English shrub roses

English shrub roses

*Disclosure: I am so excited about these two roses, which were sent to me free of charge, to test in my garden.

Roses have enchanted gardeners over the centuries with their colorful petals arranged in intricate rosette shapes, which release intoxicating fragrance into the air.  

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you’ll know about my love affair with roses and that it was this lovely flower that created my passion for gardening.

AZ Plant Lady taking time to smell the roses at the Santa Barbara Mission in California.

AZ Plant Lady taking time to smell the roses at the Santa Barbara Mission in California.

If there is a rose garden nearby, I’ll find it, excited to explore both old and newer varieties of my favorite flower.

When I first began growing roses in my Arizona garden, I used hybrid tea roses as I was obsessed with the regal beauty and upright form of their blossoms.  As the years passed and I found myself in a new home, the question was, what type of roses would I plant?  Should I go with old favorites or branch out and try new ones?

In the end, I did both.

'Mister Lincoln' hybrid tea rose

‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose

My outdoor space is broken up into separate areas and my roses grow in a raised bed in the side garden where I can view the flowering plants from my kitchen window.  Within the garden, is a single ‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose.  Of the over forty different hybrid tea roses that I’ve grown through the years, this lovely, red rose is unsurpassed in both beauty and fragrance.

The rest of the garden is home to new roses as well as several perennials that growers throughout the country send me to test out to see how the perform in the desert climate.  

'Graham Thomas' English shrub rose

‘Graham Thomas’ English shrub rose

So what are the other roses in my garden?  I’ll let you in on a secret – hybrid tea roses are no longer my rose of choice.  Why, you may ask?  Well, I’ve discovered a new category of roses that highly fragrant, have beautiful old-fashioned blooms, and are very low-maintenance. 

Rose breeders have taken the best traits from old-fashioned roses and modern roses and combined them to create the perfect type of rose, in my opinion – shrub roses.  An English breeder, David Austin, has pioneered this new type of rose and is famous for the majority of truly stunning shrub roses on the market and in gardens throughout the world.  I have several shrub roses in my garden and two new roses have recently found a home in a desert garden – mine!

I’ve grown David Austin roses in the past and currently have several in my garden.  

David Austin Roses

Receiving a package in the mail is always a welcome event, particularly when it contains plants.  The arrival of this box was initiated months ago by a conversation that I had with the folks at David Austin Roses last fall.  I was describing the success that I had with one of their newest varieties that was sent to me the previous year.  They asked me if I had had success with growing any of their red varieties and offered to send me two different red roses to see how they would perform in a desert garden.  

Fast forward four months later and a box showed up on my doorstep filled with two bare root roses.

English shrub roses

Let’s be honest, bare root roses aren’t going to win any beauty contests.  In fact, they are quite ugly, but they won’t stay that way for long.

English shrub roses

Bare root roses must remain moist and need a good soaking before being planted.  This allows the roots to help replenish any water lost as well as prepare it for planting.

English shrub roses

Allow the roses to soak for 8 – 24 hours before planting.  During this stage, some people like to add vitamin B-1 transplant solution, however, this is optional.  I remember my horticulture professor state over and over again, that there is no published studies that showed that using vitamin B-1 had any effect on successful transplanting.  If you want to add it, go ahead – I’ve never used it.

English shrub roses

The next day, it was time to plant.  Before putting the rose in the hole, you need to amend the soil – click here to see how.  When planting bare root roses, you need to create a ‘cone’ of raised soil in the middle of the hole so that the base of the rose rests on the top with its roots fanned outward.  If the roots are too long, you can cut them a little shorter.  

Fill the hole in with soil and tamp it down to get rid of any air pockets.  Create a shallow basin around the rose and water deeply.  Don’t fertilize the new rose until it has produced its first set of blooms – it needs to concentrate on growing roots first.

English shrub roses

It’s hard to believe that this cluster of naked stems will soon give life to glorious, fragrant red roses in a few months.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated as to how they do.  I can’t wait to see if these red roses do well in my desert garden.

These shrub roses can be hard to find in your local nursery, but can easily be found online

Now, something fun for you! I hope that I’ve inspired you to try growing David Austin shrub roses.  You may have noticed that I didn’t tell you what type of David Austin rose varieties that I received.  I invite you to come back for a visit when I’ll be hosting a book giveaway where you can win your own copy of “The English Roses”, which is a lovely book filled with spectacular photos and detailed information on different varieties of shrub roses.  I’ve enjoyed my copy very much and it looks great sitting on my coffee table.  

Abraham Darby Rose

Abraham Darby Rose

**What are your favorite type of roses to grow?

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

Photo: Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

I love roses.  So much so, that at one time I had over forty different varieties growing in the garden of my home in Phoenix.

Fast forward 25 years later, and I live in a different house with a different garden.  While I don’t have quite as many roses as before, I still do have a special place for several of my favorites. 

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

After growing over fifty varieties of roses, I do have a favorite one, which is ‘Mister Lincoln.’  There are so many reasons to grow this rose including dark red, velvety petals along with incredible fragrance.

I planted this bush in my newest garden last year, and I was delighted to see a single, large red bloom decorating my winter garden. What is so special about this single rose is that there are no other flowers currently blooming in this area of the garden, which makes it even that more special.

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

The leaves of my apple trees are falling in the background, and much of my garden is sleeping. However, this single Mister Lincoln rose brightens my winter garden bringing welcome beauty on a cold winter’s day.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

Do you garden in winter?

For most of us, the answer is decidely “no”.  That is also true for many of us who live in warmer climates as the shorter days often slow down plant growth.

 new roses

However, for those of us who are rose lovers, winter is a time of rejoicing as nursery shelves begin to be filled with bare root roses.   Even when I’m not shopping for new roses for the garden, I still find myself being pulled toward the new roses, seeking out my old favorites and checking for the newest varieties.

Showing my sister the rose bush at our first home in Phoenix.  (I am wearing the sweater.)

Showing my sister the rose bush at our first home in Phoenix.  (I am wearing the sweater.)

For those of you who have followed me for some time, you may recall that my love for roses got me into gardening a long time ago when high-waisted pants and permed hair were ‘cool’.  It was my love affair with roses that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.

My backyard garden space is always changing.  I used to have three vegetable gardens, but am now downsizing to two. The main reason for the change is that the third vegetable garden was somewhat further out and with my busy schedule, it wasn’t always easy to harvest and keep a close eye on it.    

mini-rose garden

So, the former vegetable garden will now serve as my new mini-rose garden.  It has enriched soil and its own irrigation line.  What is even better, is that it is located outside the kitchen window where I can view my roses daily.

 new roses

Now for the wonderful dilemma of deciding what types of roses to plant.  Back in our first home in Phoenix, I planted 40 different roses, which I lovingly cared for.

But, my life now is busier and somewhat more complicated:

– I have 5 children now vs. 2 back then.

– I work full time helping others with their landscapes, which leaves precious time for my own.

– My landscape now is much larger than in my first home.

– My second oldest daughter is living with us along with her 11 month old son temporarily.

So, I tend to gravitate toward roses that are lower maintenance needing pruning and fertilizing only twice a year.

David Austin rose

The first rose for the garden will be Graham Thomas, which is an English or David Austin rose, courtesy of the rose growers at Heirloom Roses, which is where I have gotten my roses from for years.  They have a delicious fragrance and bright yellow blossoms.  They are disease resistant and relatively fuss-free.

David Austin roses

There will be at least 2 more roses going into the garden.  One is the newest English rose introduction from David Austin roses, which is being given to me courtesy of them.

The next rose will probably be a hybrid tea or floribunda.  I’d love to hear what are your favorite roses!

I will share both choices with you once I get them.

**********************

Fall Rose, 'Double Delight'

 Fall Rose, ‘Double Delight’

In the Desert Southwest, we are blessed with two different blooming seasons – spring and again in fall.  

While two bloom seasons is generally one more than many regions experience, roses don’t enjoy the heat of summer and go into summer dormancy.  That means that they just exist and don’t grow or bloom significantly. Their leaves may show signs of sunburn.

Fall Rose, 'Medallion'

 Fall Rose, ‘Medallion’

However, once September arrives and the days begin to grow shorter and temperatures begin to cool, it is time to lightly prune your rose bushes, which will stimulate new growth. 

Begin by pruning back 1/4 of the top growth, removing sunburned foliage and any flowers present.  

As always, prune back to an outward facing bud at an angle of 45 degrees.  Seal any pruning cuts larger than the diameter of a pencil with Elmer’s glue to prevent borers.

Fall is also time to fertilize roses in preparation for their fall bloom season.  Apply an organic fertilizer formulated for roses.  Afterward, be sure to water in well.

'Abraham Darby'

 ‘Abraham Darby’

**For those that want to go the extra step, I would recommend soil amendments such as compost and manure in addition to rose fertilizer, which results in greater growth, lush foliage and blooms over the long term.  

To do this, first make 4 – 5, six-inch deep holes around each rose, placing them at least 1 ft. from the center (I use the end of a broom handle for this).  Then apply a mixture of aged steer manure and alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) and pour into each hole.  Water in well.  

The aged manure improves the soil structure and slowly releases nutrients.  The alfalfa pellets release a type of alcohol as they break down that roses just love.

By lightly pruning and fertilizing in early fall, you’ll enjoy a fall filled with beautiful roses.