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For moms: A perfect time for roses

Mother’s Day calls for flowers, and your choices are many: the old classic orchid corsage, a bouquet of cut flowers, or the popular spring baskets of violas, fragrant Lobularias or myriad other container plants.

For something more lasting for Mother’s garden, thousands of you are likely to choose a rose. No flower elicits nostalgia and tender memories quite like a rose. And so it follows that Mother’s Day is prime time for rose sales. It also happens to be the perfect time for planting them.

So many roses are better than ever.

Rose collectors yearn for antique or heirloom roses, but most gardeners today will not commit the level of effort that traditional rose gardens imposed. Nor do many gardeners care to pamper fussy roses to produce a few large flowers for a short period in June. Fortunately hybridizers have solved most rose flaws.

Now gardeners and homeowners can enjoy roses that are low maintenance, longer blooming and disease resistant, with more blooms per plant and per stem.

But was something important lost in hybridization? It’s commonly remarked that hybridization has sacrificed fragrance especially, as newer, bigger, longer-blooming roses were developed.

I attended a program by Tim Zimmerman of Medford Nursery and was delighted to hear that the generalization is no longer the case.

In the last few years especially, he said, Hybrid Tea roses (among other types) are emerging with more fragrance as well as the other desirable features.

For example, sniff Florentina or Bolero or Madam Anisette and you’ll be a believer.

You will find many kinds of roses when you shop this month. Be sure to consider the space and support (in case of climbers) that you can offer. Then shop for the right size and habit, type of flower, and of course the color that will melt Mom’s (or your own) heart.

Choosing won’t be easy. Some hybridizer or producer brand or series names may help your selection. Kordes, for example, is highly respected for its extensive plant trials under rigorous conditions – it’s a brand to trust.

At Last is a Color Choice flowering shrub. Photo from Proven Winners,

Proven Winners (PW) has earned popularity and credibility with its Color Choice flowering shrub series including many great roses (as well as perennial and annual plant selections).

David Austin is the British hybridizer whose roses are strong and dependable.

STAR roses has introduced some of the brightest and best, including Princess Charlene de Monaco and Canyon Road.

With the classifications that follow I am mentioning specific roses that have come to my attention – some recommended strongly by Zimmerman – but your nursery and professional garden center experts have puts lots of thought into their selections too.

Hybrid Teas

These are probably most people’s impression of a rose: large flowers on fairly tall vase-shaped plants with one large flower per stem – good for cutting.

Some beauties are Dark Desire (rich red), Barbra Streisand (lavender), Dolly Parton (orange-red), Mister Lincoln (fragrant, deep red), Peace (lemon yellow), Pink Peace (new, pink), Honor (white), Neil Diamond (pink/white stripes), or the new Ingrid Bergman (clear red).

Zimmerman exuded enthusiasm for many of these, especially the re-blooming Traviatas and the tall double pink Princess Charlene de Monaco – extremely hardy and grown on its own root.


Clusters of medium-sized flowers on a compact plant with lots of repeat blooming. Look for Cinco de Mayo (color described as smoky lavender and red-orange), Summer Romance (pink) Gingersnap (yellow-orange, ruffled edges), Iceberg (white), Julia Child (gold), Ketchup and Mustard (guess), and the new Easy to Please (fuchsia with light tints) or Canyon Road (brick red).

The new Earth Angel looks like a creamy-pink peony.


Combine clusters (as in FL) with larger flower size (as in HTs), usually with long enough stems to cut. Examples: (new) Gold Medal (strong yellow), Miss Congenialilty (white with pink edges), Queen Elizabeth (clear pink).

Climbers are a delight in any garden. Photo courtesy David Austin Roses.


Many Buffalo gardeners display the exuberant Blaze, but now it’s easier to find many other colors, or even stronger reds. You might choose the vigorous New Dawn (pale pink), Fourth of July (striped red-white), or bright salmon-orange Above All.

For shorter roses to climb your trellis find Florentina (huge red blooms), Honey Moon (cream, pink center), or Morning Magic (light pink from the breeders of Knock Out). Zimmerman pointed out that many large David Austin roses can be trained as relatively short climbers.

Miniatures and drift roses

Miniature roses are generally hardy and intended for planting outside, also great in containers. For housebound folks they will be lovely on the windowsill with proper care but they are not long-term house plants. See All A Twitter, Cutie Pie, Whimsy, (new) Smoke Rings – or whichever you can find. Drift roses are crosses between miniatures and groundcover roses, with beautiful repeat blooms.


These are the tough, seriously vigorous roses that produce rose hips (for ourselves or the birds) – suitable for hedges, covering banks, and creating barriers.

Shrub or landscape roses

Many landscapers or gardeners probably first discovered Carefree Wonder or Bonica or The Fairy for repeat blooms and mass planting. Then Knock Out roses gained fame for disease resistance and non-stop flowers – completely dependable especially if trimmed and fertilized until August.

Zimmerman mentioned Take It Easy (red double), Home Run (red Knock Out offspring), or the Kolorscape Kardinal or Lemon Fizz, among so many more super shrubs.

Expert tips

Correct site and planting are essential. Roses require at least six hours of full sun, excellent drainage, fertile soil, good air circulation, and your commitment to good watering.

Plant your rose when the soil has finally dried out (crumbles rather than cakes in your hand). Dig a wide hole and mix compost with existing soil when you backfill. Plant grafted roses (most) with the bud graft an inch or two below the soil level – helpful in our harsh winters. (Plant roses on their own roots at the same level as in the pot.) Water well whenever the soil feels dry.

Especially this spring gardeners – and certainly mothers – need flowers. For many, nothing lifts spirits and says “I love you” quite like a rose.

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.

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