Maximize Your Bloom

You love roses.  Visions of bountiful blooms carpeting your garden with color and fragrance dance in your head as you swoon over the catalogs brimming with all too many choices. You want lots and lots of flowers, but you’re limited in space. You’ve already taken over a good part of the lawn, and still, you don’t have enough flowers. Sound familiar?  Once you’re bitten by the rose bug, there just never seems to be enough space to plant all those plants and get the abundance of bloom you’re after. There are some easy things you can do to get more bloom without much more space.  Think about………..

Planting up, down and all around

Look at your gardening space and consider where else you can squeeze in a plant or two. In addition to planting medium-sized shrubs, add some miniatures around the base of a plant; they shield lower bare canes and adorn them with lots of little blooms. Or try a groundcover rose – hybridizers are creating new varieties of these gems to tuck into spaces around your roses or in other bare ground growing spots.  How about the edging the border of your vegetable beds, drifting down a slope or flanking the path to your front door?

Tree roses are great in-between plants. They come in a variety of heights – miniature roses can be just 18 inches tall, while minis, mini-floras, and floribundas re generally 24-inch trees. Standards, 36-inch tree roses, are available with floribundas, hybrid teas, grandifloras, and shrubs atop the trunk. They may look something like a lollipop with a large, rounded plant on a thin trunk or have a more casual, weeping form. This relaxed form is stunning on a 48- or 60-inch tree. It takes virtually extra no room for a tree rose other than planting between your shrub form plants. The height doesn’t crowd the existing roses and bring blossoms right to your eye (and nose!) level.

A bare wall or fence cries out to be cloaked with a climber. You can get small sized climbers that grow to 8 – 10 feet, or one of the behemoths, like ‘Cecile Brunner’ that will easily engulf your fence providing thousands of soft pink blossoms. No wall or fence?  How about adding an arbor?  You can find ones that are easy to install and provide immediate height and space to train a climber. Pillars are another way to utilize vertical space.  Stick a hefty stake in the ground next to a rambunctious grandiflora or shrub like ‘Sally Holmes’, attach it to the pillar, and you’ll have roses rising to new heights.

Choosing the type

Hybrid tea roses produce those gorgeous, long stems with a single blossom at the end while floribundas, grandifloras and most shrub roses put out sprays of blooms. Add some of these types of roses to frame your hybrid teas with smaller, more abundant flowers. There are many new varieties of groundcover roses on the market that blanket themselves in blossoms and don’t need deadheading.  Groundcover roses like ‘Baby Blanket’, ‘Watermelon Ice’ and ‘Crimson Meidiland’ produce swathes of color that are about two feet tall and up to six feet wide.

Is once enough?

Do you want to plant roses that bloom once per season or repeat blooming roses?  The majority of old garden roses are once bloomers while modern roses are predominantly repeat blooming.  Consider adding repeat bloomers around the once-a-year bloomer to perk it up after it’s finished its annual show.  If you want to plant a number of old garden roses, find varieties with different blooming times so you can stagger the floral display over a few months rather than have it all at one time.

Quick to  repeat 

Every type of rose has a general length of time it needs to produce flowers.  Some varieties are quick to repeat – six weeks or less, while others may take eight to ten weeks to produce a cycle of flowers.  Finding roses that you like with a short repeat cycle means you’ll get more flowers.  For instance – ‘Double Delight’ is one of the first roses in my garden to bloom in the spring, has a short repeat cycle so that plants are rarely without flowers. Also, in general, the fewer the number of petals the rose has, the faster it will repeat blooming.

Going for the producers

Hybridizers are diligently working to breed roses that are disease resistant, fragrant, and put out a lot of flowers.  Find out if the roses you’re interested in are little blooming machines, or stingy with their production. The fragrant yellow floribunda ‘Julia Child’ is a great example of non-stop flower production.

Keeping them on the plant

Once the plant has done all the work to produce that magnificent bloom, you want it to stay there and not shatter into pieces after a day or two. Choose varieties that hold their shape for a few days – both on the plant and as cut flowers.  You can’t beat ‘Marilyn Monroe’ for lasting power both on the bush and in the vase.

How you prune can make a difference

The annual pruning job can significantly impact your bounty of flowers.  The harder you prune in winter, the fewer flowers you’ll produce, though they’re likely to be enormous flowers during the first bloom cycle. Leaving the canes a little longer when you prune will give you more flowers earlier, though the blooms may be smaller.

Health and vigor matters

Rose plants need, on average, 35 leaves to produce one healthy rose.  If a plant is weak or plagued by pests or disease, it won’t have the vigor to produce lots of flowers.  When shopping for roses, look for good disease resistance.  Often, roses with leaves that are thick and shiny have a greater resistance to many common rose diseases.

End of the season color

By December or January, you’re not likely to have too many blooms, but you can keep your plants colorful by selecting varieties that produce plentiful hips and brilliantly colored foliage.

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

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