In the 1950s and 1960s, the first generation of ever-flowering roses was cultivated: bush roses (hybrids of tea and Grandiflora) and climbing roses. From June to September they produced huge flowers in a huge range of colors. But, if the bush roses flowered longer than the old roses, they were prone to diseases and not very hardy. They required a lot of care and, despite everything, few were those who survived more than three or four years. This is why roses have a reputation for being difficult. Today crosses make it possible to obtain plants that are both resistant and floriferous. We can therefore afford to dream of a superb rose that will require almost no care.
Most hardy and disease-resistant roses belong to a new class: the modern shrub rose. It combines the resistance and adaptability of old shrub roses and the repeated flowering of hybrid tea, Grandiflora, and climbing roses. They come in a variety, from small bushes used as ground cover to shrubs with long, arching stems that can be climbed up a trellis.
Modern shrub roses generally produce a greater amount of stems than bush roses, resulting in a denser, more attractive habit, and a greater amount of blooms. They can be large or small, single, semi-double or double, borne in dense clumps or spread throughout the shrub. They take up the full range of colors of bush roses and are often fragrant.
Another novelty: modern roses are rarely grafted, and that’s a good thing. Grafting an attractive rose on a rootstock rose greatly reduces its hardiness because the grafting point tends to open under the effect of frost, which complicates its maintenance. Modern roses produced by cuttings can be planted like any other shrub.
How to choose a rose bush
When buying a rose, always ask if it has been grafted. If so, we move on to another. This even applies to roses “on the stem” (trimmed in the shape of small trees), which are nevertheless to be looked for since they do not require any special maintenance. It is preferable to buy roses grown in pots, even if they cost more than roses with bare roots. Their success rate is much better and they can be planted any time during the season, whereas bare root roses are only available for a short period in the spring and must be planted immediately.
We choose a well-branched plant, with balanced branches, arranged all around the plant. Depending on the season of purchase, it may or may not have left. In the first case, plants with few leaves or with yellowed or browned leaves are avoided: they may have been badly treated. The absence or presence of flower buds or flowers is not a significant factor. Obviously, we choose a rose adapted to our hardiness zone.
The cultivation of modern roses
To obtain good results with modern shrub roses, they must be provided with good growing conditions. Fortunately, they are easier to put together than those required for shrub roses.
Exposure: Full sun or almost. However, a little shade during the hottest hours of the day does no harm.
Soil: A rich, well-drained soil is ideal. Unlike other plants, roses like clay soil. It is therefore not necessary, or even desirable, to amend clay soils with organic matter when planting. On the other hand, if the soil is poorly drained (if puddles form after a good watering), it is better to add fresh soil and create a raised bed.
Planting: A hole is dug twice as wide as the root ball and whose depth corresponds to the height of the root ball. We remove the pot and center the root ball in the hole: it must be at the same depth as in the pot. Fill the hole with soil, tamp, and water. The spacing between plants varies according to the size of the variety at maturity. We rely on the spacing recommended on the label.
Mulching: After planting, the soil is covered with 7 to 10 cm of mulch to prevent the development of weeds and maintain soil moisture. Another benefit of mulch is that the foliage will stay cleaner and be less prone to disease.
Watering: In the first year, our roses should be watered carefully as soon as the soil begins to dry out. Once well established, they will only need watering in times of severe drought.
Fertilization: In general, modern roses are less greedy than hybrid tea and Grandiflora roses. A handful of compost per plant in the spring is enough. Alternatively, an all-purpose organic fertilizer is applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is not necessary to buy fertilizer “for roses”.
Pruning: Undoubtedly the biggest difference between the maintenance of modern shrub roses and that of bush roses, which had to be pruned after each bloom: modern roses are only pruned in the spring. Remove dead branches (brown or black rather than green) as well as weak or broken branches. Older branches (four or five years old) may start to flower less. They can then be cut back to 5 cm from the ground to make room for the young, more vigorous branches. As the best modern shrub roses rebloom profusely, whether or not their faded flowers are removed, we suggest not removing them: the flowers left intact will bear beautiful, colorful fruits in the fall.
Winter protection: It is not necessary if we have chosen our roses according to our hardiness zone. On the other hand, it may be useful to wrap them in jute or geotextile for the first winter if their location is very windy.
Insects and diseases: Most modern shrub roses are very resistant to diseases and insects: they rarely show problems that require treatment. It is enough to drive the insects away with a jet of water. Good to know: roses with shiny foliage are the most resistant to diseases.
Cultivation of climbing shrub roses: These are not true climbers, but rather a shrub roses with long arching stems. Unlike the old climbing roses, which were very sensitive to the cold, it is not necessary to detach them in winter and lay them in a trench. Leave them standing and prune them in the spring. To help them climb, they are secured to an arbor or trellis with ties as they grow.