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Rose basics Part 2: Living with roses

Updated on September 2, 2012

The aesthetics of roses are the stuff of legend. They’re also the stuff of some of the most trite, uninteresting and downright dull drivel. You’d think roses were some sort of fashion statement. Like a garden “wears” roses. The flowers are mindlessly put into big books of colourful “catalog” level reading. I can’t even find any pictures of roses looking like the incredible things they are for this article.

Roses as art forms

Let’s get down to cases on real roses and discard some of the very trivial imagery that usual discussions of roses produce. Roses are major elements in a garden not because they have the stamp of approval from Home Beautiful, but because they’re big gorgeous plants which have a major effect on their environments.

Roses and character- The nature of the rose

The original rose species, Rosa Canina, the Dog Rose, is a huge plant. It’s as “delicate” as a rampaging blackberry, and its canes go everywhere. It produces fantastic forms.

Garden roses can be gigantic. They can, and given the chance, will, produce huge areas of flowers, foliage and canes which make spaghetti look positively formal.

Roses are extremely good at using their environments. How many other big flowering garden plants do you know which can be used in rockeries, landscaping, and formal gardens as major features?

Roses will grow anywhere. They’re quite happy in areas where other plants won’t grow. They can turn the most drab places into shrines of beauty.

If all of this sounds a bit removed from the usual soppy fluff about roses, it’s leading up to a point-

In a garden, the more roses are allowed to act like roses, the more beautiful they become.

This is in direct contrast to the standard gardening practice, where roses are “disciplined” into the plant equivalent of unambitious goldfish. You don’t expect a wolf to wear leotards and you don’t expect an elephant to put on a suit and sell kitchen appliances. Why expect a rose to be something it’s not naturally designed to be?

The bigger roses are, the more they affect their environments:

Big roses attract parasites, which attract swarms of predators. The rose is a recruiting agency for predators to keep the pests out of your garden.

Roses aren’t really high maintenance plants. The commercial image sells rose products, but big wild roses can survive without those things. All they need is some common sense gardening. When a rose becomes big, it’s like an elephant. It’s too big to be affected by the minor things which affect new roses. Parasites are nuisances, not serious threats. It’s strong enough to defend its turf, even against encroaching trees.

Roses are extremely easy to grow, in the case of some of the classic roses and well-established cultivars. All they need is mulch to get them going, and you’ll have your own Garden Godzilla in a few months. (See Part 1, Rose basics- How to survive being a rose grower for a few tips)

The big roses create new environments. They can do their own landscaping, thank you very much, and you’ll soon find a mysterious area of new shapes, new secret places (ask the cat) and new cover (ask the dog or the kids) to explore.

The other plants will also react. Roses can tower over an area, and if you have an area in your garden where you’d prefer not to be slaving away, the roses will take over, get rid of the frilly/picky plants that use up so much time and save you all that work, apart from some constructive pruning in the off season.

Roses are bushes, but they can act like trees, to scale. You can have a rose forest, if you like, designed to match the local terrain and looking fabulous without much work at all. Think of bonsai, unchained…

You can also save a fortune on security. Even a homicidal maniac can’t get through a big rose bush. Burglars know better than to argue with them. So do wandering animals. Roses are too hard to argue with. They’re the landowner’s “area denial” weapons. As long as the roses are big enough, they’re very effective barriers.


When you think of getting some roses, think about the possibilities. Never mind the clichés, it’s your garden. Set a rose free today, because you’ll never regret it.


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