Saturday, April 2, 2011

by any other name...

Ignorance is bliss.My husband has always liked roses. He is not a gardener and I have never felt strongly one way or another about roses, so as a concession that I get the majority of the control over the yard- I'm the one who tends it, so I figure it's only fair that I get to pick most of what I have to take care of- I bought and planted a miniature red rose. Besides my brief reading of the normal statistics (light preference, water needs & hardiness in our climate) on several of the red roses that the nursery had, I knew nothing about growing roses. The miniature rose seemed to be the best choice since the only "sun" bed that I have also had to have space for tomatoes and peppers. Once the purchase was made I picked a slightly protected spot, threw a handful of complete fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, stuck the plant in, watered it, and admired my handy work.

My grandmother grows full size roses, so I brought up rose care in a conversation with her. She told me to feed them blood meal and Epsom salt in the spring, trim them back in the early spring, watch out for aphids and enjoy. When I picked up a few garden books to see if I could pick up a few more tips, or to see if there are any other requirements for miniature roses, I found mention of covering them in the winter to prevent extreme temperature changes and protect from harsh winds. Then the warnings start coming in; You must feed them rose food. Beware of rampant evil bugs and diseases. Be sure you prune them correctly and at the right time. As I read more and more about the amount of care that supposedly goes into growing roses, I got more than a little worried. Is half of my garden time going to be spent on caring for this one little plant?

My mom got me a book called "The Garden Primer" by Barbara Damrosch. Very few books that I have read have as much useful information in an interesting to read format and as many practical, first hand tips and tricks as this one. I have been known to use it as my bedtime reading. She does include an entire chapter on roses, but on page 521, she mentions that "Contrary to current mythology, roses are not hard to grow." She goes on to say that while there are a few tricks to make your roses stunning, planting the right kind of roses in the right place and taking a little bit of care will result in "perfectly okay roses."

A lot of the bad rap that roses have come from hybrid teas. These roses were bred with Chinese roses to get stunningly beautiful roses that produce all season long instead of 1 or 2 flushes like typical roses. In the process, like breeding dogs for their best traits, often undesireable traits also get amplified. If you enjoy being meticulous and being rewarded with award winning roses, go with a hybrid tea. If you are like me, and want to enjoy your time in the garden, instead of fretting over every bug and precise amounts of fertilizer, look past the hybrid tea roses and get a kind of rose that allows you to have "perfectly okay roses" that are hardy to the climate and resistant to local pests. I'm glad I was "ignorant" to all of the problems that supposedly come with roses, because with a little bit of care, I have been rewarded with several flushes of miniature red roses that are more than perfectly okay in my book!

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