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Top Roses for Gardens in the Southwest

What's the secret to growing beautiful, healthy roses? Picking the right variety for your area. Check out our favorite roses for the Southwest!

Roses thrive in the hot Southwest, from coastal Southern California and inland all the way to West Texas. All it takes is a little attention to soil and water in the more desert regions. Enjoy the romance of roses with these recommendations.

Rose enthusiast Kristen Duker, founder of the Del Mar Rose Society in California, says that along the coast, David Austin roses (Zones 5-9) are perfectly suited to the climate, and all repeat-bloom. Here are some of her favorites:

Abraham Darby ('Auscot') shows off fully double flowers that are stuffed with petals: apricot-pink on the outside and yellow deep inside. Its fabulous fruity fragrance is a delight. At 5 feet high and wide, it isn't a small plant, but a hard pruning after the first flush will keep it in bounds, and it will keep flowering.

Lady Emma Hamilton ('Ausbrothe') starts with dark red buds with a bit of orange that open to fragrant, fully double cupped flowers of apricot, yellow, and orange. The color combination is soft, not overbearing.

The round buds of Fair Bianca ('Ausca') open to cupped double pure-white flowers. It's very "old rose-ish" and highly fragrant. At only 3-1/2 feet tall, it's a good selection for along a walkway where you can enjoy the fragrance.

Duker grows other roses, too, and one of the floribundas she's fond of is Julia Child ('Wekvossutono'). It's a winner across the Southwest with its pleasing double flowers in butter yellow (what better color for Julia Child?) that carry a licorice scent.

Julia Child is also recommended by the Mesa East-Valley Rose Society in Arizona. The group also likes the antique climber 'Sombreuil'; its heavy flowers are palest pink to white and have a heady fragrance. It grows to 12 feet, so plan well. As with all climbers, it produces more flowers if the stems are trained horizontally.

Other desert favorites include the polyantha roses 'The Fairy' and 'Cecile Brunner', which comes as a shrub or a climber. And speaking of climbing -- if you've got the space, why not grow a Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae, Zones 6-9)? Maybe you've heard of this one -- it's the white-flower rose that's been growing in Tombstone, Arizona, since 1885 and takes up 8,000 square feet. There's a yellow variety ('Lutea'), too. Obviously, that's one you have to plan for.

In the dry inland Southwest, the main concerns for roses are water and fertility. A good mulch with a high-quality compost help feed the soil; a layer of compost with a layer of wood chips over it is even better. This has the effect of moderating soil moisture, adding some nutrients, and lowering the normally alkaline desert soils to better accommodate roses. Checking on your soil's pH could be the difference between a great rose and a problem plant.

Southwest gardeners can look to selections from the Texas A&M University program Earth-Kind for great recommendations, such as Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis' (Zones 6-9), with flowers that open yellow and age to pink. It's a shrub that can get 8 feet high and wide.

For a touch of pink all season long, try Carefree Beauty ('Bucbi', Zones 4-9). And for months of lightly fragrant double white flowers, pick 'Seafoam' (Zones 4-9), which grows to only 3 feet high but 6 feet wide. It's an instant rose hedge.

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