In gardens where hybrid tea roses already claim pride of place in premium soil and long canes of climbers scramble up trellises and arbours, it's time to consider new venues for roses. Low-growing groundcover roses capable of massing, creeping and rambling horizontally are perfect for less-than-ideal locations, such as corners of borders or alongside driveways and fences, provided they get enough light-at least three to four hours a day. They'll flower from late spring to hard frost.
Groundcover roses are a diverse collection of ancient species, antique cultivars and contemporary shrub plants of varying dimensions and styles that are valued for their low and spreading habit, non-fussy cultivation, resistance to disease, frequency of bloom sequence and ability to gobble up space in challenging locations. Tall, leggy beauties such as the grandiflora 'Queen Elizabeth' and the shrub 'Westerland' will never be candidates for the job. But modern shrub roses like 'Rosy Cushion' (Zone 4, single, light pink, 90 centimetres high, 90 to 150 centi-metres wide) and the rugosa hybrid 'Charles Albanel' (Zone 2, double, mauve-pink, 30 centimetres high, 90 centimetres wide, ornamental hips) weave colourful living carpets in sunny gaps and spaces.
Small spaces require plants in scale with the setting. The Japanese rose 'Nozomi', smallest of the groundcover roses, is ideal for rambling about in a rock garden or even a large winterized container. 'Nozomi' (Zone 5), which is Japanese for "hope," spreads almost prostrate, apple green canes over about 120 centi-metres and has one long blooming time, from early to midsummer. Three plants together make a lovely show in a corner or surrounding a large boulder, with pearly pink, upward-facing, single flowers that wave tiny anthers. Another diminutive spreading plant, 'Red Cascade' (Zone 4, 45 centimetres high, 120 centimetres wide) covers itself in double, deep red flowers all season. The repeat-flowering Pavement series of low-growing rugosa shrubs (Zone 2) are disease-resistant and deeply scented, with ornamental hips and a hardy demeanor. 'Pierette Pavement' (dark pink), 'Scarlet Pavement' and 'Snow Pavement' are suitable for exposed locations, growing 75 centimetres high and 120 centimetres wide.
Large spaces require plants of bolder attitude and proportion. 'Raubritter' (Zone 4, 90 centimetres high, 180 centi-metres wide) is a modern shrub bred in Germany with medium pink, cupped flowers with incurving petals, an unusual peppery fragrance and a sprawling habit. Flowers of the blush pink to white spinosissima rose, 'Stanwell Perpetual' (Zone 3, 120 centimetres high, with a two- to 2.5-metre spread), are quartered in the antique manner, with frilled edges. Of uncertain parentage-but clearly a rose of impeccable breeding, unfortunately lost to record-'Stanwell Perpetual' was found wandering in a garden at Stanwell, Middlesex, in 1838; for the sake of decency, it was allowed into the spinosissima category, where it probably belongs. Its double flowers, deliciously scented with classic tea rose perfume, bloom from late spring to hard frost. Long, arching canes form a dense mass, ideal for filling a major space on a broad hillside or along a driveway.