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GardenSMART :: Year of the Rose

Year of the Rose

By National Garden Bureau
Photographs courtesy of National Garden Bureau

The US National Flower first appeared around 35 million years ago and is part of the Rosaceae family, which is very important for our food supply (think apples, strawberries, etc…). There are more than 150 species of roses but only a few are used in today's gardens.

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Oso Easy Urban Legend rose

Roses have been associated with the human population since the earliest recorded history. The oldest record is from China and dates back more than 7,000 years ago and their popularity has never faded since. Modern rose hybridization started in Western Europe in the 18th Century, and today there are more than 11,000 existing varieties of hybrid roses, with more being bred every year.

The rose industry is divided into 3 main areas, the Fragrance industry, the Fresh Flower/Florist industry and the Garden industry. The Fragrance industry uses mostly 2 species grown specifically for that purpose. R. Gallica and R. Damascena. The industry is concentrated on the Mediterranean basin where the climate is ideal for their culture. It takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to make 1 liter of rose oil, one of the most widely used components in making perfumes.

The Florist rose industry produces more than 1 billion stems a year in more than 30,000 acres of greenhouses worldwide. The industry started in Europe and the US near the main urban centers in the late 19th Century and has moved into areas with climates better suited for their production. Columbia and Ecuador in South America, Kenya and Ethiopia in Africa and now China and India are the major producing areas, although there is a small but growing trend in the US to produce locally grown fresh flowers once again.

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Kiss Me Easy Elegance rose

Last but not least, Garden roses have been front and center in the garden since the Middle Ages when they were widely grown for their medicinal qualities. The industry today is largely concentrated in developed countries (US, Europe, Japan, Australia…) but there are big developments in newly industrialized countries and especially in China.

There are many classes of roses, which sometimes can lead to some confusion. The most commonly sold in the US are:

  • Hybrid Tea Roses, which are the classic, long stemmed varieties
  • Grandiflora Roses, which are similar to Hybrid Teas, but usually have several blooms per stem
  • Floribunda Roses, which are more compact and multi-flowered
  • Miniature Roses, which are smaller specimens, often grown in containers as gifts
  • Climbing Roses, which are self-explanatory
  • Landscape or Shrub Roses

Landscape roses are the main component of today's North American rose industry. Once considered just a hodge-podge of varieties that did not fit any of the other categories, they have led a revolution in the landscape. The work of Dr. Buck in the 1950's at Iowa State University in the US has led to great commercial success. Meidiland® in the 1980's, Flower Carpet® in the 1990's and 2000's and now the Knock Out® and Drift® series are mainstays of the industry.

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Snowdrift Easy Elegance rose

Today the rose market in the US is estimated at about 35 million units sold each year and growing again after years of decline. About half of the total is Landscape roses, and among the other classes, Hybrid Teas are about 60%, Floribundas 30%, Climbers 15%, and Miniatures 5%. There is also a small but significant production of heirloom/heritage roses still produced by boutique nurseries.

The majority of the most popular modern hybrids is protected by US plant patents and cannot be propagated without prior consent from the breeders.

Major producers, distributors and introducers of landscape roses include, but are not limited to Star® Roses, Weeks Roses, Certified Roses, Bailey Nurseries, Flower Carpet, Proven Winner Color Choice®, Easy Elegance®, etc.

In North America, the main trends in new rose varieties are for more uses and lower maintenance. There is also a renewed interest in traditional Hybrid Tea roses providing they are fragrant and more disease resistant than existing cultivars.

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Oso Easy Mango Salsa rose

How to Grow:

Due to new breeding work, today's roses are much easier to grow than older varieties. They have been bred for vigor, disease resistance and controlled growth, meaning much less work for the home gardener.

Full sun is a must for roses because without 6 to 8 hours of full sun, you'll have fewer flowers and long, leggy (and weak) stems with a higher likelihood of disease. Roses appreciate a deep watering during dry spells and drip irrigation is ideal to avoid diseases caused by wet foliage. The three most common diseases on roses are black spot, rust, and powdery mildew. Disease pressure varies by region but humidity is the worst cause. As a whole, today's modern varieties are much more resistant, making the whole experience of growing roses easier than in the past.

Pruning Tips:

Landscape roses don't require tricky pruning, but regular pruning keeps plants compact. Pruning is vital for roses planted in tight areas such as entries or along sidewalks, and improves flowering in hedges.

Many ground-cover roses don't require pruning at all unless canes begin to reach into areas surrounding plantings. Alternatively, you can prune plants back annually by one-third to one-half to encourage fresh growth.

Using hedge shears, lightly prune plants to maintain size. Prune in winter (just before plants break dormancy in coldest zones). Also, trim lightly after a flush of blooms, as flowers fade. This type of post-bloom pruning increases flower number, yielding plants blanketed with blossoms.

Garden roses are still the number one garden plant in most countries and that trend will continue due to the continuous advances in breeding, which keeps bringing superior genetics to what is already the Queen of the Flowers. Join National Garden Bureau and the American Rose Society and make 2017 the Year of the Rose in your garden!


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