As a new gardener, some plants intimidate me more than others. I hear rumours that lupins are picky about soil, delphiniums are hard to keep standing tall, and roses are prone to pests and diseases. So, I steer clear of these plants, even though I often find them to be the most beautiful.
With my preconceived notions of roses in place, I went to Landscape Ontario’s Trial Gardens Open House last week in Milton. Before touring the gardens, I listened to John C. Bakker from J.C. Bakker & Sons Wholesale Nurseries in St. Catharines, Ont., make a presentation on hardy Canadian-bred and disease-resistant roses. They sounded like roses that anyone, beginner gardeners included, could grow.
Apparently, my stereotype against roses — they require too much skill and work — is held by some other gardeners, too. This opinion can’t apply to the newest Canadian-bred roses that I learned about, though. These new roses were created to tolerate our climate, not the climates of Europe and the U.S., where many roses are bred. They’re also grafted onto hardy rootstock, meaning many can even survive in Zone 3.
The best news to me was that these roses are easy, as in the beginner definition of easy — they just need water, fertilizer and a set of pruners taken to them once a year. They’re even “self-cleaning,” meaning that the petals drop off on their own (no deadheading needed) and re-bloom, some even until December or after the first frost. December! They also don’t need to be protected over winter, and some can survive in containers for several years.
These new shrub and climbing roses have some scent (not a lot, though, because that can attract Japanese beetles, which aren’t worth dealing with, even for a fragrant rose). They don’t even look like small, lame roses. They look like a rose should look — full, lush and saturated with colour.
The old, classic roses are still out there and always will be. They offer history and intense fragrance, and require the labour of love that’s so important in gardening. But when you’re a new gardener, roses can be one of the most intimidating plants out there and an easier way to grow them is good news.
The Explorer and Parkland Series of Canadian-bred roses have been available for several years, and they’re hardy, but not quite as easy and low-maintenance as the Canadian Artists Series, which is gradually making its way into nurseries. There’s more information on them, including a “where to buy” page, at canadianartistsroses.com.
Roses bring romance to a garden like no one’s business, and I know of a few new gardeners who love the idea of having a small rose garden in the empty spot in their backyard, or want to add an arbour with roses cascading down. I always thought these were garden dreams of advanced stuff, but I’ve now learned that there are roses out there that can fulfill these dreams, even for a beginner in Zone 3.