Plants are like people in the sense that they thrive in communities, and they tend to shine brighter in the company of good friends. This June, our Rose Garden at the farm provided a glorious illustration of the power of harmonious relationships. In a long, meandering border planted with roughly 70 Roses, each variety is enhanced by its proximity to perennials that provide complementary or contrasting color, form, and texture. As the garden hit its peak in June, it offered visitors a textbook example of how to plant Roses and their preferred companions for best effect. While the peak has now passed, the garden will continue to provide rolling waves of bloom, thanks to the perennials that keep company with all the Roses. If you happen to live nearby or are in range to make a visit, we hope you’ll come by and take a stroll. In the meantime, we thought it might be helpful to showcase some of the perennials that do such a great deal to bring magic to the Rose Garden. We hope they inspire you to plant some of your own.
Click through to our website to find more perennials that serve as excellent companions for Roses, and consider adding some to your garden.
A few years back, we repurposed a somewhat tired shrub border and installed a new garden highlighting Roses and some of their favorite companions. After all, there are sooo many Roses out there – we can’t grow them all, but we wanted to get to know a few new cultivars, learn about unfamiliar older varieties, watch for cold hardiness and disease resistance, etc. It’s been very educational and, in fact, we’ve had very few outright “misses”; no plants that clearly aren’t what we thought they were.
Aside from all that, it’s a lovely garden, and it’s perfuming the entire nursery at the moment. If you live in the area or can manage a visit, we hope you’ll swing by.
Today’s Roses are not your grandmother’s finicky, high maintenance plants. Thanks to the efforts of talented and patient breeders, many of today’s Roses are vigorous plants that more readily shrug off pests and diseases and bring years of classic beauty, and often fragrance, to the garden. What this means for gardeners is that growing Roses is easier than ever. For novices or those who could use a refresher, our nursery manager Barb Pierson offers these simple tips:
Helpful Tips for Growing Roses
1. If you live in a colder climate, as we do here in Connecticut, try growing Roses close to the foundation of your home. This provides plants with some degree of winter protection. Walkways are also good spots provided there is full sun. This is generally defined as at least 6 hours per day of direct sunlight.
2. Remember that light changes as the angle of the sun shifts throughout the season. If you live in the upper half of the U.S., choose a site that will offer full sun year-round. The more sun you have, the more flowers your plants will produce. In the lower half of the U.S., choose spots with a little bit of afternoon shade. This protects blossoms from the scorching sun and helps your flowers last longer.
3. Roses love sandy soil. Amend your soil accordingly to provide the best footing for plants. Also choose sites with good drainage, which helps ensure that Roses overwinter more successfully. They do not like wet, cold feet.
4. Do not crowd your Roses. Plants that don’t have adequate air circulation and sunlight are more susceptible to powdery and downy mildew. Remove any spent foliage from the ground around your Roses. The leaves contain natural fungal spores that can transfer to your Roses.
5. Artificial liquid fertilizers tend to promote plant growth that is soft and tender, and this type of foliage can attract aphids and other pests. Instead, rely on compost and natural fertilizers to feed your plants.
6. If problems develop, horticultural oil and insecticidal soap can help control insects and mildews.
7. When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.
Roses have been among the most popular flowers known to man for centuries, perhaps millennia, and they remain one of the loveliest and most versatile of flowering shrubs for any garden situation that offers plenty of sun and well-drained soil. Below are some key tips for growing Roses successfully:
Roses require rich soil. When planting, dig a wide hole and replace 1/3 of the soil with compost.
Once the soil warms in spring, apply a generous layer of organic mulch.
For tips on planting bareroot Roses, see the Growing guide on our website.
Water new Roses thoroughly once a week unless Mother Nature is on the job.
Remove and dispose of old foliage regularly to help prevent disease.
Prune in early spring once growth starts. Remove dead wood first followed by weak or crossing branches.
Remove faded flowers all summer, cutting back to the first large bud at a leaf with 5 leaflets.
Today’s fuss-free Roses come in a remarkable range of sizes and forms – from large Landscape Roses that are ideal as focal points or backdrops in a perennial border to lower-growing varieties that are superb specimens for the middle or edge of a garden to climbers that can smother an archway or wall in beautiful blooms. Roses are great companions for Clematis, Delphiniums, Lilies, and Peonies. Below are two exclusive new preplanned gardens that feature Roses with more of their favorite companions:
Longtime favorite Rose Julia Child™ forms the centerpiece of this colorful, richly fragrant garden. Framing the yellow-flowering, easy-care Rose are layers of bloom from equally low-maintenance companions – the baby blue blossom spikes of mounding Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low,’ the electric blue spires of Salvia ‘Blue Hill,’ and the jewel-tone pink flower clusters of compact Achillea millefolium Song Siren™ ‘Layla.’ 1 plant each of the Rose and Nepeta, 2 each of the Achillea and Salvia. 6 plants total. Covers approximately 30 sq. ft.
This lovely garden is designed to perform throughout the full growing season. The cornerstone of this collection is the everblooming saffron-colored Easy Elegance® Coral Cove Rose which is enhanced by long-season performers Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ and Leucanthemum Daisy May®. In early summer, Salvia x sylvestris ‘Blue Hill’ adds an electric blue accent. Two plants of Phlox ‘Fashionably Early Princess’ join in later, adding long-blooming pale purple blossoms to the show. Covers approximately 18 sq ft.
Year after year, our customer service staff members spend as much time taking orders as they do answering questions and offering garden advice. They love to do this, especially because many are avid gardeners. Compiled below are the 5 most common questions they hear at this time of year. From advice on watering plants to pruning Hydrangeas, we hope you’ll find information you can use in your own garden.
The questions and answers here were supplied by Cathy Hughes, the Senior Horticulturist of the Customer Support Center and manager of the staff gardens at our facility in Torrington, CT.
Why aren’t the perennial plants I received this spring doing well despite being watered diligently (or religiously)?
Perennial plant material, which includes perennials, trees, shrubs and Roses, needs to be watered well after planting and then watered when the soil is dry to a depth of 1”. If rain is scarce, this generally means one deep watering per week, even in the hotter areas of the country. This is especially true of bareroot plant material. If plants are overwatered while establishing new roots, the quality of the roots will be compromised and the plants will not survive.
Why is the foliage of my perennials (or shrubs) wilting even though I’m watering diligently? Why don’t the plants recover after watering?
The foliage of plants often will wilt during the hottest part of the day as a response to the heat, but this does not mean the soil is dry, especially if conditions also have been humid. Always check the moisture level of the soil before watering. It should be dry to a depth of 1” before you water again. It’s important to remember that decorative mulch holds moisture in the soil. If the soil is staying too wet, it’s always best to temporarily remove the mulch from the base of the plants and gently cultivate the soil to aerate it. This should be done after every rain until the plant recovers.
What’s the white coating on the leaves of my perennials (or vegetable plants)?
It’s the disease powdery mildew, and it can be controlled with neem oil, which is applied as a foliar spray. While the foliage looks unsightly, the overall vigor of the plant will not be affected. If possible, it’s also important there be good air circulation between plants and that all infected plant material be collected, bagged and discarded in the garbage in the fall. Do not compost this material.
What’s causing the holes in the leaves of my Roses?
If the damage results in a skeletonizing effect to the foliage (the leaf tissue between the large veins is eaten away), the damage could be caused by the larval stage of Rose sawfly (here in Zone 5 we begin scouting for this insect around Mother’s Day) or Rose chafers. Later in the season thrips may be the culprits. All of these insects can be controlled with a neem oil or Monterey Garden Insect Spray, or any insecticide recommended for Roses. While this damage is unsightly, it will only affect the overall health of the plant if the infestation is severe and is left untreated.
When do I prune my Hydrangeas?
The pruning of Hydrangeas depends upon whether they bloom on old wood, new wood, or both. Click here to visit our Grow Guide, which outlines how to prune different varieties.
The sky was full of thunder on the afternoon we visited Elizabeth Park in Hartford and West Hartford (the park straddles the border between the two towns), but the moody sky and gusting wind only added to the drama and loveliness of being there.
Set on 101 acres, the park is an oasis of land that was deeded to the city in the late 1800s by Charles Pond. While Pond’s property already featured specimen trees and other existing plantings, the city expanded on his vision to create what is regarded as a “botanical park.” Swiss-born landscape architect Theodore Wirth, who had designed gardens in Paris and London, was commissioned to create formal Victorian gardens including the park’s world-renowned Rose Garden.
Elizabeth Park opened to the public in 1897, and the Rose Garden was christened in 1904. The Rose Garden was and remains the country’s first-ever municipal rose garden, and today it ranks as the third largest. It’s just one of the horticultural attractions at the park, which also include an Annual Garden, a Perennial Garden, a Shade Garden, a Heritage Rose Garden (for exceptionally old rose varieties), and various gardens designed and maintained by local and regional horticultural societies.
Our visit was timed for peak season in the Rose Garden. Wirth’s original design created an acre-sized square with a center circle and eight pathways radiating from a gazebo. Today’s garden retains his design, but it’s been expanded to bring the total number of acres to 2.5 with 475 beds. The original Rose Garden featured 190 varieties of roses, and that number has grown, too. According to the Elizabeth Park website, there are now 800 varieties of roses, a mix that includes old and new types in a range from hybrid teas to floribundas, and climbers to shrub roses.
As we strolled and sniffed our way along the garden beds, clusters of people milled around us, taking pictures and quite literally taking the time to smell the roses.
Adjacent to the Rose Garden, the Annual Garden was also attracting plenty of attention with its colorful, formally planted flowerbeds. In spring, the beds are filled with more than 11,000 tulip blossoms. When the blooms subside, the tulip bulbs are dug up, bagged, and sold to the public. The beds are then planted with artful displays of annuals, which have been grown from seed in the park’s greenhouse.
Today, Elizabeth Park remains open 365 days a year, welcoming locals and visitors who walk, picnic, practice yoga, take in entertainments including music concerts and movies, and, of course, spend time in the gardens. Plan a visit yourself, and enjoy the beauty of this lovely urban oasis.