My gardening habits have changed since my kids graduated from college and got jobs in other states. I spend much of every year traveling back and forth between our home and theirs, and the garden has had to adapt.
Well, I've had to make it adapt. I still love to fill my deck with hanging baskets and containers, but I hold back since I know some are bound to suffer when I'm not there to baby them. My yard is still full of color, but it's mostly easy care perennials plus flowering trees and shrubs. I don't plant many annual bedding plants these days, and the roses I grow are all pretty tough.
A climbing Zephirine Drouhin rose has settled in nicely on the side of my house, along with the Henryi clematis that grows through it. I ordered the nearly thornless Zephirine Drouhin because I was intrigued by the part it played in Agatha Christie's Sad Cypress. I was pleasantly surprised to find how hardy it was: it's survived drought, very hot summers, and extremely cold winters with no visible signs of stress.
I'm very tempted to invest in some Knock Out roses, although they're quickly becoming as common as Stella de Oro daylilies. Still, they are popular for a reason: they really do have wonderful flowers that bloom all season. While I don't have any Knock Out roses (yet), I've had a low hedge of Carefree Beauty shrub roses planted in front of a slightly taller hedge of Goldflame spireas under my front window for years. They come back reliably year after year, and the rosy pink flowers blend nicely with the rosy pink flowers of the spirea.
While I don't have many roses now, over the years I've grown them by the hundreds in my homes in London, Chicago, and northern New Jersey. In every area I've found roses that were hardy, although I've grown plenty of more fragile hybrid teas and floribundas, too. I have a special fondness for the old roses—lush, richly colored, fragrant beauties like 'Reine des Violettes' and 'Mme. Isaac Periere'. I love the David Austin roses, too, and I especially like the cold hardy Canadian Parkland and Explorer introductions like 'Morden Centennial'.
I'll admit it, I've got a weakness for roses. I'd love to have a whole section of my garden with nothing but roses, and if I was rich and lived on a fabulous estate, I would do just that. Since that's not going to happen, I'll continue to enjoy the roses that thrive despite periods of neglect.
If you are as fascinated by roses as I am, you may enjoy a book of fiction that is packed with rose history:
That book led me to another volume:
And here are a few other rosy recommendations:
What roses are in your garden? What are some of your favorites?
Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Mystery book club.