Landscape roses require less care, space

KENNEWICK -- Just like the tomato is the staple crop of the home veggie garden, the rose has been the universally favored flower of the garden.

I know many gardeners who have 10 rose bushes or more.

However, I've noticed that fewer gardeners today are indulging in their passion for roses on a large scale.

The reasons? Modern hybrid teas and floribunda shrubs are a lot of work, requiring regular pruning, deadheading, and pest control.

Also, with the emerging trend of smaller yards, gardeners don't have the room to overindulge in their love of roses.

To meet the changing needs of gardeners, rose breeders have worked at developing roses that have are more compact and have good repeat bloom.

They've also endeavored to create roses that are hardy, don't sucker, are resistant to disease and insects. Many of the new roses that meet these criteria are placed in the general category of "shrub roses."

However, the "shrub rose" category is a bit murky and seems to be a catch-all term for roses that don't fit in anywhere else in the traditional categories, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, or miniatures. A rose classified as a "shrub rose" may be compact and easy to fit into a garden with other plants or it may be as tall as six feet or more. In retail catalogs, some growers have decided to aptly name the improved modern shrub roses, "landscape roses."

Meidiland Landscape Roses, developed by French breeders, were perhaps the first of the newer shrub roses to catch the fancy of American gardeners with 1987 All America Rose Selection (AARS) winner, Bonica.

It's a vigorous shrub rose growing to five feet tall and wide with clusters of single soft pink flowers. Members of the Meidiland Landscape Rose family are known for their easy maintenance and abundant bloom.

The Knockout series of landscape roses, developed by Bill Radler is a line of modern landscape roses. In 2000, Radler introduced the first of the series, 'Knockout,' another AARS winner. Now called a "classic," 'Knockout' was the first in this illustrious series. It filled the criteria for the modern shrub roses with compact growth (height and width of three to four feet), great hardiness, disease resistance and even drought tolerance.

The Carefree series is another popular named series of roses launched in 1991 with 'Carefree Wonder.' It has semi-double hot pink and white flowers and grows five feet in height. This year 'Carefree Spirit,' with single bright red flowers is a 2009 AARS winner.

Pruning and deadheading are two of the most onerous tasks of modern hybrid roses, but the attractive feature of many of the landscape roses is that they don't require as much detailed pruning. All that's needed are hedge shears to prune shrubs back to half their height in late winter. For those who feel they must, the shrubs also will benefit from pruning out some of the oldest canes and any dead or weak growth.

Deadheading is easy, especially because many landscape roses are self-cleaning, not requiring pruning to remove spent blooms to prompt re-bloom. If they're not self-cleaning varieties, all that's needed is hedge shears to shear off the spent blooms.

If you love roses but don't want all the hard work that can come with growing them, consider planting a few of the new landscape roses.

After all, a rose is a rose. These are just easier to grow.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.