Rose Gardening in Containers
Growing roses in tubs, barrels, planters or other containers
is a reflection of how today’s society wants both versatility
and mobility in their home and garden designs. Portable rose
plantings are not only a decorative addition to any part of
the outdoor living area. They are also a perfect way to change
the look of the landscape from month to month or year to year.
Roses in pots extend the scope and possibilities of gardening.
Wide walkways can be highlighted with tubs of roses spotted
here and there. Steps to the front or back door can be graced
with the beauty and fragrance of roses. Miniature roses can
dress up window boxes in the summer, and then be brought indoors
in winter to perk up the house.
Patios, decks and terraces have become favorite spots for
entertaining and relaxing on warm summer days and evenings.
Planters teeming with the color and fragrance of the world's
favorite flower add to the pleasure of these moments. At night,
a white or pastel rose, such as Cherish, French Lace, or Rose
Parade illuminates a dark setting. Bring color right down to
the swimming pool with pots of roses set around the perimeter.
If you have a spot for a hanging basket, fill it with miniature
roses for a continuous display of summer color, then move the
basket indoors for the winter. Select a trailing variety and
let the flowers cascade from tree limbs, overhangs, and brackets.
For gardeners “without a garden”, containers make
it possible to grow roses on balconies, terraces, and rooftops
that are high above city streets. The limited gardening space
that comes with condos, town houses and brownstones can be multiplied
with portable planters.
Movable roses should be the shorter?growing varieties of the
modern?day hybrid roses because they are more compact and have
great flourishes of flowers throughout the summer. Good selections
are New Year, Showbiz, Impatient, Intrigue, Sun Flare, Mon Cheri,
Marina, Charisma, First Edition, Cathedral, Bahia, Electron,
Redgold, Gene Boerner, Angel Face, Europeana, Garden Party,
Sarabande, or Ivory Fashion.
Tree roses of all sizes are perfect for containers and should
be placed wherever an accent is needed. Plant colorful geraniums,
sweet alyssum, or other annuals at the base to fill in the void,
soften the lines, and create two levels of interest.
Containers can be any shape—round or hexagonal—as
long as they are 18 inches across and 14 inches deep for proper
root development (except for minis, which can grow in smaller
containers). Use pots made of plastic, clay, terra cotta, ceramic,
metal or wood. All they need to be effective is drainage at
the bottom. If you're working with a planter that does not have
drainage holes, add a thick layer of gravel at the bottom of
the container so the roots do not become waterlogged. Pots can
be heavy and difficult to move about, so casters are an excellent
All roses need at least six hours of sun each day. Ideally,
place movable roses where they receive morning sun and some
protection from the midday heat. Also, try to keep them out
of drying winds. If the plants receive uneven sun and start
growing in one direction to reach the light, rotate them often
to keep their growth straight.
Roses in containers will need more water than the same roses
in the ground. Not only are all sides of the container subject
to drying sun and winds, there is also no ground water to fall
back on. Watch planters carefully and water whenever the growing
medium starts to dry out. Water until moisture runs from the
bottom of the container. A layer of mulch on top of the planter
will help keep the roots of the roses moist and cool.
Planting medium for containers should be rich and well drained.
A packaged or homemade mix of half organic matter, such as peat
moss or compost, and half perlite or vermiculite is ideal. Just
as roses in pots must be watered often, they must also be fertilized
frequently. Feed each week with a soluble fertilizer at 1/4
strength for even growth and flowering.
When winter comes, move the pots into an unheated but frost?free
area, keep the soil slightly moist, cover with plastic and return
them to the outdoors in spring.
Roses—Breeding and Toughness
The thousands of different roses available today all trace
their heritage back to 12 dozen or so species-roses that grow
in the wild. The process of developing and obtaining new roses
is called hybridization. In this process, the pollen from one
plant fertilizes the ovary of another. The plants from the resulting
seeds will all be different.
This process can happen naturally, thanks to bees and other
pollinating insects. Man can also create hybrids, and in the
last 100-plus years, has raised it to a fine art, continually
improving both flowers and plants. The overall procedure is
lengthy—the time from the initial crossing to when the
plant is introduced to the public is seven to ten years of painstaking
Before the cross is made, the hybridizer selects the parent
plants, taking into account color, form, hardiness, disease
resistance, foliage, etc. Next, the outer petals of the selected
parents are removed, exposing the reproductive organs. All roses
have both male and female parts. In the center of the flower
are the female organs—pistils and bare pollen?producing
To prevent self?pollination, the anthers are removed on the
"mother" plants. The anthers on the "father"
plant are harvested, labeled, and stored. About a day later,
a sticky substance forms on the stigmas. The anthers release
the dust?size pollen at about the same time, at which point
it is brushed on the stigmas.
The rose is now labeled with information such as date and
parentage. A bag is placed over the pollinated flower, protecting
it from any further pollination. If fertilization occurred,
the area beneath the reproductive organs begins to swell. This
is the hip, or fruit, of the rose. It ripens in several months,
is harvested, and the seeds removed.
The seeds are then cleaned and stratified, a process in which
the seeds are placed in small containers of peat moss and stored
at 40 degrees F. for six weeks, before being planted. Growing
in a greenhouse, the first flowers may appear within seven to
eight weeks after germination, giving an indication of this
new plant's potential.
A hybridizer may look over as many as a hundred thousand seedlings
each year, with 99 percent discarded at some point during the
first growing season. What makes this part of the job even more
difficult than it sounds is that sometimes a promising?looking
seedling will not do well when budded onto rootstock and grown
outdoors. Conversely, an average?appearing plant may exhibit
something special when bud?grafted and grown on.
The seedlings that pass muster are now ready for field testing
and evaluation. More than just one plant is needed for this,
so the original seedling is propagated. In order to have additional
plants exactly like the parent, new ones are started by taking
a cutting of a piece of stem that is the bud, or eye, found
at the point where the leaf joins the stem. This is grafted
onto a rootstock—a rooted cutting of another rose.
Grafting is necessary because on their own, many of today's
complex hybrids root poorly or erratically. Most garden roses
are grown on a variety of multi-flora rose. Buds are taken from
dormant plants in late fall and grafted the following spring
It is as budded, field?grown plants that these new roses really
begin to "show off." More are discarded and a few
are budded in larger quantities for further testing. Only about
100 make it to the second budding.
This process continues for at least another two to four years
until only a handful remain. Some of the most promising are
entered for judging by the All?America Rose Selections (AARS).
Four plants of each variety are sent to the 23 different AARS
test gardens around the country for two more years of observation.
Once a company is ready to introduce a variety, large quantities
of plants are budded and grown to marketable age –a period
of another two years.
Long and arduous, the process of hybridization is now complete.
The new variety—superior in any number of ways, be it
color, fragrance, foliage, hardiness, disease resistance, etc—is
now ready to bloom and grow beautifully in yards all over the
country. Who knows? It may be the best seller, the one topping
PEACE, a variety which has sold over 20 million plants since
1945 with one found in nearly every home rose garden.
One characteristic that most people expect of a rose is fragrance.
Watch someone walk by roses in full bloom. First, there'll be
an exclamation over color or beauty, but inevitably, the head
will bend in expectation of that special scent we've come to
Many years ago Alice Morse Earle wrote, "The fragrance
of the sweetest rose is beyond any other flower scent, it is
irresistible, enthralling; you cannot leave it. I have never
doubted the rose has some compelling quality not shared by other
flowers. I do not know whether it comes from some inherent witchery
of the plant, but it certainly exists."
Elusive and mysterious, the fragrance of roses and the romance
surrounding it is legendary. For instance, Cleopatra supposedly
entertained Marc Anthony in a room filled with 18 inches of
rose petals, and the sails of her ship were soaked with rose
water so that "the very winds were lovesick." In the
1300's, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, whose beauty ritual included
quantities of rose water, was, at the age of 72, able to successfully
woo the King of Poland. At a 17th century Persian royal wedding,
rose petals were floated on garden canals filled with rose water.
Such lavishness attests to both the literal and figurative power
of rose fragrance.
Some of the mystery and illusion of rose fragrance may, in
part, be due to the fact that there are actually over two dozen
different kinds of rose scent, with some roses having a mixture
of these various perfumes.
The seven basic scents that are most often found in hybrid
tea roses include rose, nasturtium, orris, violet, apple, lemon
and clover. Some of the other scents are fern or moss, hyacinth,
orange, bay anise, lily?of?the?valley, linseed oil, honey, wine,
marigold, quince, geranium, peppers, parsley and raspberry.
In general, the most highly scented roses are ones that are
either darker in color, have more petals to the flower or have
thick, velvety petals. Another correlation is that the red and
pink roses are most likely to smell like a "rose”,
while white and yellow blooms lean to orris, nasturtium, violet,
or lemon. Orange?shaded roses will usually have fruity scents
such as orris, nasturtium, violet, or clover.
Rose fragrance will be strongest on warm, sunny days when
the soil is moist because that is when the production of the
scent ingredients increases. Often, a rose that is fragrant
in the morning is no longer so by late afternoon. Another interesting
aspect to fragrance is that it is affected by disease. Mildew,
especially, will cause a loss of scent.
MISTER LINCOLN is one of the best roses for potpourri because
it keeps its strong scent after drying.
No discussion of roses and fragrance is immune to the argument
that the "new" roses just don't have the strong, sweet
smell of the "old" roses. Nostalgia withstanding,
"it ain't necessarily so."
Dr. W.E. Lammerts, a rose scientist, performed an in?depth
analysis in 1951 and found that quite a few of the older rose
varieties were either only moderately scented, or had no scent
at all. In 1956, Dr. James A. Gamble reported in the American
Rose Annual that on examination of 3,900 rose varieties, both
old and new, 25% were scentless, 20% strongly scented, and the
rest had some scent.