Roses are a special flower, loved by people worldwide. They have traditionally been grown in gardens of their own because roses don't particularly like competition from other plants. As recently as the 1800s, though, the beauty of the rose garden was a fleeting thing. Roses burst into spectacular bloom for a short period in early summer and then showed nothing but foliage through the rest of the growing season, although their brightly colored fruits (rose hips) did offer winter color.
Modern hybrid roses changed everything. With the perpetual blooming habits of hybrid roses, rose gardens can now bloom through summer and deep into fall, and in warm climates they bloom nearly year-round.
Whatever you're looking for in a flower -- beautiful form, vast array of color, exotic fragrance -- roses offer it. Those qualities culminate beautifully in rose gardens.
Discover how to design a rose garden in the next section.
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How to Design a Rose Garden
Traditional rose gardens are rather formal affairs. The beds are often laid out in geometric patterns, with tree roses at each corner and an arbor of climbing roses at the center or rear. Your home rose garden doesn't have to be quite so static. As long as proper planting distances are respected, the rose garden can take on any appearance from a near-formal style to a flowing island with an irregular outline. The only rule that really should be followed is that taller plants should go in the center or rear of the bed.
Purists grow only roses in a rose garden. Gardeners with less stringent ideas can introduce spring-flowering bulbs, noninvasive perennials, low-growing annuals, or other plants. The upkeep of these other plants should not damage the roses they are designed to set off. If you're really adventurous, you can develop an entire garden of roses in individual containers on a patio or balcony.
Although roses are quite specific in their needs, you can find a place for them with a little searching in just about any yard. The first requirement is plenty of sun: six hours or more a day if possible. Some roses will do well with less. Early morning sun is better than late afternoon sun since the flowers last longer under cooler conditions.
Roses will adapt to most moderately fertile soils, even sandy ones. Just make sure you work in plenty of organic matter: compost, well-rotted manure, etc. Test the soil for pH before planting. Roses prefer a pH of 6.5 to 6.8, although they will tolerate levels from 6.0 to 7.5. Any soil that is extremely acid or alkaline should be corrected by adding, respectively, lime or powdered sulphur.
Good drainage is essential in the rose garden. If your soil is constantly damp, consider either adding drainage tiles or raising the bed 8 to 10 inches above ground level. Soil that drains too well can be improved by adding organic material and through careful irrigation.
Proper placement is also essential for a successful rose garden. Avoid areas near large trees and shrubs, since roses are intolerant of root competition. A certain amount of air circulation is beneficial, so avoid low-lying pockets. Windy spots can be moderated by using a windbreak. In cold climates, planting on a slight slope will help prevent damage from a late spring frost.
Bare-root or packaged roses are best planted in spring after all danger of frost has passed. In the deep South, the cooler winter months are the ideal planting time. Container-grown roses can theoretically be planted any time during the growing season. Avoid planting during the dry, hot summer months.