In the Northwest, with its mild summers and rainy winters, gardeners must look for great roses that not only are pretty, but pretty tough. Black spot, the scourge of the rose, is rampant, and so those varieties that are the most resistant are the most loved -- and the easiest to care for.
Provide good air circulation for roses, and full sun. Many gardeners swear by going out in the morning and washing off the foliage with a squirt of the hose. The leaves have ample time to dry before nightfall.
Many roses are great in many climates. A little polyantha variety called 'The Fairy' can scramble around a tall shrub and produce its clusters of tiny pink flowers for months with no worries.
Hardy rugosas fight disease, too. The large, single magenta flowers of Rosa rugosa 'Scabrosa' begin opening in spring and continue throughout the summer, even as the shrub develops decorative fat red hips (fruits). You can smell the perfume from the flowers 10 feet away.
Pure-white double rugosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert' also puts on quite a show during its long bloom season (often with peonies; try it with 'Krinkled White' peony!), while it also puts out its intoxicating scent.
The Great Plant Picks program, designed to showcase the best plants for the Pacific Northwest, highlights many roses that can fit any gardener's needs. Here are some GPP recommendations.
The climber Westerland ('Korwest') shows off clusters of copper-color flowers with ruffly edges and great fragrance; it blooms all summer long. You could make this a tall shrub or train it onto an arbor -- it's your choice.
The redleaf rose (Rosa glauca) isn't all about flowers -- not that the small, single pink blossoms aren't lovely. But this rose offers more: Its foliage begins reddish and matures to a blue-gray, making it simply stunning from spring to fall. Small hips age to brown berries that hold on through the winter.
Grow a French lady in your garden. 'Felicite Perpetue' is a rambler, growing up to 15 feet. Give it space and it will give you weeks of white flowers that open from deep pink buds. Train it along a fence so the horizontal branches will produce loads of flower stems. Another top rambler, 'Ghislaine de Feligonde', flowers with clusters of double apricot-color blooms that continue all summer and well into fall. At 8 feet, it can be trained against a wall or along a trellis. It's almost thornless, so you won't snag your clothes. Its only downside is its lack of scent.
It's almost the perfect rose: Bonica ('Meidomonac') grows into a lovely, disease-free, 4-foot-high shrub that blooms with clear-pink flowers all summer long. It may not have a scent, but you can still use it for a hedge in the vegetable or herb garden, or in pots on the deck.