Some Tough but
o many roses to buy and then search the garden to find somewhere to plant them! Hybrid teas and wild-like species, ramblers and large-flowered climbers! English roses and Old Garden roses, Hybrid Perpetuals, Gallicas, Damasks, Rugosas! Come springtime, they are offered for sale everywhere, including here in northern Utah. From the rows of waxed dormant canes of popular Hybrid Teas in supermarkets to the upmarket plants potted and already flowering in the nurseries -- to me, they are like catnip is to cats.
In January the rose catalogs start appearing in the mail box, and here is where the more unusual and antique roses can be found. Each year I swear, no more! And each year I order anyway. Right now our place has above 200 different varieties of roses growing on it, amounting to perhaps 400 plants, all told. And the reason I mention this in January of the year 2000 is because I was warned thirty years ago not to attempt roses in our part of Cache Valley, Utah.
Some roses I plant do not make it – one or two out of a dozen. A big problem is yellowing from the alkaline soil. Plus the fact that Utah is the second most arid state in the union. But worst of all is the cold winters. Our farm is located in Zone 4 and right smack in the middle of a frost sink. Below zero temperatures in the winter are the norm – ten below, twenty below, sometimes thirty below. Twice, in the thirty years we have lived on this place, the temperature has gone down to a soul-numbing forty below.
So how do I grow roses in the most frigid area of this northern-most valley in Utah? Well, I have learned to bury the grafts -- those knobby bud unions at the branching base -- and bury them at least three inches below ground level. Or buy roses grown on their own roots. For good measure, I also cover the grafted roses, canes and all, with ground bark and compost over the winter. These that I bury are mostly Hybrid Teas and Floribundas.
Budded plants that are buried deeply tend to put out roots above the graft and, because of that, some change slightly in character. But the flowers are the same and, anyway, I have very few Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. I lean, in fact, toward the more hardy roses -- Old Garden Roses, Hybrid Perpetuals, species roses, and those being developed and marketed in the past couple of decades -- English Roses of David Austin and others, and the cold-climate Canadian varieties like the Explorer Series.
During those first years of losing rose after rose to winter kill, and before I learned to bury the graft, I fell back on wild (species) and near-wild roses like the Austrian Copper (Rosa foetida bicolor), a yellow sport of which is pictured at the top of the page ( Rosa foetida lutea), and our Eglantine (Rosa eglanteria), pictured below.
Rosa eglanteria - the rose of Shakespeare
The Eglantine dates back to the 1500s
it is the Sweet Briar of Shakespeare. And it is as close to being wild
makes no difference. It stood up handily under two rather rough moves –
do not get too close to a bush that sports such terrifying prickles.
Prickles, in fact, on top of prickles, the plant has two sets of them.
I was trying at the time to find a spot it could spread to its 8x10
size without threatening everything around it, including driveways. I
finally found it a good home some seventy feet south of the front of
the house, just at the top of the drive.
The plant has tear-drop orange hips in the winter, beloved of birds, and they are impressive worked up into rose hip jelly. In early spring, before leafing out, its canes release an apple-like fragrance that travels as far as our front door, and this fragrance, present also in its leaves, continues all through the season, especially noticeable on misty mornings. It has one long bloom in early summer. Painful to prune, and you need a ladder. It goes without saying that any weeds appearing underneath it can flourish without fear of anyone making the near-suicidal attempt to pull them out. But we love the thing, and I recommend it to anyone with a 8x10 space for it to live in.
Rosa foetida - orange/yellow and yellow
Three Austrian Coppers were here when we bought the farm thirty years ago -- arching shrubs with cascades of orange-red single blooms with yellow undersides, blooming in late May - early June. The Rosa foetida is an excellent choice for the arid and hot-summer West, since the species is subject to black spot in humid climates. But these three did not survive the many moves I subjected them to as I designed and redesigned the garden. I bought a new one to plant in a mixed border ten years ago, and one of the limbs sported back to the Austrian Yellow like that pictured above. Unfortunately, a lilac on one side and a columnar spruce on the other is squashing the life out of it and I am faced with moving another very prickly rose which is also touchy about being dug up. The photo at the head of this essay is of an Austrian Yellow belonging to my friend, Helen Cannon, given to her by her son (and my son-in-law), Steven, for Mother's Day some years ago. It is a glorious, light-filled charmer that arches in great sprays on the southwest side of her driveway.
Marguerite Hilling - a pink sport of Nevada
There is an oval in the middle of our elliptical drive in front of the house that is filled with hardy Old Garden Roses – a Marguerite Hilling (pictured below), an arching rose that is covered with large, intensely fragrant single pink blooms for over a month in early summer, and a Salet, another pink, but loosely double rose, that blends its own intoxicating fragrance with that of Marguerite, but also repeat-blooms sporadically throughout the season. In the very middle are two of our ubiquitous Doctor Huey roses.
Doctor Huey - justly famous for more than one reason
Now this is one tough rose. Doctor Huey is the root stock of many early Hybrid Teas, and I suppose it should be classed among the modern roses since it was introduced in 1914 as a climbing rose -- the darkest red at the time. Except for one thing.
Shortly after its introduction, the Doctor Huey rose was entered by mistake in a budding trial held in California. A search was on at the time for the perfect rootstock, you see. I can find no explanation of why this new rose was entered in a rootstock trial but, nevertheless, Doctor Huey was chosen to be the overall winner in this one. Since then, the rose has been used to propagate millions of roses, among which -- and I can attest to this fact -- was the legendary Peace Rose, introduced in 1945.
I bought several Peace roses during my novice years as a gardener, though I gave up on the variety after losing them one by one, winter after winter. I was not alone, of course, in losing grafted roses. I see Doctor Hueys in gardens everywhere in early summer, the Hybrid Teas grafted on them having gone the way of the winter-killed, just as mine were. One could almost say they spontaneously generate. They are certainly easy to grow! The two in the oval bed I train up the nearby Marshall's Seedless Ash. They have dark red, loosely double blooms. Very hardy, and slightly fragrant. In truth, I have a good supply of these. All over. Which gives you some idea of my early and stumbling efforts in rose growing in an area with much-below zero temperatures in the winter. The moral of this particular story is -- if you live in Zone 4 or colder, or even in Zone 5, and would like to give your grafted roses the best chance of survival, bury them well in the ground!
Spring is only a couple of months away,
Joan Katherine Shaw
January 17, 2000
Among the excellent
books to consult for varieties of cold-climate roses is Hardy Roses,
written by the Canadian nurseryman, Robert Osborne. Some of the
described and photographed by Beth Powning can survive up into Zone 2.
Austrian Yellow photo
Eglantine and Marguerite Hilling photos by Joan Shaw
Online sources for roses discussed:
High Country Roses (Utah)
Royall River Roses
Link to buy the book, Hardy Roses :
Roses by Robert Osborne
Link to browse books about roses:
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