How to Select a Rose
The key factors to consider when gardening with roses are soil conditions, sun exposure, and the style of your landscape. Ask yourself, “What do I want this rose to do?” It’s amazing how often we forget to assess what we want out of our plants. We are all guilty of having plants in our yard simply because we walked by something at the garden center and liked it. Consciously selecting a rose is an entirely different process. How will it affect your emotions? Do you want something showy or subtle? Think about how roses can work for you to fill basic landscape needs such as hedges, screens, or groundcovers. Consider maintenance, the overall size and shape of the bush, and ways it can enhance your landscape will ensure the right choice for your garden.
Red Glory Roses, Lavender Lassie roses and Paul's Himalayan Musk roses in the garden Roses come in all shapes and sizes, from small miniatures to sprawling ramblers. Matching the growth habit of the rose to the space you have available will enhance your garden without creating unnecessary maintenance headaches. Vary sizes as shown above: ‘Red Glory’ (tall hedge), ‘Lavender Lassie’ (arbor), and ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ (climbing over 30 feet into a tree)
Form Follows Function
The architectural phrase “form follows function” rings true for roses, too.
- Are you looking to create a focal point in your yard? A tall, brightly-colored climbing rose on a pillar would be a great choice.
- Need to fill a large space quickly? Use suckering varieties such as Gallicas and Rugosas that like to colonize. Shrub roses, Floribundas and Polyanthas work better than Hybrid Teas en masse; these roses tend to be more disease resistant and can be planted in large groups to create blocks of color.
How you want to use your roses also impacts where they should be planted.
- Large-blooming, fragrant varieties grown for bouquets should be placed adjacent to seating areas or patios where they can be easily enjoyed and accessed for cutting.
- On the other hand, roses with prolific, smaller blooms (like Meidiland shrub roses) may look better from a distance where you can get the full visual impact of the bloom without being too close to the spent flowers to notice them.
- Compact, prolific bloomers lend themselves to container gardening.
- Nearly thornless roses are suitable adjacent to walks or other maintenance areas where thorned varieties would snag passersby.
The amount of time you are willing to spend on maintenance tasks like pruning, fertilizing, or spraying may also guide your rose selection.
- If summer deadheading is not your favorite task, consider some of the species roses or Old Garden Roses. These may bloom only once a year, but once-blooming means once-pruning!
- Once-bloomers or self-cleaning varieties (such as ‘Knock Out’ or ‘Carefree Delight’) are also good choices for hard-to-reach areas in your garden where regular pruning would be a difficult task.
Examples of Floribunda roses, Miniature Roses and Roses for Containers and Hedges How you plan to use roses in the landscape will help narrow your selection. Clockwise from top: floribundas and miniatures make great roses for containers; fragrant, large-flowered roses provide blooms for bouquets; bright-colored climbers create a focal point in the garden; and disease-resistant shrub roses make good choices for hedges.
Not sure which rose you are looking for? Consider the following selection criteria to choose the perfect rose for your garden:
- Bloom size
- Surrounding environment (what is planted adjacent to or below the rose)
- How much time do you want to spend pruning, fertilizing, or spraying?
- Limited planting area
- Filling a large landscape
- Shade-tolerant roses
- Container gardening
- Kid-friendly or nearly-thornless roses
- Growing roses organically
- Wildlife habitat
- Designing with color (warm vs. cool tones, contrasting vs. complimentary colors)
- What look do you want (formal, informal, cottage garden, woodland)
- Creating focal points/vistas
- Affects of bloom size and leaf texture on space
- Massing roses for color
- Specimen plantings
- Companion planting opportunities
- Background vs. foreground
- Climbing or rambling
- Arching shrubs
- Stiffly upright
- Rounded bushes
- Mounded or spreading
Color in the Garden
Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) are bright, energetic, and tend to appear closer.
Cool colors (white, lavender, pink) are soothing and give a calming impression.
Create harmony in the garden by using tonal variations of the same color.
Color opposites (such as purple-yellow) make each color brighter and stronger than it would be by itself.