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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press This June 3, 2011 photo shows shrub roses growing alongside a split rail fence near New Market, Va. These relatively new rose hybrids are generally healthier, more free flowering, easier to prune and more drought and winter hardy than their old-rose predecessors. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Thursday, May 16, 2019 1:00 am

Pain taken out of new hybrid rose shrubs

DEAN FOSDICK | Associated Press

Roses are among the oldest flowers in cultivation, although many have earned a reputation as fussy or difficult to grow. Some of the newer shrub rose hybrids, however, are disease-resistant, carefree and repeat-blooming – just the qualities novice gardeners love.

“They are generally much healthier, more free-flowering, easier to prune and more winter-hardy” than some earlier generations of roses, said Michael Marriott, technical manager and senior rosarian for David Austin Limited of Albrighton, England, about the many emerging shrub rose varieties.

Shrub roses, also labeled landscaping or ground-cover roses, blend a diverse mix of old-rose varieties with modern roses to capture the best qualities of each, including fragrance, flowering styles, colors and growth habits.

They're bred for garden performance rather than plant perfection, helping convert many rose contrarians into vocal rosarians, Marriott said.

“There are certainly plenty of hesitant gardeners who mistakenly think all roses will be finicky and hard to grow – but I'd say they're decreasing in number,” Marriott said.

Early landscape designers frequently recommended that roses be concentrated only in rose gardens, in the process creating a monoculture conducive to pests and diseases. Now they're integrating roses into mixed borders where companion plants surround roses to the benefit of all, Marriott said.

Despite longstanding perceptions, rose-growing isn't a specialty particular to older or more affluent gardeners, said Chris VanCleave, a banker and rose advocate from Helena, Alabama, who has a wide following on the garden lecture circuit and his “Redneck Rosarian” website.

Regardless of where you are or who you are, there's a rose just for you, he said.

“Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennial generations don't care so much about a perfect bloom. Instead they want garden color and low maintenance, and they're also averse to using harmful chemicals in the garden,” VanCleave said.

“Some want flowering power, while others grow them for sentimental reasons,” he said.