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When thinking about roses, most people envision hybrid teas. However, being susceptible to disease, the hybrid tea is arguably the “fussiest” of roses. Want a hardier, disease-resistant rose? Seasoned rose growers would opt for the old-fashioned and “landscape” roses.
Old-Fashioned Roses (Heirlooms)
Sometimes referred to as “heirloom” or “old garden roses,” old-fashioned roses are the predecessors of today’s roses—some even date back to the time of the Roman Empire. These are typically fragrant and offer a delicate, somewhat subtle, beauty. A diverse and hardy group, well suited for colder climates, heirlooms include albas, bourbons, centifolias, damasks, gallicas, noisettes, and rugosas, among others.
Best Old-Fashioned Rose Varieties
There’s a reason that the old garden roses are still grown today—they are extremely hardy and healthy and often very fragrant.
Rosa ‘Apothecary’s Rose’ (gallica, light red, fragrant)
Rosa ‘Ballerina’ (hybrid musk, blush)
Rosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ (rugosa, white, highly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Duchesse de Montebello’ (gallica, soft pink, fragrant)
Rosa ‘The Fairy’ (polyantha, pink)
Rosa ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’ (noisette, pearl pink, highly fragrant)
“Landscape” roses have this name because of their shrub form, which makes them ideal for mass plantings that add lots of color to the landscape. These roses have a strong horizontal growth habit and roots that grow along the ground—they can be thought of as short ramblers.
Members of this group are ideal for mass plantings such as hedges, and, because they root themselves, they are a good choice for preventing erosion on steep slopes. An en masse planting of repeat bloomers also adds depth and a bit of drama to the landscape.
Best Landscape Rose Varieties
Landscape Roses Landscape or “shrub” roses are often overlooked in favor of hybrid teas, but they make excellent additions to a garden, as they tend to bloom throughout the growing season.
Rosa ‘Carefree Celebration’ (pink-orange, bushy habit)
Rosa ‘Carefree Spirit’ (red, glossy foliage, bushy habit)
Rosa x ‘Noamel’ (pastel pink, glossy green foliage, groundcover)
Rosa ‘Fire Meidiland’ (red, glossy foliage, low-growing)
Rosa ‘White Out’ (white, dark green foliage, bushy habit)
Flower Carpet Roses, Coral Groundcover
Unlike hybrid teas, the old-fashioned and landscape varieties are generally not plagued by the primary diseases affecting roses: black spot, powdery mildew, and rust. None of these is inherently fatal, but all can severely compromise the health of a plant and are certainly unsightly. Black spot is particularly difficult to control, and it is highly contagious from shrub to shrub. In fact, it can cause a rose to drop all of its foliage, resulting in denuded canes that can no longer photosynthesize.
Hybrid Tea Roses
However, if you simply can’t resist hybrid teas, the best defense against black spot and its comrades in crime is to buy disease-resistant varieties. Rose breeders have been hybridizing for this characteristic for decades, so there is a profusion of options from which to choose. However, there is a catch: Disease-resistant roses are rarely fragrant; fragrance is a characteristic passed on from a recessive gene, which is often lost during hybridization.
Best Hybrid Rose Varieties
There’s no denying the appeal of hybrid teas. Choose disease-resistant varieties even if it means sometimes sacrificing fragrance—healthy shrubs loaded with blooms are reward enough!
Rosa ‘Auguste Renoir’ (medium pink, highly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Electron’ (medium pink, highly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Frederic Mistral’ (soft pink, highly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Love and Peace’ (yellow and pink, slightly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Olympiad’ (red) R. ‘Sheer Bliss’ (pearl white)
Rosa ‘Tiffany’ (medium pink, highly fragrant)
Rosa ‘Voodoo’ (multicolor yellow, peach, salmon, apricot, and red)
Rose breeders are constantly trying to hybridize for both qualities—there are a few such roses on the market, but the majority of “bulletproof” hybrid teas are not going to perfume your garden. And that’s okay! There are other flowering shrubs up to the task.
Choose roses that you know will be healthy—they will add beauty to your garden with their glossy foliage and bright blooms. Leave fragrance to the lilacs.
The truth is, once you open up your mind to the idea of a garden sans hybrid teas, there are roses as far as the eye can see (and the nose can smell)!
More Rose Recommendations
The David Austins combine the fragrance of old roses with the disease resistance and repeat blooming of today’s modern roses. ‘The Mayflower’, ‘Winchester Cathedral’, and ‘Graham Thomas’ are exceptional varieties.
The Knockout family of roses and the Carefree rose series are robust in health and prolific bloomers. You really can’t go wrong with any of the knockouts; The Blushing Knockout, The Double Knockout, and The Sunny Knockout are all stunners.
An excellent group of landscape roses are Flower Carpet roses, also known as The Carpet Rose. Their unique double root system (they have deep roots as well as soil-surface roots) makes them able to tolerate dry conditions. A few high performers include: ‘Apple Blossom’, which produces a profusion of pastel pink blooms from late spring through fall; ‘Coral’, a salmon-colored low-grower; and ‘White’, brilliant for its snowy blooms.