Roses: for expert gardeners only?
December 29, 2016 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm beginning to fancy the idea of planting some rose bushes in my yard this spring. I'm a novice gardener. Am I crazy to consider it?

I have two areas in my yard in which I'd like to plant roses. I live in the Twin Cities MN, zone 4.

I'd like to yank up all of the hostas in the front of my house, leaving about 20' by 6' of space. I'd give the hostas to hosta-loving neighbors. There is a small fir tree at the north end of where I'd plant roses, otherwise the front lawn is currently grass. I am going to plant a pollinator garden at the front of the yard next year as well. The front yard faces east and gets partial sun.

I'm particularly interested in these rose bushes: Topaz Jewel Shrub Rose

On the side of my house I currently have an 18" strip of dirt next to the house, hidden under landscaping rock. On the other side of the 18" strip is a sidewalk. I would like to get rid of that awful rock and plant some climbing roses. I would build a trellis against the house to hold it. The side of the house faces south and gets full sun. It is a stucco house, but it's not the kind of craggy stucco that carries a vine well (not that I would want it to hold a heavy vine on without a trellis). There are two dwarf apple trees about 6 feet south of the wall but they're only a year old and will never get tall enough to block the full sun.

These are the climbing roses I'm considering: Autumn Sunset Climbing Rose

Any advice or warnings? I'm a fairly confident vegetable gardener but this is new territory for me.

Also, does anyone know what to do with a zillion small landscaping rocks? Anybody in the Cities want a zillion small landscaping rocks? Free to a good home! Hell it doesn't even have to be a good home. I just want them gone.
posted by Elly Vortex to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Put the rocks out in front, then list on freecycle or Craigslist for curbside pickup. If you can't get them gone now, they will definitely be easily to give away towards spring.

Rose anecdote: I have roses all over my yard. They were there before I moved in, I haven't touched them in 12 years and they are absolutely healthy and thriving.

The only difference is that I am in a different climate, so my guess is to pay attention to how the zone changes the ability to grow them.

I'm sure someone will come in with better advice, but just wanted to say that I think you can have a good chance with them (unless the climate is a deal breaker).
posted by Vaike at 5:22 PM on December 29, 2016

My mom has the brownest thumb of anyone that has ever tried to garden. She kills absolutely everything. Her rose bushes probably could have been nicer if she had tended to them at all, but even despite her utter neglect/abandonment, they still produced lots of lovely flowers every year.

Also, does anyone know what to do with a zillion small landscaping rocks?

Join a large local Facebook buy/sell group and offer them up for free. I regularly see offers like that around here and people take them.
posted by gatorae at 5:41 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would t expect roses to thrive where hosras grow. Hostas are shade plants, roses will need sun. I've grown various roses for years. If you're willing to put a lot of work into it, they can be lovely. If, like me, you are a fairly lazy or chemical-avoidant gardener, you will have a lovely flush of roses in spring or early summer, then scraggly bushes covered with blackspot and hardly any leaves or blooms until a possible late bloom in the fall.

I've done lots of research to find "disease resistant" varieties-- floribundas, vintage roses, etc. the only ones I've ever found to be easy to grow and not get blackspot for months is Knockout roses. They are pretty bullet proof, though sometimes they have a mysterious die-off that kill them in about 48 hours down to the ground. (Though sometimes they come back from the roots.)

On preview: it probably matters where you live. I'm in the mid-Atlantic region. I think they are much easier to grow someplace with less humidity and heat, maybe.
posted by instamatic at 5:43 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also in a different climate to you, but can also confirm that roses (which were already planted when I moved in) at both houses I've had have been low key, easy plants. They apparently like a fair bit of wind and I've had them in partial sun and full sun.

They do need reasonably regular pruning in order to flourish and look ok, but I really have no skills there and they keep coming back.
posted by jojobobo at 5:57 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had a climbing rose at our last house and it was a total menace. It ripped down the trellis, and made actual holes in the eaves. We couldn't prune it back enough to stop it from causing real havoc. Maybe they aren't all as vigorous as that, but I wouldn't risk it again on a structure up next to the house.
posted by lollusc at 5:57 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Like you, I love roses. Shrub roses are among the easiest roses to grow, but roses really do need full sun to stay healthy snd easy care.
posted by vers at 5:58 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah, gardening -- the fine art of digging up what grows naturally and setting in what usually doesn't.
Check with local gardeners about which rose varieties work well for them. I had some varieties that never could get past the spindly, puny stage. Others were almost bombproof. A hardy rose is breathtaking. A badly placed and managed rose is just a nasty thorn bush. Good gloves and sharp garden shears are a must.

1) Location. Full sun, full stop. In partial sun you will be constantly fighting black spot and powdery mildew. I pruned my hybrid teas in the early spring (after last frost, around April 15 in Oklahoma) into an open vase shape. Research pruning cuts to send new growth outward, not back into the bush. Water in the early morning so it can dry off, but not scorch in hot weather. Add a ground cover that does not need constant attention and discourages weeds. I used wild violets, vinca major and creeping charlie.

2) Aphids, spider mites. Aphids come in the early spring and can denude the bush, weakening it. Spider mites were a nightmare back in the day. Check with local gardeners about the best practices and get ahead of the problems.

3) Cuttings, deadheading. Taking blooms indoors is a treat, both for the color and the scent. Trim or snap off old blooms to encourage repeat blooming, according to the species. Some do not require it, some only have a few significant bloom cycles each year.

4) Suckers. When a white rosebush starts having red blooms, it's not a bedtime story -- it's suckers. Many roses are grafted onto hardy root stock that can withstand a variety of soil and climate conditions. Those roots send their own canes up, below the knob of grafted material, and can overcome the desired bush. Cut them off below the soil when you see them.

5) Winter. Stop feeding in the fall, allow the bushes to go dormant. Some add a mulch to the base of the bushes, but ask other gardeners in your area.

Videos abound on how to plant a bush from the nursery or mail order. Or get some hands-on experience from local experts. The learning curve really isn't that hard. And then in a few months you go from a few naked canes to a glorious display. My Double Delights still stop me in my tracks, with their strong scent and ever-changing colors. Nothing beats a rose.
posted by TrishaU at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try to find an old small local nursery with older folks running it and ask there, they know the local micro-climate.
posted by sammyo at 6:24 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are a ton of disease resistant roses, some from David Austin, some under the brand names Osoeasy and Proven Winners. Probably others.

I don't grow roses but have been considering it. One, they are deer crack, so if that's an issue you need them close to the house or grow climbers. Two, Japanese beetles find them delicious--so you need to account for their appearances. And plant a lot of alliums near them.

If you are a non-organic gardener, sky's the limit.

Your scenario sounds pretty good.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2016

Stupid addendum, but I would just go for it, personally. Failure is 60 percent of gardening. The other 40 percent is success.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:45 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

My garden is in the Twin Cities.

Due to my travel schedule my garden has been scaled down from about a dozen rose bushes to about 4.

They are fussy, but the right varieties will be ok. They won't be anything like what you see in the garden magazines of roses in England.

Some varieties, like the local wild style single roses, and a few climbers, do really well but have a high probability of disappointing you.

And there are a few hardy varieties, but they aren't very flashy. Non hardy varieties will need lots and lots of care to survive winter. Research the Minnesota tip. I do something different with oak leaves and burlap and custom cages for winter protection. Some years I've buried them under the earth. Probably takes me an hour or more per bush now that I've really got the system down to put them in winter cages and they don't all survive and they definitely don't all thrive. Not all climbers are even hardy enough to get big enough to climb. Your bushes will probably be pretty small.

Advice from other parts of the country probably won't be helpful to you. Japanese beetles have been my worst pest. Use a systemic. You'll have to figure out pruning based on how well or poorly they do. I prune a bit in fall before I tie them down and in spring to cut back all that died.

Before I made such a big change I would look at a lot of real rose gardens locally thru summer and ask the gardener about the varieties that appeal to you. Go to the Lake Harriet rose garden, walk Summit Ave, see the arboretum and remember those gardens are mostly professionally managed. Then go to Gertens or another big nursery and ask for their strongest varieties. If I were planting a climber I would pick William Baffin, but I'm not familiar with the one you like.
posted by littlewater at 6:55 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just looked at your specified cultivars; my advice? Just do it.

Watch for air flow to reduce fungal problems. Allium companions and milky spore to reduce Japanese beetles... But somehow people have grown roses for hundreds of years. If I were you I would give it a shot, and honestly, if it sucked...I'd probably try it twice.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:24 PM on December 29, 2016

I planted 3 varieties of hybrid tea roses (zone 6b) and lost all but 4 (out of 12) bushes from a super cold winter last year. The remaining ones survived but are not thriving. I am giving up on roses. I love them a lot but can't deal with the disappointment.
posted by JayRwv at 7:33 PM on December 29, 2016

What about Minnesota native roses? There are three varieties. Less showy than the hybrids but likely to be more robust. They produce gorgeous rose hips for wildlife. And they're native!
posted by JackFlash at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Roses are very very easy to grow. They are weeds. In full sun. They don't like anything else and I wouldn't bother. There are lots of nice shade tolerant flowering plants that will grown where your hostas did but probably not roses.

Also my old dog ate all the flowers off ours and started on our neighbors. Apparently they're delicious.
posted by fshgrl at 8:20 PM on December 29, 2016

Just don't plant them too close together. They're pretty hearty. Trim them back every year, they will grow like weeds. Ask the people at the plant place for their advice too. Absolutely you should plant some.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:01 PM on December 29, 2016

I have two wild roses and they are amazingly low maintenance for where I live (Zone 3 or 4 IIRC). I don't even water them and they just keep growing!
posted by Calzephyr at 9:06 PM on December 29, 2016

Roses are pretty easy if you put them in full sun, i.e. in a spot where they get direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. I'm in zone 8 and I've got a rosebush in my south-facing garden that flowers from May to November as long as the summer is hot and dry and sunny enough (some years we get a lot of rain). The things I have to do to take care of that rosebush are: water it once in a while, pluck off the dead roses before they become rosehips, give it a little plant food once in a while when I remember, and prune it once a year in the spring before it starts to leaf.

The east-facing side of your house where the hostas are sounds like a bad place for roses. If you really want to get rid of those hostas, here's a list of plants that do well in east-facing gardens, i.e. in partial shade.

On the other hand, the south side of your house sounds like a great place for roses. Here's a list from the University of Minnesota extension office of hardy roses for zones 2-4.
posted by colfax at 2:40 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Rule of thumb: if your hostas were happy in that spot, your roses are going to be very unhappy in that same spot.

The one thing roses absolutely need is full sun, otherwise they limp along and get spindly and suffer from all sorts of leaf spots and molds and eventually just look so sad you rip them out in despair. Ask me how I know.
posted by lydhre at 6:33 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sure, you can grow roses there, it not terribly hard f you are willing to learn a bit.

But, as someone who has cared for a variety of roses in a variety of states: *please* make sure this is truly what you want before proceeding, and that you are willing to deal with all the things that make some us avid gardeners hate roses.

Basic weeding and other chores become dangerous with roses in the picture. Pruning requires eye protection. Children and roses don't mix well. Nor do pets and roses. Roses are not any good for most wildlife, aside from aphids and other pests. Roses are generally over priced and over bred. Roses don't even smell good to many folk.

Just want to make sure you've considered the downsides, happy gardening.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:55 AM on December 30, 2016

I have a couple of rose bushes and I'm northwest of you in Grand Forks. Previous owners of my house put in some hybrid tea rose bushes. After a year or two, they stopped producing flowers as the graft that made the plant produce blossoms died but the rest of the plant continued. I tried again with more hybrid teas, but they completely died during a cold winter with not enough snow cover for insulation. (And yes, I did put protection on them in the fall).

I'm giving roses one more shot, but this time I'm sticking with the Canadian bred varieties. I put in "Winnipeg Parks" and "Morden Blush" and was pleased with them over the summer. They were prolific blossom producers, even when I was negligent about dead-heading. I'll see how they do over the winter, but since they are very hardy and also "own-root" and not hybrids with a graft to die, I am hopeful.
posted by weathergal at 5:42 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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