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Ravishing Roses

Ravishing Roses

By Ping Lim, rosarian and director of ornamental plant research, Altman Plants
Photographs courtesy of True Bloom Roses by Altman Plants

With the arrival of 2022 coming soon, there has never been a better time to be a rose gardener. While rose lovers have enjoyed a beautiful abundance of choices to grow in their gardens for a long time, it has only been relatively recently that rose breeders have concentrated on developing roses that are resistant to disease, easy to grow, and easy to maintain. Achieving these three highly desirable traits is a wonderful thing, a way to attract gardeners who admire the incredible, timeless beauty of a rose flower but who are afraid that roses require too much effort. Indeed, selecting the right rose for your area is the key to success. Four of the five roses discussed in this narrative are appropriate for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 10. The other is even a fit for zone 4.

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The accomplishments in creating roses that are far less fussy and more resistant to stress-inducing elements, like black spot, cold, and heat, have in some cases come at the expense of classic, beloved traits like fragrance and petal count. Would it be too much to ask for roses that exemplify the best of both worlds – the resiliency and more easygoing nature of a shrub rose combined with the showy splendor of a hybrid tea?

A rose that stuns eyes and warms hearts without later causing one to pull his or her hair out is desirable. That was a goal growers such as Altman Plants wanted to pursue and to pursue vigorously. The Southern California-based grower created its rose breeding program in 2012 with the aim of developing roses that could be grown easily like a shrub rose, but bloom like a traditional rose with high petal count and a long blooming season of large flowers. To go about realizing this goal, the Altman Plants program started crossing roses, a lot of roses. The program crosses as many as 30,000 roses annually, generating 300,000 seeds each year.

So far, just a handful of the most robust, disease-resistant, and eye-catching roses have graduated from the program, having proved their mettle through trialing in a wide range of climates, from Connecticut to Florida, New York to California – all growing on their own roots. These five hybrid varieties, all either patented in the U.S. or patent pending, make up Altman Plants’ True Bloom Roses collection.

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In many ways, the True Passion rose has served as the leading trailblazer of the program, displaying a remarkable resiliency to environmental stressors, while also producing fiery orange-red double flowers that retain their bright color throughout the blooming season. This is a shrubby hybrid tea that grows to five feet tall and three feet wide. The flowers are three and a half-inches in diameter, feature 25 to 30 petals and give off a medium, peppery scent. It has shown to tolerate drought conditions remarkably well for a rose. Cold hardy to zone 4. It was a winner of the Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea at the Biltmore International Rose Trials in 2016 and named a 2018 A.R.T.S. Master Rose by the American Rose Trials for Sustainability.

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With its cheery yellow flowers, it is rather easy to distinguish True Friendship from the oranges, pinks and reds of its True Bloom siblings. True Friendship is a classic, profusely blooming floribunda rose with sweetly aromatic three-inch flowers, warm yellow petals numbering 35 to 40 and glossy green foliage. It is a compact grower, maxing out at around three feet high and wide. Cold hardy to zone 5, it was a winner of the Floribunda Gold Medal at the Rose Hills International Rose Trials in 2016.

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True Gratitude is a vigorous, climbing shrub rose featuring glossy, dark green foliage and large, deep magenta flowers that produce a notable, spicy fragrance. Boasting a six by four-foot habit, it performs well in the landscape and as a cut flower; it can be trained as a climber on a trellis, pergola, wall or fence. The three and a half-inch flowers feature 25-30 petals and appear in repeat flushes until frost. It was a winner of the Gilded Age Award for Best Climber at the Biltmore International Rose Trials in 2015, and is cold hardy to zone 5.

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True Inspiration produces oversized, peony-inspired pink flowers, blooming repeatedly throughout the season. It behaves and looks one part hybrid tea and one part shrub rose, boasting strong, sturdy stems and growing up to five feet tall and four feet wide. The four-inch flowers, with 50-plus petals, have a mild, green pepper-like scent and age well, reducing the temptation to pinch them past their peak. Cold hardy to zone 5.

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True Sincerity stands out from its True Bloom brethren with its eye-catching, multicolored flowers. This floribunda rose produces striking three-inch blooms across a range of pinks, oranges and yellows with 30+ petals, blooming constantly throughout the season. It displays a healthy, compact three by three-foot form of glossy, dark green foliage. The flowers complete their cycles cleanly. It is cold hardy to zone 5.

Planting and Care Tips

Care requirements are very similar across the five varieties, which are sold at garden centers in two-gallon pots. Dig a planting hole of two feet by two feet, with at least two to three feet of space between plants. In the case of the larger varieties, you’ll want to stretch out to four feet. Roses do best in a well-drained, loamy soil containing organic compost. Water thoroughly after planting and water three times per week after new growth. Plant them where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. If growing the roses in containers, they do not need to be repotted until year three. After year three, they will require five-gallon or larger containers.

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Deadhead to encourage repeat blooming more quickly. Prune in early spring to rejuvenate the plant, encouraging new basal shoots. The amount will depend on the age and size of the plant, but figure on pruning to 12 to 20 inches above ground level. Top-dress with a slow-release fertilizer after pruning. For feeding throughout the growing season, fertilize two times a week with a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer during spring and summer and once a week in fall for warmer regions such as Southern California. Zone 8 and below should stop feeding by fall to encourage dormancy. No application in winter is needed. Happy and healthy roses that are watered and fed properly should not require insect or disease control. Better to let nature take its course, allowing predators to handle any pesky insects.

And, a welcome bonus: Tending to a happy, healthy rose garden has a way of encouraging that indelible rose magic and romance to find its way inside one’s home as well.

Ping Lim is a rosarian and the director of ornamental plant research for Altman Plants. For more information about True Bloom Roses, please visit www.altmanplants.com.


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