WITH LUSCIOUS BLOOMS, many of them fragrant, produced for months on end in every color of the rainbow except blue (just wait — plant breeders are working on that), what’s not to love about roses? How about blackspot, bugs and wicked thorns, or a complicated pruning and feeding regimen? Turns out, the key to growing beautiful roses in the Pacific Northwest is choosing varieties that will thrive in our growing region.
Just in time for the summer round of Seattle Grows, the botanical party game (that I made up), I reached out to Nita-Jo Rountree, lover of all blooming plants, but especially roses, and asked her to recommend her favorite roses that Pacific Northwest gardeners should be growing. “I love recommending roses,” she says. “But I only recommend disease-free varieties.” Perfect.
● ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ is a frilly pink confection from English rosarian David Austin. “No disease, almost constantly in bloom and wonderfully fragrant,” Rountree enthuses. The plant has an upright bushy habit and grows to about 3 feet tall by 30 inches wide.
● If long-stemmed red beauties are your cup of (hybrid) tea, then you’ll want to seek out ‘Grande Amore’, a multiple-award-winning 2004 introduction from Kordes with classic red blooms on disease-free plants with lustrous glossy foliage. The plant has an upright habit and grows 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
● Grandiflora roses set their blooms in generous clusters; each stem is like an instant bouquet. ‘South Africa’ is a vigorous grandiflora that has wonderfully scented golden-yellow flowers with a high-centered bloom form. “This rose should be the eighth wonder of the world,” Rountree declares. The plant has an upright growth habit with growth to 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
● Floribunda roses are relatively compact, rounded shrubs that bloom profusely. ‘At Last’, a recent introduction from Proven Winners, produces blooms from late spring all the way until the first hard frost, without deadheading. The flowers appear in delicious shades of orange with a fragrance that Rountree describes as “heavenly.” Mounded shrubs with disease-free foliage grow 3 feet tall and as wide.
● Shrub roses work beautifully in a variety of garden applications. These are the go-to landscape roses that have won over even most the rose-hesitant among us in recent years. With prolific blooms, extreme disease resistance and an informal growth habit, this loosely defined class of rose is ideal for hedging or planting a mixed-shrub border. Rountree’s favorite is ‘Braveheart’. “Another red. I can’t help myself,” she says. With large, multipetaled flowers that have an old-fashioned flair and a rich velvety red hue, it’s easy to see why. This shrub grows to 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
For more delectable roses suited to life in our gardens, check out Rountree’s book, “Growing Roses in the Pacific Northwest” (Sasquatch Books, 2017). The beautifully illustrated, comprehensive and easy-to-read guide covers basic rose care and cultivation — Rountree abides by a no-spray approach — and even touches on a variety of strategies for designing with roses. The author describes 90 of the best varieties for our gardens and provides numerous nursery resources so you can begin your collection.