One of the first gardening things I did when we moved here over fifteen years ago was to dig up the rose bushes and get rid of them. I didn’t want to have anything to do with plants that needed to be babied to get through the winter and perpetually sprayed to get them through the growing season. Since then I’ve learned that there are hardy roses out there if you know where to look. And I don’t just mean winter hardy; I mean roses hardy enough to take what diseases and insects dish out in stride. I’ve also learned that many roses that are not winter hardy can live through northern winters to bloom again if certain procedures are followed.
Both of the books pictured here contributed to my education, but Tender Roses in Tough Climates by Douglas Green is the book I’d recommend to you. Why? He’s more my kind of gardener, or at least, rose grower:
None of our roses get special treatment. There is no hilling, no wrapping, no insulating. A normal fall pruning and we wish our roses good night for their winter’s nap.
On the other hand, Jerry Olson and John Whitman, the authors of Growing Roses in Cold Climates, are rose fanatics who believe that no trouble is too much trouble to help your roses make it. They advocate the Minnesota Tip method to protect tender roses from the vagaries of winter. This involves half-digging up the shrub, tipping it over into a trench, and burying it. Then you have undo everything come spring. Ugh.
Apparently there is some debate in rose circles about these two methods. Olson and Whitman state:
We do not agree that planting the bud union 6 inches deep [as Green advocates] is a good way to protect most tender roses . . . Almost all experienced growers are now using the Minnesota Tip Method or slight variations of it to protect their tender roses in cold climates. (p. 187)
Green is aware of the tip method and concedes it is the only way to get a tender climbing rose through a tough winter (because it blooms on old wood), but hardly finds the method foolproof:
If your efforts have been successful, buds will begin to swell as the weather warms. If not, hardy roses will seem a very attractive option. (p. 52)
To be fair, Olson and Whitman also admit that
. . . the principle of deeper planting is effective with specific types or varieties of budded and own-root roses. (p. 187)
I guess it’s all a matter of emphasis. Certainly, Growing Roses in Cold Climates has the same depth of information that I’ve really appreciated in the other two books in this series that I’ve reviewed. It’s a very good book; I’d just make it my second rose book. Or, if you’ve experience growing roses in more moderate climates, read them both and make up your own mind. And Olson and Whitman’s book discusses many more roses, so if you’re determined to grow the rose in your grandmother’s garden, try looking there first.
But if you’re like me, and you don’t already have your heart set on growing a particular rose, go with Doug Green’s book. If you click on the Amazon link you’ll discover that it’s quite a wait to get that book new. However, Doug has revised it himself and now offers it as an e-book, which means when you buy it, you receive a .pdf file that you can either read on your computer or print on your printer using your own ink and paper. Also, he has information at his website on growing roses here and here.
I actually didn’t dig up all the roses when I moved here. I left one rose on the northwest side of the house, mostly because I didn’t realize it was a rose–no thorns that I could see. It turns out it is a native rose, either Rosa virginiana or Rosa palustris, and it is growing in other, untamed areas of our property with no help from anyone. I confess I just bought my first rose this year (pictured at left, past its prime), a Griffith Buck hybrid called ‘Wanderin’ Wind.’ While visiting Der Rosenmeister in Ithaca I fell in love with this pink-blooming rose that has perfect hybrid-tea-shaped blossoms on vigorous, shrubby foliage. I had planned to get ‘Country Dancer,’ but ‘Wanderin’ Wind’ was in bloom and persuaded me to forsake my first choice. So, I’ve just reviewed two books on roses, telling you they have good advice, but my own rose, planted according to Doug Green’s advice, is only now about to face its first winter. So what do I know?