Sometimes a change comes to our world that is so swift, and so complete, that in the mere blink of an eye, we can forget the way things used to be. In the gardening world, things tend to move slower, except for one. Modern roses compete for the title of “Easiest Care” and “Lowest Maintenance”, while still boasting color from spring until frost, but just 16 years ago, the idea of roses being easy to grow was merely a dream. That was when the original Knockout Rose was released for sale by Star Roses.
In the short time since, dozens of other equally easy to care for roses have hit the market in every color and shape imaginable. Collectively, these easy care roses are called shrub roses. They can be cared for just like any normal shrub, and they tend to have tighter and fuller growth than a traditional long stem rose. The shrub rose takeover has been so complete that most gardeners today completely take it for granted that they can have their pick of colorful and carefree roses to fit any of their needs. If your love affair with these amazing creations has waned, then you need to check out these 5 ways to keep your garden looking fresh with shrub roses.
- Use shrub roses as the foundation plant along the front of your house. Usually an evergreen plant is chosen for foundation plantings (the line of plants that is growing closest to the walls of the house), but often that ends up being drab and overlooked. Use Knockout Roses in the red or pink tones to create a bright show that will draw attention to your beautiful home while also framing it in the garden. To keep things looking neat in the winter when the roses lose their leaves, simply plant a lower growing evergreen like Giant Liriope in front of the roses to maintain a lush green presence year round.
- Fill in a large area of garden bed with a mass planting. Plant collecting gardeners can be guilty of trying to squeeze too many different plants into a landscape. Keep things clean and simple by installing a large swath of lower growing shrub roses with anything from the Drift Rose series or the newer Sunrosa series of plants. Choosing only one type of plant for a large area can feel like you are cheating yourself the opportunity to try new things, but maintenance will be much easier with uniformity. Choose the same color for your mass if you would like to create a huge visual impact, or mix complementary colors to get back some of that diversity. Mixing colors will reduce the impact, but make for more interesting viewing up close.
- Control where footsteps fall in your garden with a thick rose hedge. If you live in an area near a public park or popular restaurant you may have people cutting across the lawn in ways you’d rather they not. Sometimes it’s just that one neighbor who insists on cutting through your veggie patch to come over to say hi. No matter the reason, a thick planting of taller growing roses like the Knockout Rose series will definitely stop unwanted foot traffic. Plant Knockout Roses of any color in a staggered double line, and don’t worry about keeping them trimmed tightly. I’m willing to bet the thorns on those bushes will have people taking the long way around, just like you wanted.
- Use a shrub rose as the permanent feature in a large container. Plant a Double Red Knockout Rose (a beautiful flower up close) in the center of a large container. Make sure to regularly trim the lower branches to create an upright and V-shaped plant. Doing so will leave plenty of room to plant annual flowers and trailing vines around the rim of the pot while the rose give structure, height, and months of color to the combination. Try planting flowering peas from seed in the pot for the cooler months. The delicate vines will look lovely climbing over the bare winter branches of the rose which will support the gorgeous blue flowers up high for all to see.
- Use low growing shrub roses as a border plant. Border plants are usually as boring as foundation plants are. Spice things up a bit with a row of low growing Drift Roses planted between the lawn and your garden, or along the edge of a sidewalk leading to your front door. Border grass isn’t the only thing that can line a garden, and with color bursting forth from each rose your garden beds will be a show stopper from the end to end. Don’t worry about the brief few months when the plants are without leaves in the winter. A light trim up and fresh pine straw in the beds will keep them looking crisp ‘til spring starts the show all over again.
I sincerely hope you haven’t fallen out of love with shrub roses just yet. Not even 20 years ago, almost any gardener would have been willing to trade the lot of their finicky and labor intensive roses for just one easy care shrub rose. Let’s be grateful for these amazing plants we have to work with, and find the best way to bring all that color home.
*This article was written by Jonathan Burns (Tallahassee Nurseries Outdoor Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional)