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The Slipshod Gardener 9: A Tale of Two Roses

Updated on February 1, 2013

A cheerful and fragrant single rose

This is my robust, large-blossomed rose bought at a dollar store and planted with a little topsoil bought for $3 a bag. It was cheap and has brought me great pleasure.
This is my robust, large-blossomed rose bought at a dollar store and planted with a little topsoil bought for $3 a bag. It was cheap and has brought me great pleasure. | Source

My single rose blooms in bouquets

This wonderful rose, probably in the floribunda class, puts out bouquets throughout the season. I only becomes conservative during the hottest part of the summer. In the fall it provides a last hurrah before going dormant.
This wonderful rose, probably in the floribunda class, puts out bouquets throughout the season. I only becomes conservative during the hottest part of the summer. In the fall it provides a last hurrah before going dormant. | Source

Single roses are hardy and good for beginners

My foray into rose growing has been tentative. I would love to have a rose garden, but I think of them as requiring special conditions and special care that a slipshod gardener such as myself won’t follow through on. And it’s true that of the three hybrid tea roses I’ve bought, only one survives to enter its third summer with me. But two non-tea varieties have been very successful.

The simplest story first. Think the bargain table at a “dollar” store. Maybe $2, $4 tops. I figured “what do I have to lose?” Despite the apparent carelessness of such a base method of selecting a rose, I am a scent snob where roses are concerned. I don’t see the point of an unscented rose. I don’t care how bushy, fast-growing or everblooming some “brands” of rose may be. I’m not impressed unless it smells good. I saw on the package of this bargain, close-out rose that it had a pleasant scent. It was also a single rose and single roses are generally hardier.

So into the ground next to the kennel it went. A poor choice. My neighbor now has a greater opportunity to enjoy the great bouquets of nearly palm-sized blooms. Every now and again, I remember to go around the south side of my house to inhale and marvel at it.

The passion flower tries to engulf it, so a couple of times a year I have to disentangle the two. But the rose doesn’t seem to be suffering from the association and I sometimes wonder if it may even be benefitting from being partially shielded from the full force of sun and frost.

Dog Rose Explosion

My dogrose, grown from a weeny cane pulled from someone else's yard, became a monster in its fourth year.
My dogrose, grown from a weeny cane pulled from someone else's yard, became a monster in its fourth year. | Source

And one hybrid tea rose

Beautiful, fragrant blooms but the rest of the plant is sparse and I'm in suspense regarding its survival each year.
Beautiful, fragrant blooms but the rest of the plant is sparse and I'm in suspense regarding its survival each year. | Source

Catch a wild rose and tame it

My other success has been a rose that grows wild here. I’d been eyeing brambles off in overgrown fields that I suspected were a type of wild rose for about a year before I came across a sprig growing in a waste of sand that had been the base of my beau’s above-ground pool. I had to explain my delight to him because he saw it simply as yet another thorny nuisance. I pulled it right out of the ground, wrapped the roots in a damp paper towel, then a plastic bag. The next day I planted it directly into clay as unceremoniously as I’d plucked it, no rooting hormone to help it along. These wild roses, which I’ve learned are called dog roses, are climbers, so I placed it at the corner of the kennel to provide some scaffolding.

I watered it and watched it carefully. It never so much as blanched at its relocation experience. I was quite proud of the little thorny whip, so imagine my dismay when I discovered my helpful beau had reduced it to about an inch with a weed whacker. This, however, is not your fainting variety of rose and it came right back.

It produced canes and some foliage for two years. In the third year, it produced more foliage and some mildly scented flowers. It filled the area nicely but was nothing spectacular. Four years is apparently the age of maturity for a dog rose because at four years, it was like a different plant. You might think a rose would invite comparison with a young woman, but this rose became brawny and domineering. It leafed out fully and produced an absolute cascade of flowers so pungent I could sometimes smell them on the opposite side of the house. The bees loved it. I caught a hummingbird checking it out one morning, and brown thrashers built two nests in it. Throughout the summer, I repeatedly cut back canes reaching for something higher than the six foot fence to grab onto. I regretted that I didn’t have the funds to buy an arbor to accommodate it. That was last year (2012). Toward the end of the summer, Japanese beetles made hash of its leaves, but I had wasn’t concerned. I’m curious to see what it will do this year.

Meanwhile, my one surviving tea rose bloomed dutifully until the end of summer but was tall, spindly, and nearly leafless. I cut it back in the fall in hopes it will produce more canes and more flowers this year.

Is a rose by any other scent still a rose?

How important is scent when considering a rose for your garden

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For those who prefer careful consideration before starting with roses

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