Monday, May 30, 2011

Hardiness of Climbers and Ramblers at Der Rosenmeister’s

As a follow up to my last posting, I have assessed all the climbers and ramblers that were well established in my garden prior to the past winter. Roses that were planted at the end of the summer or fall were not included.

These roses had NO dieback at all: Aenchen Von Tharau, Alchymist, Alexander McKenzie, American Pillar, Asta Von Parpart, Aurelia Liffa, Awakening, Bleu Magenta, Blushing Lucy, Brite Eyes, Captain Samuel Holland, Corporal Johann Nagy, De La Grifferaie, Dr. Hurta, Dorothy Perkins, Dusterlohe, Erinnerung an Brod, Evangeline, Excelsa, Forstmeister’s Heim, Futtaker Schlingrose, Gerbe Rose, Geschwind’s Nordlandrose, Geschwind’s Orden, Geschwind’s Schonste, Goldbusch, Himmelsauge, Isabella Skinner, Jasmina, John Cabot, John Davis, Josephine Ritter, Laure Davoust, Leverkusen, Lillian Gibson, Long John Silver, Maigold, Manita, Marie Dermar, Marie Victorin, Minnehaha, Nymphe Egeria, Ovid, Polstjarnen, Prinz Hirzeprinzchen, Quadra, Ramblin Red, Rosarium Uetersen, Russelliana, Scharlachglut, Summer Wine, Super Dorothy, Theano, Thor, Veilchenblau, Venusta Pendula, White Dorothy, White Mountains, William Baffin, William Booth, Winner’s Circle, Wodan

These roses had up to 10% dieback: Climbing American Beauty, Birdie Blye, Doctor Van Fleet, Dortmund, Hamburger Phoenix, Illusion, Ilse Krohn Superior, Laguna, Lavender Lassie, Leopold Ritter, May Queen, Parkdirektor Riggers, Red Cascade, Rosa kordesii, Sparrieshoop, Summer Breeze, Ulmer Munster, Viking Queen, Weetwood.

These roses had between 10 and 50% dieback: Aloha Hawaii, Amadeus, Amaretto, Gelber Engel, Golden Arctic, Golden Gate, Golden Glow, Goldener Olymp, Goldstern, Lichtkonigen Lucia, Moonlight, Red Corsair, Rhode Island Red, White Cap, Zeus.

These roses are crown hardy: Aloha, Antike 89, Autumn Sunset, Salita, Westerland

So, what generalizations have I come to this spring?

  • Once blooming ramblers and climbers are very hardy
  • Canadian Explorer roses are very hardy
  • Roses hybridized by Geschwind are very hardy
  • Roses with R. kordesii in their background vary in hardiness.
  • The older varieties of hybrid kordesii are hardier than the newer ones with the exception of Jasmina and Laguna
  • Brownell climbers experience significant dieback
  • Yellow climbers are less hardy than climbers of other colors

Note: There might be some variation in comparing your experience with mine, as hardiness is also affected by micro-climates or the positioning of a rose within your garden. Please comment on your experience with these roses after this past winter. Include your location and growing zone. I’ve got to get back to mowing before it rains again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Essential Tools in My Rose Garden

There are three main tasks in the rose garden- planting, pruning and weeding. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the past thirty years or so, using a variety of tools and have some ideas on which ones work best.

For planting, I swear by the King of Spades Nursery Spade. It is all steel with a zinc plated rust resistant finish. The blade is 13” long. This spade has a D grip handle and a rubber foot pad that can be mounted on either side of the spade adding more cushion to protect your foot. It takes all the abuse you can give it and is none the worse for wear. I’ve gone through so many “lifetime guaranteed” spades. This spade will outlast me! I like the weight and size. You can order it through A.M. Leonard, (

When I first started pruning roses, I didn’t know the difference between an anvil and a by-pass pruner. In case you didn't know, you never want to use an anvil pruner. It will compress and damage plant tissue. I don’t know why anyone would ever use one. There are so many different brands and styles of by-pass pruner. Like shoes you have to try them on for size. The cheap ones are just that - cheap and not worth using. You can spend way too much money though, on a pair of good pruners. I’ve found the Corona ¾ inch capacity 7 7/8 inch overall length to be the best buy for the money. This brand and style has served me well. You can order it through A.M. Leonard as well, ( I am hoping to try out some of the newer ergonomically designed pruners this summer and will let you know what I think of them.

I spend countless hours on my knees weeding hundreds of feet of rose beds despite my best mulching efforts. I used to swear by the Hori-Hori Knife for weeding. The name means “dig-dig.” This knife was long enough and strong enough to dig out the taproots of dandelions. It came with a leather sheath that fastened to my belt. I wore it every day through the gardening season. One problem was that even when wearing gloves, I’d often develop a blister in the palm of my hand after using it for extended periods of time. This spring, I discovered the Perennial Planter. What a joy. It is hand-made in Holland and the most efficient weeder I’ve ever laid my hands on. Weeding goes so much faster. No blisters in my palms. The long T handle is comfortable and lets me apply greater force using my whole arm. Not only can I easily dig out dandelion roots, but curly dock and burdock come out relatively easily as well! You can order one online at

Recently, I heard about bionic rose gardening gloves. They look interesting. I think I might have to order a pair… By the way, what tools have you found to be essential in your rose garden?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cold Hardiness- What does that really mean?

A winter like the one we just had puts roses through their paces. As I was pruning this spring, I found it fascinating to look at the range of winter damage in the cold hardy roses I grow. Some had no dieback at all. At the other end of the spectrum are the few that die back to within inches of the ground. Why is that, when these roses are listed hardy to zone 5?

Cold hardiness is the lowest temperature a rose can live through without injury. Varying amounts of dieback could the result of growing conditions the summer or fall before, as well as what the spring is like. Roses are better able to withstand a cold winter after a good growing season. It allows them to develop good rooting and branching systems and store food for the coming year. Roses that produce lots of new growth late in the growing season are more prone to damage. New wood does not have time to harden off. Roses need a gradual cooling in the fall to acclimate to the cold. See saw temperatures interfere with this process. A gradual warming in the spring is just as important to minimize damage. Early warming triggers some roses to bud out earlier and those buds can be damaged by the colder temperatures that soon follow. So the answer to the question is- some varieties are programmed genetically to adjust their physiology to cold weather better than others.

Some cultivars have no dieback at all. Roses that lose no more than ten per cent of their growth are called tip hardy. Once-blooming roses need to be tip hardy. They bloom on old wood (last year’s growth). If too much of that wood is destroyed, they will not flower. Roses that repeat bloom flower on both old and new growth. They can withstand more dieback and still flower well. Vigorous repeat blooming roses can die back to the ground (crown hardy) and still flower on the new wood produced that year. One needs to ask/know not only whether a rose is hardy in a certain zone, but whether it is tip hardy or crown hardy in that zone and whether it is a once bloomer or repeat bloomer.

I find that using crown hardy roses for groundcovers makes spring cleanup much easier. I cut off the damaged canes within inches of the ground, do whatever weeding needs to be done and reapply a heavy layer of mulch. The weeding and mulching would be painful operations if those same plants were tip hardy, as I'd have to be working under and around them. By June the ground between the roses will be covered with canes and flowers. I like the rest of my roses (shrubs, climbers and ramblers) to be at least tip hardy, as I like substantial plants. There are always exceptions, of course. Antike 89 by Kordes is the one climbing rose I grow that loses many/most of its canes each winter. It has very double, bi-colored blooms and shiny, dark green foliage that stays clean all season. This year, it died to the ground. By June, it will be at least 6 feet tall and covered with blossoms. By September, it will be 8-10’ tall. The new growth is extremely vertical, so it works well as a pillar. The canes are too stiff to fan out on a trellis or wind around a chain for a catenary.

It’s all about knowing the right rose for the situation you have. If you have any questions about what is the right rose for you, please ask.