Thursday, July 7, 2011

Roses-the trade-off

For me, it's worth it, but for many other gardeners, it is not. And I understand why. Those of us who like the full, old-fashioned blooms of English or neoEnglish roses generally have to put up with lanky shrubs and intermittent bloom cycles (or even once only). On the other hand, if you'll accept a kind of boring, semi-double bloom and standard colors, you can have nice, compact ever-blooming shrub roses. They're great for roadside medians and other public landscaping situations, but I wouldn't give up garden space to them. I think many belong to the Knock Out family.

The roses I am drawn to are old roses or the David Austin line of contemporary takes on the old rose form and scent. For me, lack of scent or faint scent is a dealbreaker with roses, and too many of the modern hybrids have traded scent for disease resistance, floriferousness, and shrub form. These are all important qualities, but I don't grow roses for their disease resistance or their shrub form. I grow them for the flowers. And the scent. (Have you noticed how florist roses never have a scent—just a faint musty smell?)

This is why I tolerate the tendency of old-fashioned roses to be climbers, whether they're listed as climbers or not. My David Austin Abraham Darby gets black spot. And my Louise Odier is very stingy with her post-Junes blooms. So be it. When they make Knock Out roses that look like this (above) with a scent to match, I'll buy them.

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