Elizabeth Taylor. Dolly Parton. The Duke of Windsor. Mister Lincoln. Helen Hayes. John F. Kennedy. They were all there, hybrid tea roses my father planted in a small rose garden by our patio.
I knew nothing about roses back then, except we bought them in early spring, and we seemed to buy them every spring, because they didn’t always survive the winter.
I would stand and shiver on a chilly evening helping my Dad pick out which roses to plant. They were sold dormant with their bare roots shoved into plastic bags decorated with a picture of their future blooms.
Their branches were cut short and dipped in wax. A little metal tag was attached to one branch to identify them once they were planted.
We looked at the pictures to see which roses to buy. Dad favored the red roses, like Mister Lincoln. I preferred the yellow roses, like Helen Hayes. We both agreed we should have a rose called Peace, a soft yellow and pink blend.
As soon as we planted the roses and they grew their first leaves, Dad brought out the chemical dusts and sprays. Hybrid tea roses required constant vigilance, and spraying, to keep them from succumbing to diseases like black spot. Oh yes, their flowers were beautiful and Dad took great pride in them, choosing the best to cut just before they were fully open to give to my mom. But as plants they were the weaklings of the garden.
When I decided to add roses to my garden, I stayed away from the hybrid tea roses. Who has time to molly-coddle plants all summer long? Fortunately, I had more choices by the time I wanted roses. For the past several years, even decades, hybrid tea roses, once the royalty of the garden, have been pushed off the garden center shelves by hardier, more disease resistant shrub and landscape roses.
Shrub roses are almost ‘plant them and forget them.’ They include the Knock Out® Roses, which generally have pink or red blooms, but if you can find it, there is a delightful yellowKnock Out® Rose, sold as Sunny Knock Out® Rose. The buds start out as yellow and then gradually fade to a creamy white after they open.
Other roses, like Oso Easy® landscape roses are not as tall as some shrub roses, but like most shrub roses, they bloom continuously from early summer until late fall. There is no need to cut back spent blooms, in fact it is not encouraged at all. Just leave them alone to bloom all summer, with no chemical sprays, dusts or fussing about.
In early spring, shrub roses can be cut back to control their size but even cutting back them back is a task which can be done once every few years instead of every spring.
Though I may reminisce about Dad’s hybrid tea roses, and remember how much he loved growing them, I’ll probably never grow them in my own garden. I much prefer to think if he had lived long enough, I would have converted Dad over to the shrub and landscape roses, to continuous bloom without chemical sprays and dusts.
Carol Michel is an avid gardener with a degree in horticulture. She was recently awarded a “2014 Garden Writers Association Silver Award of Achievement for eNewsletter Articles.” . Contact – Website – Facebook – Twitter – LinkedIn