Between fighting foliar diseases and cold winter temperatures, gardeners in the Midwest need to choose wisely to benefit from the fabulous roses available today. Freezing weather can cause grafted roses to fail -- the aboveground part of the plant dies off, and the rootstock, which is not really the flower you want, sends up stems and takes over. Get around the worry of graft failure by planting own-root roses, so that whatever happens during a bad winter, the stems that well-established plants send up will bloom with the flowers you want.
Everyone loves a fabulous rose, but no one wants to put up with ugly, diseased foliage that detracts from what should be a magnificent summer show. Fortunately, even in the black-spot-prone areas of the Midwest, gardeners can find excellent choices of shrub and climbing roses that will add the look and fragrance you long for. Kansas City rosarian Arlyn Silvey shared some of the best to try.
Shrub roses play a key role in the garden, because they can stand alone or be combined with perennials and other shrubs. 'Paloma Blanca', a shrub with double white, cup-shape flowers in clusters, will turn heads -- and noses -- with its fragrance.
'Carefree Beauty' (Zone 4) puts out its double medium-pink flowers all summer. The flowers are fragrant and good-sized -- about 4 inches across. You'll have the added benefit of orange hips to decorate the winter landscape.
'Tahitian Sunset' (Zone 4), a hybrid tea that grows to 5 feet high, brightens any garden with its yellow-orange buds that open to peachy apricot-pink while holding on to some yellow highlights. Its long stems are perfect for cutting, and the flowers -- which keep coming -- can be 5 inches across. With their strong anise scent, they can make quite a statement.
The David Austin rose Heritage ('Ausblush'), hardy to Zone 5, looks like a delicate antique variety, but it holds its own against disease. Its cupped antique-pink flowers have an old-fashioned quartered look; the lovely fruity fragrance and soft green foliage complete the perfect picture. Heritage grows about 5 feet high.
Climbers add another dimension to the garden: up. Even if the rose is a short climber, you can get it to grow over a doorway or arch over a gate. Frederic Mistral ('Meitbros'), hardy to Zone 7, grows to 7 feet. Its double light pink/mauve flowers have petals that curl back and a fabulous heavy, sweet fragrance -- sometimes you can almost hyperventilate, a rose smells so good.
'William Baffin', a climber up to 10 feet tall, withstands cold climate well (Zone 3). Its clusters of fragrant semidouble deep-pink flowers keep on coming through the season. It's one of the many hardy roses from the Explorer series from Canada; other Zone 3 or 4 Explorer roses include red 'Alexander Mackenzie' and pink 'John Cabot'.
The Knock Out family of roses (Zone 5) often receives high marks around the country (though some gardeners in the coldest parts of the Midwest have troubles with the plants). The roses are disease-resistant, bloom forever (it seems), and come in a good selection of colors. They're not all fragrant, but sometimes it's best to choose the right rose for a part of the garden you see more than you smell. All varieties of Knock Out roses grow about 4 feet high and wide, and they can easily be used as a hedge.
The original Knock Out ('Radrazz') blooms with semidouble cherry-red flowers; it was joined by the Double Knock Out ('Radtko'). The Pink Knock Out ('Radcon') is a single flower with a bright, perky color, while the flowers of the Double Pink Knock Out ('Radtkopink') are full of bubblegum-pink petals.
Blushing Knock Out ('Radyod') produces delicate single shell-pink flowers, and the flowers of Sunny Knock Out ('Radsunny') -- they're fragrant! -- start bright yellow and fade to a buff color. Rainbow Knock Out ('Radcor') gives you a color combination: single coral-pink flowers with yellow at the base of each petal.