the last rose blooming in my garden this past fall.
Morden Centennial is a medium shrub rose that has clusters of double, bright pink blooms all summer. Also growing in the Adventure Garden. The canes of this rose are also quite red in colour so it is another good choice for winter interest.
John Cabot is a hardy shrub rose that grows long canes so it can be tied to a trellis as a "climber". It produces clusters of bright, cherry pink semi-double flowers all summer. I grow mine on a trellis in the Butterfly Potager garden paired with a 'Polish Spirit' clematis.
John Davis is another tall rose which can be tied to a support and grown as a "climber". It has dark red canes and delicate, semi-double light pink flowers with a spicy scent. Mine grows on another trellis in the Butterfly Potager and is paired with another clematis.
I don't actually have rosa glauca (red-leaf rose) in my garden but if I were ever to find just a wee bit more space, I would want to add it! It is hardy to zone 2, and is grown for its beautiful foliage which is greenish-grey-blue on top, and reddish purple underneath. It has starry flowers that are small, single, bright pink with a white eye, and moderately fragrant. Since it is a species rose, it only blooms once per season but its foliage is interesting enough to make up for that. It produces small hips and has excellent disease resistance.
Pruning roses also sounds intimidating but it's not if you grow shrub roses. In Calgary, pruning is typically done just after they start to leaf out in spring.
For groundcovers such as Frau Dagmar Hartrup (above), you simply need to remove old wood and shorten overgrown canes, then deadhead faded flowers during the season.
For shrub roses, remove dead wood and shorten the canes by one-half to one third. Vary the length of the canes to give the bush a more natural appearance. Remove older, woody, unproductive canes completely by cutting to ground level to allow vigorous new canes to develop.To promote flowering, cut back by half, one of every two or three long stems and tip-prune the side shoots.
For climbers/ramblers, keep the growth as near to horizontal as possible, because if canes are allowed to grow directly upward they will flower only at their tops. To do this, take the side-shoots from the tall stems and tie them so they grow horizontally across a trellis. Tying down side-shoots induces the buds in the leaf axils to break into flower-bearing shoots.
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Do you eat your roses? I haven't yet but I'm intrigued... and since I have so many I feel I should try!
Rose hips are chock-full of Vitamin C and many other good things. They sound a little high maintenance to harvest, but I may try someday. Here's what I've read:
To harvest rose hips, wait until the hips turn red, which usually happens just after the first light frost. They should be soft but not mushy. Cut off the ends, slice in half and using the point of a sharp knife, remove all the seeds (important! seeds have little hooks that can lodge in the intestine - this is the part that sounds like lots of work to me!) Spread on a cookie sheet covered with a clean dry cloth and dry completely before storing. Store dried hips in glass jars in a pantry or keep in plastic bags or containers in the freezer.
Rose Hip Tea
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp dried rose hips or 3-4 fresh rose hips. Steep up to 30 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.
While harvesting hips sounds like a fair amount of work, I'm sure I can handle harvesting rose petals. They can be sprinkled on a tossed salad or on top of desserts, or mashed into honey, cream cheese or butter and used as a sandwhich spread. Voila, serve these and impress your friends!
The following recipes that I found in the August 2009 edition of Gardens West also look yummy, unique and fairly easy:
1 cup fragrant pink or red rose petals with white parts removed if bitter
1 cup filtered spring or bottled water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole cloves
Combine rose petals and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 mintues. add sugar and cloves. Simmer only until sugar dissolves; strain and discard petals. Store in a jar in the fridge or freezer. Serve over plain sponge cake, add several fresh rose petals and decorate with three or four fresh raspberries. Makes about 1 2/3 cups.
Black Tea and Rose Sorbet
4 cups water
1 tea bag black tea
1/2 cup sugar
juice of one freshly squeezed lemon
2 tbsp rose syrup
2 tbsp chopped fresh rose petals
Bring water to a boil, add the tea bag and remove from heat. Let steep 30 mintues. Remove tea bag and discard. Add other ingredients Stirring well. Chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Pour into an ice cream freezer and freeze. Serve with fresh rose petals scattered on top.