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Coming Up Roses

Cape Cod rosarians share scoops on how to make this favorite—but sometimes capricious—plant a showstopping success in seaside gardens.

roses

Roses ranging in color decorate the side of a Cape Cod cottage. Photo by Terry Pommet

Roses have always had a singular allure; it’s no wonder that Cape Cod residents and visitors alike treasure these flowers. In general, roses do well in seaside locations, and they are treasured for gracing our landscapes with color during the summer and fall.

Success with roses isn’t necessarily a given, however. Some varieties do better than others and they require proper planting and some on-going maintenance. Two of Cape Cod’s premier rosarians, Irwin Ehrenreich and William “Oz” Osborn, agree that if the right plant is chosen and placed in the correct growing conditions, roses can thrive and provide years of pleasure.

“Roses aren’t difficult to grow,” says Oz, who is a master gardener living in Harwich. He has had plenty of experience raising these plants both on the Cape and elsewhere. “We moved over 300 roses from our garden in New Jersey when we moved to the Cape 15 years ago,” he explains. “We were serious rose growers for seven years before we moved, being very active in the Garden State Rose Society.”

roses

Pink rose intertwine through the structure of this archway. Photo by C.L. Fornari

Irwin, owner of The Rose Man design and rose care service (www.therosemannursery.com) agrees that given the right attention, roses can be grown in any sunny garden. The first key to success with these plants is that crucial word: sunny.
Before any rose plants are purchased the homeowner should assess the amount of nonstop sunlight that falls on the garden over the course of an entire day. “Most roses need at least six-hours of direct sun,” Irwin explains, “and more is better.”

Roses are most likely to thrive when those hours of sunshine include the noon hour when the light is strongest. So finding these areas is the first step to success. “If you put a bush in the wrong place around your home or garden,” Oz advises, “you’ll be disappointed when that plant’s performance doesn’t meet your expectations.”

The next important action is undertaken when the rose is purchased. “Most people get in trouble buying beauty at the nursery,” Oz explains. Garden centers are frequently filled with many types of roses, and often these plants are budded or in bloom.

Shoppers usually fall for plants that have the type of blooms that look as if they’re fresh from the florist, but these types may not be the easiest to keep alive. “Hybrid teas are very difficult to grow and require special care,” says Oz.

roses

Roses that specialize in “climbing” make for the perfect floral feature to grow up and over a garden accent, like this archway. Photo by Terry Pommet

Irwin agrees saying, “Picking roses that are disease magnets, such as the hybrid teas, and not taking the time to care for them is one way people can go wrong. This type of rose is also the first to die over a severe winter.”

Both rosarians agree that there are some Floribunda and Grandiflora type roses that are more problem-free than the Hybrid Teas. Grandiflora roses have shorter stems than the hybrid teas, but with similar “florist” flowers, and Floribundas have large clusters of blossoms on each branch.

Most climbing roses are even easier than those listed above, and they are naturals for growing on Cape style houses. Every gardener has his or her favorite climbers, such as the small-flowered “American Pillar” that covers many of the houses on Nantucket to the fragrant and repeat flowering “Collette.”

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A single yellow rose in bloom. Photo by Terry Pommet

When asked to name his three favorites, Irwin Ehrenreich says, “It’s hard to pick just three. Thirty would be easier.” Nevertheless, he goes on to identify “Autumn Sunset,” “America,” and “Eden” as three good choices.

“‘Autumn Sunset’ is a great climber for the Cape,” Irwin explains. “It grows 10 to 12 feet tall, has a strong fruity fragrance, and takes some shade. It’s also disease resistant and winter hardy.”

“‘America’ is a climber that you see throughout this area for good reason,” Irwin continues. “It’s covered with coral-pink flowers all summer, has a spicy fragrance and is very winter hardy. And ‘Eden,’ my third pick, has an old-fashioned, very full, pastel pink bloom, and is disease resistant.”

Oz Osborn names three others that gardeners should consider. “‘Jeanne Lajoie,’” he says, “is always in bloom, extremely hardy and covers our 90-foot fence. It has pink flowers. ‘New Dawn’ is a climber that will grow under any conditions, and it has a super pale pink bloom that will stop cars on the road. Just make sure that you give this one plenty of room,” he cautions.

roses

Jeanne Lajoie roses spread like wildflower across the exterior siding and fencing of the home. Photo by Terry Pommet

Oz ends his choice of three with “Sally Holmes.” “I like ‘Sally Holmes’ because it has huge, white, long-lasting flowers, long canes, and is very disease-resistant.”

Shrub roses are also easy to grow and many of these bloom all summer as well. Oz and Irwin list “Bonica” and “The Fairy” (both soft pink), “Double Knock Out” (rose red), “Blushing Knockout” (shell pink), “Distant Drums” (tan-mauve), and “Macy’s Pride” (lemon yellow) as some of their favorites.

No matter which cultivar is chosen, however, preparing the soil and caring for the plants afterward is key to your success. Amend the soil with compost or composted manure spread over a wide area, and dig these materials in deeply. Use at least one 40-pound bag per rose, but two bags would be even better. When planting roses it’s better to be generous rather than frugal.

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Up close detailing of the Jeanne Lajoie. Photo by Terry Pommet

At the same time, mix in an organic fertilizer such as Rose-Tone to the area, and place your plant in the center of this enriched soil. Covering the area with two inches of bark mulch after the roses are planted will keep the moisture more constant and help prevent weeds. Regular applications of fertilizer and good, deep soakings with water once or twice a week will also help these plants to preform well.

Finally, Oz recommends seeking out like minds when it comes to dealing with questions and problems that may arise. “The Lower Cape Rose Society usually meets on the third Saturday of the month, at 10 a.m.,” he says, “at the Harwich Community Center.”

This group is a hands-on, educationally motivated club that uses the Millie and Tip O’Neill Rose Garden outside of the center for pruning, deadheading, and other instruction. The general public is welcome at all meetings where they can enjoy the monthly program and have their questions answered.

Given the climate on Cape Cod, a wealth of plants to choose from, and friendly, accessible support from area rosarians, it’s no wonder that this area is a rose lover’s dream.

C.L. Fornari is a well-known gardening expert on the Cape and Islands. She is an author, a lecturer, and a radio host on numerous gardening subjects.



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