By Luke Miller
Okay, let’s get one thing straight: Roses aren’t fickle. Well, at least some of them aren’t.
No doubt if you’re of a certain age you remember Grandma’s prize roses—the ones that had to be sprayed every couple of weeks to ward off black spot disease or powdery mildew. Beautiful blooms, all right. But often accompanied by sparse (or downright ugly) foliage.
Well, today’s roses aren’t nearly so demanding. I found this shrub rose growing in Brooklyn last June. The ground had been saturated with ocean water from Superstorm Sandy. Most of the surrounding plants were dead, yet the shrub rose was unscathed.
Many of today’s superior varieties are shrub roses, including the popular Knock Out. Like the Brooklyn survivor above, they’re hardy as all get-out. And they seldom, if ever, need spraying. Better yet they bloom for extended periods. This Knock Out, shown blooming with late-spring companions larkspur and sundrops, will outlast the asters and mums in fall.
Groundcover roses have the same rugged personality as shrub roses—but in shorter, more spreading forms. These Home Run groundcover roses take absolutely no care. Just like Knock Out they peak in late spring but push out blooms all season long. And I’ve never sprayed them.
One thing I would recommend is pairing roses with companion plants. The relaxed habit of shrub and groundcover roses makes them an easy fit visually. And companions are especially helpful for those roses that peak in spring, take the summer off, then regain their glory in autumn.
Note how these Tropicana roses pair with zinnias and sedum. The zinnias carry the show in summer.
As the zinnias start to fade, the sedum comes on strong.
As the rose makes a return engagement in fall, zinnias have been replaced by a potted black-eyed Susan vine that is easily sheltered if frost is expected. Meanwhile sedum and fountain grass complete the pretty picture.