There is nothing quite like the smell of roses in the garden in June. For me roses have always been a bit of a challenge. I usually picked the big blooms out of garden catalogs and then found them to be less than satisfying. I would try to deal with black spot and to figure out the right time to prune and which ones did what. I found them a bit confusing. Being the lazy gardener I just moved on and forgot about them. Come June when I would get a whiff of one along a street or passing another garden they would make me think about trying again.
When we bought the farm, there were a number of old fashioned shrub and climbing roses along with several hybrid tea roses. They seemed perfect for the aesthetic of this old farm garden. I loved seeing the climbing roses 50 feet up a big leaf maple or cascading out of the old walnut tree. The big shrub types at the corner of the fence and garage seemed to anchor the whole bed they were in.
I still had a problem with the hybrid tea roses in the small beds at the back of the house for the same reasons I had previously found them frustrating; black spot and pruning issues. My solution was to move them. I relocated most of them to the edge of the woods out in the pasture. I figured if they died it was meant to be and if they survived they would make a nice hedge row at the edge of the woods. To my surprise most survived and not only did they survive but they thrived. Because they received almost no water, black spot wasn’t an issue. They looked healthier and had many more blooms. They are also very chicken proof which is an important issue for anything planted out in the pasture. With a hundred birds, the plants out there definitely need to be bird proof.
The one problem today is with one of the climbers. The Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’, which was growing up the walnut tree, lost it’s support in the ice storm two years ago when the walnut tipped over. We cut the rose to the ground and put a tall trellis next to it but it quickly out-paced that so we ended up just cutting it back often. It now looks like a big shrub rose but I’m sure that what we are doing isn’t the healthiest thing for the plant. It is just too pretty to rip out so I keep leaving that problem for another day.
Just this year my friend Nita-Jo Rountree wrote a great new book on Roses called ‘Growing Roses in the Pacific Northwest’. It is quite inspiring and makes me want to try a few new roses she recommends.