When asked to name a favourite rose, many rosarians respond, “The one I am looking at now.” Not surprisingly, it was difficult pinning down a number of Canadian rose experts on the subject until I suggested they should narrow their search to roses that had won awards. Their picks-and mine-(see “Award-Winning Favourites,” on following pages) are an informative guide to ones worth considering for your garden.
Before rose shopping, you might also want to seek information from local or national rose societies about which cultivars perform well in your area. As well, visit a rose show to see plants at their peak of perfection; you can then judge for yourself how vibrant their colours are, how fragrant their blooms and how good their foliage. More importantly, you can talk to people in your community who grow these plants in their gardens.
Once you've compiled your shopping list, patronize the rose growers in your area, if you're lucky enough to have them. Roses that are developed where you live are much more likely to succeed. Otherwise, you can find Canadian bred and/or grown roses grafted on hardy stock through the Internet and mail-order catalogues.
Eyes on the prize
How did the practice of awarding prizes to roses come about? Breeders and growers began bestowing medals or certificates of merit to roses using a point system to rate them on fragrance, disease resistance, hardiness, and so on. Before long, there were awards to be won throughout much of Europe as well as North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa. This isn't surprising, given that there are few areas where roses can't be grown and appreciated. Some of the best-known and highly regarded awards are the Royal Horticultural Society Certificate of Garden Merit, Royal National Rose Society Fragrance Award, Belfast Gold Medal for the Best Hybrid Tea, Prix du Parfum Bagatelle, New Zealand Gold Medal, Baden-Baden Fragrance Prize and The Hague Gold Medal. (See some common acronyms below.)
In North America, the awards we're most likely to encounter are the Portland Gold Medal (for new introductions) and, particularly, the All-America Rose Selections. The AARS is a non-profit organization of rose growers dedicated to the introduction and promotion of exceptional roses and has been testing them since 1938. Selections are made annually and usually include hybrid tea, floribunda and miniature types. Each rose completes a rigorous two-year trial program in 20 test gardens across the U.S., receiving the kind of care that would be given in an average home garden. The roses are evaluated on characteristics such as colour, vigour, fragrance, flower production, disease resistance, growth habit and overall value to the garden.
AARS All-America Rose Selections
ADR Anerkannte Deutsche Rose (Germany)
ARS American Rose Society
FA Fragrance Award
GM Gold Medal
NZ New Zealand
RNRS Royal National Rose Society
RHS Royal Horticultural Society