Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips


GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written Septemer 20, 2015

Let’s face it, our lives today are very busy. While we gardeners may not mind spending time in our gardens, only the most devoted rose lovers enjoy the time and hard work it takes to care for traditional rose shrubs. Plant breeders, working to meet the needs of today’s gardeners, have developed easy-care roses that make this beloved bloom more accessible.

Not long ago I mentioned that I was a fan of Oso Happy Smoothie. It is a rose with single pink flowers and a mounded habit, growing about 3 feet tall and wide. It has no thorns, is very winter hardy, and only needs a bit of shaping in the spring. It is resistant to powdery mildew and black spot diseases. It is a continuous bloomer, flowering in early, mid, and late summer, providing an abundance of raspberry pink blooms all summer long.

Oso Happy Smoothie is just one of the easy-care roses promoted by Proven Winners. This year they introduced Oso Easy Lemon Zest, the newest member of the Oso Easy series. It grows about 2.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, producing lemony yellow flowers that don’t fade to white once open. Like the other members of the series, Lemon Zest requires little pruning, is very disease resistant, blooms continuously, and is self-cleaning. Self-cleaning means that their faded flowers do not require “dead-heading” or removal by pruning back to a bud or leaf to encourage re-bloom that is needed with traditional rose shrubs.

Easy-care roses are not new to the garden scene. The Tesselaar company has been touting their Flower Carpet rose series since introducing ‘Flower Carpet Pink’ 20 years ago, calling it the first “eco-rose.” Pink Splash with bicolor hot pink and pale pink flowers is one of their newer introductions.

Tesselaar indicates that members of their series are low-growing and compact, disease resistant, and require little pruning. They are also continuous blooming and self-cleaning. Depending on the cultivar, they grow about 2.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Once established, they are hardy to Zone 5 and tolerant of low water and drought conditions. Their “Next Generation Flower Carpet” cultivars, Amber, Pink Supreme, and Scarlet, are more heat tolerant than the older cultivars. They recommend pruning these roses back to one third their size in early spring.

The Knock Out series of roses, introduced in 2000, has become poplar with gardeners. Like other easy-care roses, they are winter hardy, continuous blooming, self-cleaning, and disease resistant. They grow about 4 feet tall and wide and sometimes larger. There are currently seven members of the Knock Out series. I am partial to the Double Pink Knock Out for its pretty pink double flowers.

Knock Out roses work well in mixed shrub and flower borders or as a hedge. Pruning is fairly simple. Most years all that is needed is a little pruning in the spring to shape the plant and remove any dead, damaged, or diseased canes. Every several years they need more severe pruning to remove one third of the oldest canes. To maintain them as a hedge, use hedgers to cut them back in the spring to two feet below the desired size.

Some rose experts disdain easy-care roses for lacking the fragrance and beauty of traditional rose shrubs. William Radler, the developer of Knock Out roses, admits that these are not exhibition roses, but are intended for today’s busy gardener who wants low-maintenance roses that require less pruning and less chemicals. However, Radler hopes to develop low-maintenance hybrid tea, floribundas, and other traditional rose shrubs. If he does, that should make all gardeners who love roses happy.

Garden Tips, WSU Extension, Benton County, 5600-E West Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336-1387, 509-735-3551, Contact Us

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