Sumptuous Shrub Rose

by Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

You’ve heard the term shrub, and you know what a rose is, but what in the world is a shrub rose? Aren’t shrubs those plants that you grow as hedges to screen you from your neighbor? Or some type of woody plant?  Sunset’s Western Garden Book describes shrubs as “woody plants that live for many years. They are typically planted to provide long lasting features to a landscape, forming a framework to help unite the garden’s various elements.” Well, that is actually a pretty good description of a shrub rose.

The term shrub rose was created by the American Rose Society to encompass bushy roses that did not fit any other category. The class includes several major subclasses – the hybrid musks, hybrid Rugosas, hybrid moyesii, hybrid kordesii, the unique group first developed by David Austin, commonly called English roses, and others that just don’t fit into any other classification. Many are modern varieties, others old, and some ancient. They are considered to be hardy, easy-care plants; some make good groundcovers, other work well as hedges and screens while still others fit well in a flowering border or in a container. Many of the modern shrubs bloom continuously throughout the season, and some old varieties have a single flush of flowers in the spring. You can find all types of flower forms from single (four to eight petals) to full double blooms, and in many different colors and shades.

Shrub roses are impressive for many reasons – their natural disease-resistance, their willingness to grow in a variety of climates with a minimum of attention from the gardener, their growth habit that may require little pruning, not to mention the great beauty of their flowers. Whether you are a beginning rose grower or an experienced rosarian, shrub roses are surely to find a place in your garden. A fairly new shrub rose to the market is Knock Out (red blend, 8.6). It was an AARS winner in 2000 and earned the American Rose Society Member’s Choice Award in 2004. The Member’s Choice Award is selected by the District chairs of the Roses in Review committee based on the data they collect from members across the country. This rose has proven to be so popular that a new relative, Pink Knock Out, was released last year.

How about the gorgeous Sally Holmes (white, 8.9) that can be grown as a shrub or climber and puts out huge trusses of blooms that resemble hydrangeas, and her relative, Fred Loads (orange-red, 8.5) with a similar habit, but with a fiery orange color. Graham Thomas (deep yellow, 8.2) is any easy winner covered in spring with lemon yellow cupped blooms or Belle’s Story (light pink, 8.6), another David Austin rose with soft pink blooms and a lovely light fragrance.. All That Jazz (orange-pink, 7.8), Carefree Beauty (medium pink, 8.7) and Lavender Dream (mauve, 8.3) are more examples of the class that are easy to care for and provide bounteous bloom.

This is a photo of Sally Holmes taken last spring – the rose grows lustily in a sixty foot hedge in my garden and has only been pruned once in eight years. It keeps its deep green, healthy foliage for nearly the entire year and doesn’t seem to be bothered by pests.

This rose has to be one of the easiest roses to grow, and in addition to looking beautiful on the bush, it makes a lovely cut flower.

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