PRACTICALLY PERFECT: Ideal Roses for Your Garden — and Their Secrets for Success

By Susan Wroble
(Based on presentation by Tammy Jansen at the DRS 2017 SymROSEium)

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 6.29.57 PM

Like so many of us, Consulting Rosarian Tammy Jansen daydreams of the perfect rose. You know the one — its incredible form captures Queen of Show. It’s a disease-free, pest-free, non-stop bloomer. Of course, the perfect rose is thornless and self-cleaning. It has beautiful hips, is exceptionally hardy, thrives in any soil, and is strongly fragrant. And, because Tammy lives in Colorado where water is scarce, “my perfect rose is also xeric.”

A Perfect Collection:
But Tammy is a realist, and knows that this perfect rose exists only in her dreams. Instead, she looks for these qualities in a collection of roses. The idea of a rose collection is nothing new. In the early 1800s, Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, set out to collect one of every rose known world-wide in her renowned garden at Château de Malmaison west of Paris.

A century later, Frenchman Jules Gravereaux established the first garden entirely devoted to roses. His Roseraie in L’Haÿ reached its peak in 1910, with around 8000 roses. The town officially changed its name to L’Haÿ-les-Roses. But as Tammy notes, “few of us have the time, energy or money for such a vast rose garden. Instead, we can create our own personal collection of practically perfect roses — a perfect collection for each of us.”

By making a few adjustments to the qualities desired in a perfect rose, Tammy has created the characteristics of a “Practically Perfect Rose.” She prizes fragrance above all, and will settle for the trophy table along with Queen of Show. Those perfect imaginary roses, completely free of diseases and pests, are traded for more realistic highly disease-resistant and pest-resistant roses.Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 6.31.57 PM

The “Practically Perfect Rose” must be highly recommended (7.8+ on the American Rose Society scale), award-winning, healthy, and highly disease-resistant. It is a fine specimen from a reputable source. Tammy notes that the practically perfect rose must be placed where it can receive six or more hours of sun, and has adequate draining and good air circulation. Proper planting is vital: if grafted, the graft should be buried 2-4” below the top of the soil. Own-root roses should be planted with the crown 1-2” below the surface. And because conditions vary around the country, Tammy recommends looking at local results. A list of roses that do well in Colorado can be found on the DRS website, and, in greater detail, in our Growing Roses in Colorado book. Best of all, there are roses that meet many of the criteria for “Practically Perfect” in each of the seven major rose categories.

Old Garden Roses (OGRs):
Old Garden Roses, roses that existed in classes before 1867, vary widely. Most, however, are highly fragrant with beautiful hips. Before you buy an OGR, Tammy recommends that you know its mature size, hardiness zone, and repeat bloom status. Once-blooming OGRs have the advantage of both being drought tolerant and Japanese Beetle resistant — their blooms have come and gone before the beetles show up. And once-blooming OGRs should not be pruned in the spring. Wait until after the spring bloom, and don’t deadhead. This will allow their hips to form. Ones that do well in Colorado include the amazingly fragrant ‘Rose de Rescht’ (ARD rating 8.7), ‘Rosa Mundi’ (8.9) and ‘Tuscany Superb’ (8.5). ‘Nastarana’ (8.6) and ‘Baronne Prévost’ (8.5) are good repeat-blooming OGRs.

Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras:
Hybrid Teas (which can win that coveted Queen of Show) and grandifloras will need a lot of winter protection in our area. Most are grafted, and are only cold tolerant to zone six. Proper planting depth is vital. Tammy recommends spring pruning to a healthy pith, and expect that plants will routinely die close to the ground. ‘Queen Elizabeth’ (8.1), bred by Lammerts in 1954, is practically indestructible. ‘Fiji,’ a hybrid tea in the Kordes Eleganza series, has won several awards in Europe. Meilland’s ‘Sunshine Daydream’ (8.0) was the first grandiflora to win All American Rose Selection honors under no-spray conditions.

Floribundas are bouquets on a stem. In Colorado, as with hybrid teas, there is a lot of winter dieback, so pruning to a healthy pith is essential. Tammy says “deadhead regularly to keep these blooming machines going, and remove the center bud early to create a better display.” Kordes’ ‘Fire Opal’ and ‘Bordeaux Citiscape’ are both hardy to zone 4. Tammy’s own perfect rose is ‘Sheila’s Perfume’ (8.1), a deliciously fragrant floribunda that displays like a hybrid tea.

Minis and Mini-Floras:
Miniature refers to the size of the flower, not the plant. All are grown own-root, and are great for containers or small gardens. These are the easiest class to prune, and Tammy recommends just keeping them deadheaded frequently to encourage blooms. Mini ‘Jean Kenneally’ (8.8) has sweet fragrance, repeat bloom and good disease resistance. The miniflora ‘Shawn Sease’ (7.7) does exceptionally well here, with a local score of 9.0.

For climbers, Tammy recommends choosing hardy varieties, providing support and training, and pruning lightly. The goal for climbers is to have as little winter die-back as possible, and providing a winter cover of burlap can help. Blooms will be increased if the plant is trained to grow horizontally. ‘Lady Ashe’ is a disease-resistant and intensely fragrant offering from Chamblees. ‘Above All,’ introduced by Weeks Roses in 2015, has been getting great local results, and ‘Cupid’s Kisses’ is a miniature climber that does well in Colorado.

Rugosas:Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 6.33.10 PM
In Latin, “rugose” means crinkled. For gardeners who prefer not to spend their time picking off Japanese Beetles, rugosa’s crinkly leaves are a huge asset, as beetles dislike them. The toughest of all roses, rugosas are native to coastlines. Their tolerance for sandy and salty soil means that they can survive near roads. Tammy’s secret to success for these highly fragrant, drought-tolerant, pest-resistant roses is to plant for their mature size — and then leave them alone. High Country Roses, based in Denver, carries about thirty rugosas. ‘Therese Bugnet’ (8.3) is attractive year-round, with profuse summer blooms, purplish foliage in the fall, and red canes in winter.

Shrub Roses:
Shrub roses are a catch-all class with tremendous variety. Shrub roses tend to be low-maintenance, especially in regard to pruning. For beginners, the new Drift series of landscape roses has self-cleaning roses, hardy to zone 4, that stay at a manageable 1½ feet tall. Denver Rosarian Joan Franson’s favorite shrub rose was ‘Grandma’s Blessing’ (7.6), one of the Easy Elegance series hybridized by Ping Lim. The fragrant ‘Lady of Shalott’ (7.9), like many of the David Austin roses, can be grown as either a shrub or a climber. And the multi-colored ‘Campfire’ (8.1) is a nearly continuous summer-blooming rose from the Canadian Artist series.

And the Winner is…
Tammy notes that “your practically perfect collection will likely include roses from many of the categories. But if you are looking for which roses have nearly all the characteristics of a practically perfect rose, rugosas win the prize.”

Photo Credits: High Country Roses, Weeks Roses, Bailey’s Roses, Star Roses, and For Love of Roses.

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