Truth or Dare

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‘Knock out’ is a cherry-red shrub rose that is ideal for growing in Atlanta conditions. It is also relatively low maintenance,

What can be said about roses? Roses have been chronicled in history for over 2,000 yearsthe ancient city of Rhodes drew its name from the Greek word rhodon, meaning rose, and rose motifs were used in Babylonian architecture. Roses were first used for weddings, funerals and other celebrations by the ancient Romansultimately, their excessive use of these flowers came to signify greed and gluttony. A symbol of love the writings of authors and playwrights from Shakespeare to Stephen King, a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses immediately conjures images of lovers and Valentines Day.

The vision of a perfect rose, coupled with its sweet perfume drifting through the air has inspired many a person to become a rose gardener. Growing that perfect rose, though, is probably the worst choice a novice gardener could make when hit with the gardening bug.

Potential rose gardeners, both young and old, have thrown in the towel when confronted with the weekly chore of spraying chemicals to combat black spot, aphids, Japanese beetles and a never-ending army of insect pests and diseases that can plague roses. Many dedicated rosarians adhere to a strict calendar once the plants begin to leaf out and form buds, systematically applying home-remedies, and organic and synthetic formulationsall in hope of that perfect rose from an unblemished plant.

Do you want to know the truth about growing roses? They can be a lot of workif you dont choose the right ones. With our mild winters and balmy spring and autumn, Atlantas climate seems ideal for successful rose gardening. It would be, if not for the summertime. Unfortunately, our hot, humid summers provide the perfect environment for a multitude of disease and pest problems that affect many varieties of roses.

Luckily, if you fancy roses, you dont have to give up the idea or succumb to such a rigid schedule. The solution is twofoldprovide the best possible growing conditions for roses and select roses that are suited to Atlantas climate and soils.

Roses are categorized a number of ways. First, all roses that have evolved from 1867 to today are considered modern roses. There are 10 classes of modern roses, including hybrid teas, polyanthas, floribundas, climbers and shrub roses. Old-garden roses (also known as antique or old-fashioned) were in existence before 1867. Species roses, damasks, Chinas, Bourbons and Noisettes are few of the fifteen classes of old-garden roses.

A new rosebud can sprout into a gorgeous bloom if the conditions are right.

Contrary to popular belief, merely being labeled Modern or Old-Garden does not indicate that one category of rose is easier to grow than another. Temperature, climate and soil conditions all play a part in determining which rose is going to be less demanding than another.
For successful rose gardening, you must have at least six hours of full sun. Well-drained soil (a mixture of good topsoil, organic matter and granite sand is ideal) with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, and an area with good airflow make for a happy rose plant. Raised beds are recommended, as good drainage and air circulation are ensured.

Late winter is the best time to plant roses in Atlanta, and be sure to dig a hole that is large enough so that the roots wont be crowded. Use mulch to keep the roots cool, reduce weeds and conserve moisture, and fertilize and water appropriately. Remember, no rose is guaranteed to be impervious to diseases and pests. Even if you plant a variety of rose that is labeled to be pest and disease resistant, theres always the chance that youll be confronted with these problems. So, your best defense is preventionplant rose varieties that will enable you to be successful.

Now, heres the hard parthow do you find out which roses are the best choices for Atlanta? Luckily, Atlanta is fortunate to have the Robert L. Staton Rose Garden, located at the Fernbank Science Center. This garden is one of only three in the United States that are test sites for the AARS (All-America Rose Selections) and ARS (American Rose Society). This is significant because hundreds of new rose varieties have been grown here and scrutinized for two years to determine which selections are the best and easiest for the average homeowner to grow.

Fernbanks Connie Kneisel delights in leading visitors through the garden and pointing out roses best suitable for the gardener looking for a low maintenance rose. Floribundas and shrub roses are definitely the easiest to grow and maintain, she says. Her list of top performers include Knock-Out, a cherry red shrub rose, the floribundas Iceberg (white), Our Lady of Guadalupe (pink), Hot Cocoa (orange-brown), Eureka (yellow) and the apricot Easy Going. The red climber Dortmund is another favorite.

While Kneisel recommends shrub and floribunda roses as less problematic for the beginner, she encourages gardeners to try some of the AARS winning hybrid tea roses. Her favorites in the garden include the fragrant pink Tiffany, white Iceberg, the fragrant Double Delight (red/white blooms) and Fragrant Cloud (coral).

Rosarian and Master Gardener Victoria Fleming agrees. Knock Out is a favorite of hers. Its a hard one to find, since the professionals are buying them up. Fleming compares it to a favorite of the last few years, the pretty, pink floribunda shrub Nearly Wild, which was rapidly recognized for its disease and pest resistance and prolific flowering. The climber Lady Banks is an easy, rapid grower with beautiful early pale white/yellow flowers. Our Lady of Guadalupe is going to be a popular rose, as well, due to its beautiful color and ease of care, Fleming says.

If you follow the experts advice, and prepare the best home for rose growing and plant the best plants for Atlanta, theres no doubt that youll have success with roses. Who knowsone day you may have a prizewinner yourself.

Roses Online
Rose Culture for Georgia Gardeners:
Fernbank Science Center:
Greater Atlanta Rose Society:
American Rose Society:

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