Tips for Growing Heirloom Roses

The roses of yesteryear, collectively called old garden roses, are beautiful and fragrant.
Carefree Roses

They are generally winter hardy and long lived. They are easy to grow, easy to bloom, and so easy to appreciate. A growing number of modern roses have been bred to emulate the nostalgic style of old garden roses: many-petalled blooms, lavish fragrances, healthy foliage, and tidy growth. As you plan your garden, consider planting some of these hardy shrubs, both old and new. They are so carefree, even first-time gardeners will reap bountiful bouquets.

Old roses are rich in history. Three such roses -- the gallica rose (Rosa gallica), alba rose (R. alba), and damask rose (R. damascena)-- are among the most ancient plants still cultivated. Grown in the Far and Near East during Biblical times, these roses probably were carried to Western Europe by crusaders. "They're romantic," says Judith Gries, a Connecticut gardener. "You can smell the exact same fragrance as the Empress Josephine." All the photos shown were taken in Judith's garden.

Buying Roses

First, be sure the roses you like will survive winter in your area. Roses will shrug off temperatures down to 20 degrees. If your winter gets colder than that, select the hardiest varieties or protect the rose plants with mulch in winter. In general, old garden roses and modern shrub roses are hardier than hybrid teas and floribundas.

Roses sold in a container of soil can be planted whenever they are available. They are easier to plant than bare-root roses, but can be more expensive. Bare-root roses, planted during their dormant season, offer more selection, because you can buy by mail from specialty firms, such as those listed below.

Judith Gries loves to interplant different kinds of roses. In this flower bed, pink Mary Rose and Escapade rub shoulders with red Eye Paint.

Constance Spry sports a double bloom so full it resembles a peony. This English shrub rose shows no die-back even down to 20 degrees below zero. Constance Spry has only one flush of bloom, but it is a stunner. Its growth is so vigorous that support is helpful.

Continued on page 2:  Planting Roses