Jane McLeod: Exploring a new world of hardy roses

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Every garden has a personality as unique as its creator. When we plant a garden, we choose plants for site and climate, plus color, shape, vigor, disease resistance, bloom time and fragrance.

Whatever the rationale, we create wonderful worlds when we plant a garden. Lots of us have come from far-flung areas of the country or world and might have to give up having a treasured plant or two. I thought that might be the case for me with roses, but after a little research, I discovered a whole new world of roses.

Here, a rose lover just needs to foray into the world of hardy roses. Roses created at universities and nurseries in Canada, Germany or Finland, for example — places that have colder winters than Routt County. Roses actually need a dormant season, and these hardy varieties are cultivated to sleep throughout the winter in Zones 2 through 5.

They come in an amazing variety of color, form (climbers, tall, medium or low shrubs, ground covers), fragrance, vigor and bloom time. And they are beyond tough.

I have planted young hardy rose bushes too late in the season, which meant they barely had time to set their roots before going through a winter with virtually no snow cover, and they burst into bloom in the spring with hardly any die back in the canes. A lovely blanket of snow helps, of course, but no other protection is required.

The hardy rose family is very large, but two of my favorite series are the Canadian explorer series — with varieties like Alexander MacKenzie (Zone 4, medium red blooms, tall shrub), Henry Hudson (Zones 2 to 3, white blooms, low shrub), Henry Kelsey (Zone 3, dark red blooms, climber), Martin Frobisher (Zone 3, light pink blooms, tall shrub), John Davis (Zone 3, medium pink blooms, tall shrub), and William Baffin (Zone 3, deep pink blooms, climber). Another is the Mordens, part of the Canadian parkland series — Morden blush (Zone 3, light pink bloom, low shrub), Morden centennial (Zone 3, medium pink bloom, low shrub), Morden fireglow (Zone 3, orange bloom, low to medium shrub), Morden ruby (Zone 3, dark pink bloom, low shrub). Another in a color hard to come by for a hardy rose is Harison’s yellow (Zone 3, medium yellow bloom, tall shrub). This hardy rose was introduced strangely enough in Texas in 1830 and traveled with settlers everywhere. It still can be found surviving in the ruins of old cabins across the country. Its only failing for me is that it only blooms in the spring, and I like to plant roses that are continuous or repeating bloomers.

If you have spent time and energy trying to protect your roses from the ravages of winter only to be disappointed by failure, you probably are growing a delicate variety of rose bred for a higher zone. Proper nurturing is important, but the appropriate choice of a rose variety suited to our zone (I prefer Zone 3 for roses) makes the difference between disappointment and elation once a garden comes to life in the spring.

Jane McLeod is a volunteer master gardener through the Routt County CSU Extension. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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