Wild roses offer the beauty of hybrids, with less work
The Gardener Within: Joe Lamp'l, a master gardener and author, offers a list of wild roses and care tips.
Scripps Howard News Service
Roses are considered one of America's favorite flowers, with hybrid teas being right at the top of the list. But if you've grown these delicate and finicky princesses, you know they take a lot of work.
I'd like to introduce you to some alternatives to the prima-donna hybrid teas that are pest- and disease-resistant, simple to train, don't need a lot of fertilizer or elaborate winter protection and are beautiful to boot!
They're the wild roses. They start with a spectacular spring explosion of blooms, then these hardy, old-fashioned beauties provide great-looking foliage, vivid thorns and vibrant hips the rest of the year. And they don't have to be heavily pruned. In fact, it's better not to prune for the first couple of years as they get established.
Once the roses are mature, remove any dead wood at the base, or cut back to the first healthy leaf node. Prune out crossing branches that rub together. Remove growth that's pencil-thick or less — it won't produce any flowers. Wild roses bloom on old wood, so prune right after they've flowered or you'll take off next year's buds.
Some plants may be considered invasive in certain areas. Check with you local horticultural office or noxious weed control board.
Here are some to choose from:
Yellow Lady Banks. A vigorous climber that thrives in warmer climates nationwide; needs support of a trellis, sturdy pergola or wall; dense clusters of 1-inch double flowers cover the plant for up to 6 weeks; thornless, but has very little scent; flowers on second- and third-year growth, so will have better blooming in warmer climates. Thirty feet tall, spreading habit; full sun; no serious pests; Zones 7-9.
Scotch briar. This little rose is mighty tough; very disease-resistant and tolerates most any soil; one of the first to bloom in the spring with small, 1 ½-inch white flowers with yellow throats; beautiful deep-purple to black hips in the fall; fernlike foliage is a good contrast to coarser plants; small stature makes it a good choice for smaller gardens. One to 4 feet, spreading habit; full sun to light shade; no serious pests; Zones 4-9.
Swamp rose. Although they prefer wet, slightly acid soil, you don't need a swamp to grow these roses — they love ordinary garden soil, too; vivid pink 3-inch flowers in spring; round ¾-inch bright red hips in fall; hooked thorns cover the canes, so be careful when pruning; dark green foliage and relatively small size make it a great backdrop for other garden flowers. Eight feet by 6 to 8 feet; full sun; no serious pests; Zones 4-9.
Labrador rose. If you have a large, undisciplined space, this is the rose for it. A colony of this native rose makes a great ground cover for erosion control; it suckers freely but isn't invasive; 2-inch white flowers grow along the canes, but its real beauty comes in fall, when round red hips hang in dense clusters along the thorn-less, purple-red canes and the foliage changes from yellow to red and violet. Also commonly known as smooth rose, Northern prairie rose, meadow rose and Hudson Bay rose. Six feet tall, spreading habit; full sun to light shade; no serious pests; Zones 4-9.
Blue-leaf rose. Star-shaped, vivid red, 1-inch flowers in spring change to red hips in fall; more temperamental than other wild roses, it drops leaves in response to weather and other stress, plant in groups of three or more so the loss isn't as obvious; new foliage is red, matures to blue-gray; great back-of-the-border plant to highlight other annuals and perennials. Five feet by 4 feet; full sun; no serious pests; Zones 4-8.
Joe Lamp'l, host of "Growing a Greener World" on PBS, is a master gardener and author. For more information visit www.joegardener.com.
Some plant may be considered noxious weeds in your area. If you're not sure what plants may be invasive in your area, check with your local garden center, horticultural office or noxious weed control board.