There are about 200 new roses introduced every year and 14,282 different species and varieties currently in cultivation, according to the 2004 Combined Rose List, published annually in the U.S. by two rosarians. We're spoiled for choice, and most of us don't have room for all the new beauties we'd like to bring home, so it pays to be selective.
These days, there are trademark names as well as cultivar names (so some roses have two monikers) and just about every colour and combination thereof under the sun (so far, no true black or blue, but not for lack of trying). New cultivars of every type of rose are poised in breeders' gardens and at trial grounds all over the world, hoping to thrill and amaze us. And each year we wait for the latest and greatest to arrive at our local nursery.
To help you make some informed choices, what follows is information from the experts on some of those new varieties and some stalwarts that have stood the test of time (and Canadian winters), as well as ideas on how to use this old favourite in fresh ways.
PRO-PICKS (by Stephanie Whittaker)
Asking a rosarian to name her favourite roses is probably as unfair as asking a mother to name her favourite child. But Claire Laberge, the horticulturist who oversees and tends the rose garden in the Montreal Botanical Garden was asked to do just that. Rather than singling out just one, the equitable Laberge offers these recommendations for Canadian gardens. Although a few of her choices are tender, most were chosen for their hardiness vis-à-vis the Canadian climate, their ability to shrug off disease and, of course, their beauty.
‘Augusta' This apricot-coloured groundcover rose doesn't exceed 35 centimetres in height in Montreal's Zone 5 climate but Laberge says it's an excellent cultivar for Canadian gardens because it needs no winter protection. ‘Augusta' is part of the Town and Country series from Danish breeder Poulsen. “I like the colour and the number of blooms this small plant can produce,” says Laberge. It also flowers late into the gardening season and marries happily with other perennials in mixed borders. Zone 4.
‘Kent' Another Poulsen introduction in the Town and Country series, ‘Kent' is smaller at maturity than ‘Augusta'. It boasts semi-double blooms that look larger than they are because the leaves are small, says Laberge. The pure white petals accentuate long, golden stamens. “We've had this [rose] for many years and it's never needed winter protection,” she says. Zone 5.
‘Winnipeg Parks' One of Laberge's favourites, it's a tough-as-nails, Canadian-bred rose from the Parkland series that boasts recurrent bloom (June through October). In Zone 5, it will grow to 1.25 metres and is welcomed by gardeners seeking a deep pink bloom. The foliage becomes red-tinged in autumn. Zone 2b.