William_Shakespeare_rose_sign

I have had a love affair with roses for over 26 years.

William Shakespeare rose sign

It all began when we bought our first house. I was a young mother with two girls who was giddy with the possibilities of having her very own spot of garden to grow roses in.

local rose garden

We would take our girls around to the local rose gardens where so could see what types of roses to pick for our new rose garden.

The rose garden was located in the front yard along the side of the driveway.  At the time, money was tight so we ended up purchasing twenty different ‘grade 1 1/2’ roses for $3 each at Home Depot.

‘Grade 1’ roses are considered to be the cream of the crop and the best type to purchase based on the their size and number of canes (stems).

A few months later, my roses were in full bloom and the talk of the neighborhood (we definitely stuck out from the surrounding neighbors since we had taken out a large chunk of lawn to grow a LOT of roses).

rose garden

Many people ask if I had a favorite hybrid tea rose and the answer is “yes”.  Mr. Lincoln with its deep red blossoms which were incredibly fragrant always stands out in my memory of our first rose garden. At one time, it reached almost 6 ft. tall and had over 30 blossoms covering it.

Three years later, I had gone from 20 rose bushes to 40 – all a different type of hybrid tea or shrub rose.  I realize that I maybe went a little overboard, but I loved growing roses – no two roses were the same.

Whenever we were traveling, if there was a rose garden nearby – we would visit it…

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

That's me posing by the roses and the castle.

That’s me posing by the roses and the castle in 2003.

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

After we sold our home in Phoenix, we moved out to the suburbs to be closer to my husband’s job. As we built our new home, I knew that I did want room for a few roses.

Love Affair With Roses: Looking Forward and Back

After adopting our three youngest kids, I was eager to share my love for roses with them.  They each picked out their own rose from a rose catalog and helped plant them.  It was a fun experience, complete with finding earthworms in the soil and more.

While their roses did grow, they didn’t have the best location, which was rather shady and so they turned out rather straggly.  Needless to say, they were pulled out a couple of years later.

Even though I didn’t have roses growing in my garden, I still went out of my way to enjoy them whenever I found myself on the road.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon in 2015.

Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA.

Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA in 2016.

A few years ago, I realized that my love affair with roses never ended and that it was time to think seriously about growing a few again.

Surprisingly, not a single one is a hybrid tea rose. In fact, all are David Austin shrub roses.

Shrub roses are easier to grow, more resistant to disease and insect pests and smell amazing!

One of the cool aspects of being a local garden expert is the the folks at David Austin send me free roses to test in my garden. In return, I tell them how they do in the desert climate and share my findings with you too!

‘Olivia Rose’ David Austin Shrub Rose

My favorites for the desert garden are ‘Ancient Mariner’, ‘Darcey Bussell’, ‘Lady of Sharlott” and ‘Olivia Rose’. All of these are available through mail order via this link.

I am so happy that I have returned to growing the plant that inspired my passion for gardening years ago.

Winter is the best time to add new bare root roses to the desert garden. I invite you to consider adding some to your garden.

**Have you ever grown roses?  Do you have a favorite type? If you find yourself overwhelmed by the different types of roses there are to pick from, I have written an article for Houzz, which looks closer at several of the most popular roses in order to help people select the best type of rose for their garden.

What Kind of Roses Should You Grow?

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

6 replies
  1. Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow
    Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow says:

    I hope it works well this time. Mr. Lincoln is one of my favorites, but it seems the shrubs and the climbers do well here, and I cover them in the summer. Unfortunately, their names have since worn away but the white with the blush of pink in the middle does best, and then a fragrant bright pink one with large blossoms does well as well as another white one with large blossoms. I have them on a sprayer with a low height and water twice a day, instead of just once at the base in the morning. I have not had molds, but one year I had aphids, and I took care of them with a mixture of tobacco and listerine. I heard a lot depends on the soil in your area which varies quite a bit around here, so mine are in raised beds.

  2. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    It's interesting to me that roses thrive in so many different climates. I never think of them as an Arizona desert type flower. After the last two rough winters we had here in Ohio, my roses were rather scraggly. This winter has been very mild, so I'm hoping they'll return to their former glory.

  3. Seasons
    Seasons says:

    My mom had a climbing Mr. Lincoln on the side of our front porch in Albuquerque, and it was always one of my favorites! Red is my favorite color, and the scent was divine! Another favorite was Joseph's Coat, it was a floribunda or graniflora, and so the blooms were smaller, thorns more profuse and tiny and painful, but I loved how the peachy color emerged, and shades of link and yellow! I had my own rose garden in Albuquerque, too, and my favorite was Double Delight. When we moved to AZ in 2003, I decided I didn't want to mess with roses anymore. I have loved getting acquainted with the plants of the desert, experimenting with them, and mostly embracing this new land. I must admit I miss forsythia and globe willow trees showing that spring has sprung! And I plant geraniums and petunias in December, even though it is still just not right to me! I miss spring in the springtime! And fall in December and January is better than no fall at all, but we try to go somewhere each September to enjoy real fall color.

  4. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you all for taking time to comment on my rose post! No matter where you garden, roses have the ability to stand out in both our minds and garden, creating wonderful memories. I am trying to be patient waiting for my new Mr. Lincoln to leaf out – hopefully soon!!!

    Best,
    Noelle (AZ Plant Lady)

  5. jeansgarden
    jeansgarden says:

    I'm about to plant my first roses this coming year. It has been a challenge to choose the right ones because I need cold-hardy roses for my Maine garden, but I also want fragrant roses. (It turns out that fragrance was traded off for hardiness in the breeding of many the cold-hardy varieties.)I used Peter Kukielski's book Roses Without Chemicals to identify good candidates and ended up with a list of about a dozen that meet my needs. I'm looking forward to this new gardening adventure. -Jean

  6. jeansgarden
    jeansgarden says:

    I'm about to plant my first roses this coming year. It has been a challenge to choose the right ones because I need cold-hardy roses for my Maine garden, but I also want fragrant roses. (It turns out that fragrance was traded off for hardiness in the breeding of many the cold-hardy varieties.)I used Peter Kukielski's book Roses Without Chemicals to identify good candidates and ended up with a list of about a dozen that meet my needs. I'm looking forward to this new gardening adventure. -Jean

Comments are closed.