CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Roses are all the rage!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I feel that roses tend to polarize people--some think they are amazing and wonderful garden plants (me!) and others feel they are too "needy" and hard to grow. I've had a love of roses my entire life, primarily because my Grandpa Stoven was an avid rose grower, and my dad has followed in his steps. Growing up in Minnesota, roses were not for the faint of heart. And to top it off--Grandpa Stoven grew hybrid teas, which are the ultimate Prima Donna of plants. His favorite was 'Peace', a tribute to the end of World War II and a beautiful bloom.
Peace hybrid tea rose (photo courtesy of Jackson and Perkins Roses)
Most of you know that my patience to baby plants is thin, so hybrid tea roses don't grow in my garden. My philosophy is that if you can't thrive on neglect, you're not a plant for me. But I do have several shrub roses, which I find to be easy to maintain, bloom profusely, and have little (if any) insect and disease problems. They really are easy to grow!

And yes, I know that Japanese beetles are munching their way across Colorado's Front Range, as far south as Pueblo. Roses are one of their favorite hosts, but our state entomologist, Dr. Whitney Cranshaw is evaluating roses to determine if there are cultivars that are less tasty to the hungry beetles. He's been studying this for a few years and has some promising results. For those in infested areas, I realize roses are not going to be at the top of your list, but hand picking can be very effective. Or pick and feed to chickens--they love to munch Japanese beetles and will eat them faster than you can pick them.
Chickens adore Japanese beetles (photo courtesy of New England Habitat Gardening Blog)
Larimer County Master Gardener, Roger Heins, is our rose expert, so I consulted him to see what he would recommend if someone wanted to plant roses. His own garden has dozens of specimens, plus he's been active in the rose demonstration garden at Treasure Island in Windsor. Here's our top recommendations:

Above and Beyond climbing rose (Rosa 'ZLEEltonStrack' PP24,463)
I absolutely adore this rose. And yes, it's a climber, so it needs some support. But what I've found after three years in the garden is that it just needs a little training in the spring and mid-summer. My dad is growing this in his Zone 3B garden north of the Twin Cities. This past winter it had very little dieback and had a magnificent bloom set in early summer.
Above and Beyond in full bloom in June
I have seen zero disease and zero insects, and it's super cold hardy. Height can reach 10 feet, so make sure you give it space! The apricot-flowers bloom in clusters and look like a double flower. It will bloom again later this summer, but the foliage is so clean that's it's just a beautiful plant any time of year. I did quickly snip off the spent blooms, not paying attention to the "rule" of pruning back to five-leaflets.
Above and Beyond in mid-July
Paint the Town shrub rose (Rosa 'BAItown' PP18,060)
Paint the Town is cute as a button, since it's a petite shrub rose that doesn't know when to stop blooming. I have this in my front, west-facing yard, and it gets very little (if any) irrigation. The red blooms cover the shrub all summer and stay a good red, even with the intense sunlight. Topping out in height at four feet (and about the same width), this rose can fit in small spaces if you need some color. The foliage is very dark green and I have seen zero disease issues. My brother has propagated this plant for years at Bailey's and it's on the top of his list too, since he doesn't see any disease issues in the greenhouse. In the photo below, it's planted next to hummingbird carpet, a 'Blonde Ambition' grass, and hopflower oregano. As you can see, it's just a bit taller than each of those. You can remove the spent flowers, if you wish.
Paint the Town shrub rose
Paint the Town flower bloom (just past peak)
Strike it Rich grandiflora rose (Rosa 'Strike it Rich')
Roger said this rose is performing amazingly well in multiple locations, so it's on the list. A grandiflora rose, the blooms are larger (about 4" tall) and have a spicy-sweet fragrance. The blooms are a beautiful orange with hints of pink. Introduced back in 2007, this rose has been a garden favorite for over a decade. Don't shy away from grandifloras...they can replace those high-maintenance hybrid teas with less work. And this rose is very cold hardy too.
Strike it Rich rose (photo courtesy of Destinations, Detours, and Dreams)
Golden flowers make this rose a must for your garden (photo courtesy of Edmunds Roses)
Sunrise Sunset shrub rose (Rosa 'BAIset' PP16,770)
There must be something in the water at Roger's house, because his Sunrise Sunset roses are breathtaking...and big! (Roger tends to both fertilize and water, which might be why his are superior to mine.) This non-stop summer bloomer has bright pink blooms that fade to a paler pink as the blooms age. This plant is truly a show stopper. Cold hardy, disease resistant, clean foliage--what more can you ask for in a rose? 
Sunrise Sunset rose (photo courtesy of Easy Elegance)
Bloom for Sunrise Sunset rose (photo courtesy of Easy Elegance)
Drop Dead Red floribunda rose (Rosa 'WEKcharlie' PP22571)
Described on one of the grower's websites as "jaw-droppingly delicious red", you can envision the bloom before you see the photo. Roger states that this is a fantastic red, especially with the dark green foliage. And it's a red that stays red throughout the entire bloom life. As a floribunda, it will produce clusters of flowers. But if you lust for a good red (like finding the perfect nail polish red), try Drop Dead Red.
Drop Dead Red floribunda rose (photo courtesy of Spring Hill Nurseries)
Obviously there are many roses out there that do well in Colorado gardens. What are some others you love? 


  1. Carefree Delight blooms from May until frost, always looks tidy with no deadheading or disease and little if any dieback. I give it a long lasting fertilizer in May and it's on our drip system. Highly recommend! Looks like Morden Sunrise will be a success with lots of blooms if deadheaded, but I'm only on the 2nd summer with it. Thanks for all these rose recommendations!

  2. I'd offer 'Rambin' Red' a climber to 10' (can be trained along a fence horizontally too) that Japanese beetles may rest on or taste but do little if no damage to both bloom and leaf -- and not for long as the soapy water bucket is nearby. It grows next to my neighbor's Ampelopsis vine (porcelainberry vine) a plant that they love - it's in the grape family. Same hot exposure. JBs, en masse, stay on the vine until it's skeletonized then they move on, but not to 'Ramblin' Red.'
    'Ramblin' Red' is available on its own root and has little die-back from winter - hardy to Zone 3b. It will re-bloom after its midsummer rest cycle. Not a great cut flower but looks good floating in bowls. It has light to no fragrance, alas and is well-armed with thorns - denim helps. If it had fragrance, I wonder if JBs would be attracted. Introduced in 2003 via Bailey's and bred by Bill Radler, the rose hybridizer who gets results with hardiness and disease resistance. I suspect there are other modern genetics to this rose that JBs find unpalatable.
    Any have contradictory observations on this rose regarding JBs? I'm in the heart of JB territory, S Denver.

  3. Both Carefree Wonder, Carefree Delight, and Morden Sunrise are all tried and true choices!

    Susan: Interesting comments and observations. I don't know if the Littleton Rose Garden has climbers, so it wasn't on Dr. Cranshaw's list of "how damaged" it can get by JB. But it's good to know! You make a good point about "own root" roses--those are the most hardy and will reliably come back each year.

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