Privilege Blog

How To Get Past Your Fear Of Roses

High WASPs are quite fond of roses. All that Anglo-identification, as it were.

That said, we’re fairly specific in our preferences. On the one hand, rows of roses  in dedicated planting areas, special soil, specific watering scheme, and correct distance each from the other. On the other, rose bushes amongst untamed plantings, intertwined and ignored.

I have plantings of both sorts in my front yard. Wait. Why my front yard? It gets sun. Roses, no matter your heritage, your culture, your intent, will not negotiate sun.

Here’s my setup. New white roses in a bed, a peach shrub rose, and a small, whiny, red, sometimes-it-shows-up-sometimes-it-doesn’t climber, back against the wood fence.

I planted the white ones in a bed because it seemed like something a middle-aged woman ought to do, and because I’ve always liked the idea of a white garden. I started small. Rather than obsess over which species and with what care, I went to my local nursery and picked out whatever white roses they had in stock, figuring that they knew the climate. I came home with two Moonbeams, of the bushy sort, and two Pope Johns, of the stand up and grow poky stalks sort. I think the correct names are “shrub” and “hybrid tea.” I I could be wrong.

I’m deciding not to care. Impunity. Here’s one of the standy up ones, standing up.

They’re very obliging about putting on dewdrops to provoke hope.

You might be thinking, aren’t roses terribly hard to care for? Probably. Again, impunity. It appears that as long as you plant roses in the sun and keep fungus-growing conditions to a minimum, good enough. I garden organically, so I also spray the rose leaves with Neem oil whenever they start to look odd. I dig in a little fertilizer from a bag that says Roses, Fertilizer, and Organic, all over. What’s the worst that can happen? Rose bushes aren’t apt to tattle to the Rose Teacher, or mount a protest in the street with placards.

Besides, my long-planted roses give me courage. The peach specimen has been growing by my standing rosemaries, left unwatered, unpruned, unsprayed, for 15 years. The little whiny red rose, for 20. They have survived all kinds of indignities.

Roses appear to hold no grudge.

Probably I was lucky in our dry climate, and a sunny spot. Lisa Elliot Grose, over here at Journey to Ithaca, has been a little less fortunate, and compensates with good work. Her roses show black spot, here, but she’s fixing them. It’s humid in the Carolinas.

Probably I could have done better, like the Hostess of the Humble Bungalow. She cares well enough for roses to win Best Bloom, deservedly, here. Mater takes the other path, relying on nature for care, and thrills to wild Nootkas on her little island, here.

Still, my roses do well enough and make me quite happy as I putter around with pruning shears, ignoring rules about 5-leafed branches, pulling off the dead heads as I please, and occasionally taking a few blooms inside to shine all on their own. I’m always bending over the vases and breathing in.

Finally, for Jane, and her Flowers In the House posts, a photo of my guest bathroom. Every month she rounds flowers up, here. I’m late.

A rose and a gardenia in my guest bathroom

Roses are surprisingly willing to share pride of place with gardenias, even those grown in pots and treated like, um, hothouse flowers. Maybe roses, too, are overtaken by fragrance and compelled to behave unexpectedly.

And don’t miss her. Never miss her.

31 Responses

  1. Roses and gardenias are Beloved’s favorite flowers. :)

    We actually had much better luck with roses in Texas – I had an awesome rose garden in our back yard and it was hardly any work. Up here in Ohio, we have a single rose bush that we have to baby constantly. Go figure.

  2. One does so adore roses of the garden varieties. Bowls of them about the house are one of the joys of summer. So lovely, and such a heavenly scent. I am not surprised you grow them, knowing you. The ones available in New York are mostly gassed, and rigid, and tightly budded. Light years away from yours. Reggie

  3. Rambling roses are my favourites,over walls,covering trees in a woodland wild garden,but to me the most magical & like a secret garden is to open the large walled kitchen garden & the heady scent of old roses rambling over the walls,up the old apple trees….

    HB likes the old shrub roses,and ‘the Mayflower’ we bought from DA has the most highly old fashioned rosie perfume MMMMMMM

    Not keen on the formal rose beds of yore too park like.

    I enjoy dead heading the roses with my old trug….

    Great to see your rose garden.Happy gardening days Lisa. Ida

  4. Your roses are beautiful – especially that coral/orange one. When we moved into our new house last summer, we inherited a lovely rose bush in our front yard. Yes, full sun is needed. I’m probably not taking proper care of them, although they seem to be thriving. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Your roses are a treat. I will try the Neems Oil. We just dust ours with charcoal ash, a tip from my Bolivian coworkers. I think it must have worked better in Bolivia….

    Love your bathroom flowers. I am loving white roses right now, especially with a bit of grey, lambs ears or dark, fennel fronds, accents. I would also like your grey tiles.

    Thanks for coming to the party. No problem with being fashionably late is there?

    xo Jane

  6. Roses are my favorite too. Yours are lovely. Think of all of those lovely white bouquets you’ll have. If you can get your hands on some horse manure (well, maybe *gloved* hands) roses LOVE it too. I have can put you in touch with someone. ;-)

  7. Oh, I do love roses! My Grandfather was fanatical about them and when he died we took cuttings from his favorite Alexander Red – his name was indeed Alexander! – and planted them in our garden. Thankfully they took and they provide us with glorious red roses. Beautiful!

  8. I love roses so much that when I moved out of my cottage and into The City, I made Mama Rubi adopt mine, all David Austin’s. They’ve done just fine in the 10+ years she’s had them, though the whiny one in my collection has never gotten over herself.

    The one thing I’d like to add to the good advice about growing roses is to try to find “own-root” roses, rather than grafts. Sometimes with grafts the pretty bit on top dies and you end up with some ruffian root rose (say that three times fast) that takes over the whole bed.

    Oh, and manure? WELL-ROTTED, or it burns they litty feets.

  9. I was out gardening yesterday and a rose bush scratched my left leg to pieces, I came in oblivious until I saw the blood on the chair, oh they are fesity allright!
    I’m going out tonight and will have to wear a maxi to cover my flower wounds.

  10. Good morning Lisa!
    How nice to see your roses in the bathroom!
    The very idea of a white garden conjures up elegance…like wearing white pearls with a white shirt.
    A vision that I think would suit you perfectly.

    Thank you for the mention I am honored.

  11. I’ve always adored the idea of an all-white garden as well!

    My mother is nothing short of a miracle worker when it comes to roses; I keep telling myself that I’ll “learn roses” someday…

  12. Thanks for the mention. Your roses — and your entire garden–are lovely and they look very healthy. Some of my roses suffer from black spot, and I’ve decided not to worry too much about it — the blooms are still gorgeous. I’ve got enough of the older varieties that can stare the fungus down. Right now I have a bank of pinks (R. complicata, Constance Spry, and Fantin Latour) in riotous, fragrant bloom — I’ll try to post pics soon. I find it so cool to be linked down the coast and across the continent with other gardeners, all with roses of some kind or another — and some of our pairings are similar as well, the rosemary and, for example. . .

  13. Lisa,

    I love your white rose bed and the image with dewdrops is stunning! I applaud your attitude about rose growing.

    This makes me wish I were in a home again, as I am in a condominium.

    Art by Karena

    Come and join my fashionable Giveaway from The Shabby Apple!

  14. That shade of peach is stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous!

    On my neighborhood walk to the nearest Metro stop, there’s a great rowhouse with an all-white garden in front. They’ve actually printed and laminated a sign that explains the tradition of the “English White Garden.” The laminate and Arial font does take away somewhat from the elegance of the flowers, but the sheer impact of all that white in such a large space is pretty breathtaking nonetheless.

  15. Last pic: I love the coke-bottle-like Italian glass vase(vahz)next to the cut crystal. Such an Artsy Cousin thing to do:):):)

  16. I’m glad to see that you are embracing roses. They are beautiful and not all that much work as long as you keep feeding and watering them. I love the photo of the roses next to the rosemary.

  17. When I was in elementary school we lived briefly (and I do mean briefly) in a house with a small rose garden and a gazebo. To this day, I dream about that house.

  18. Ah, stunning plants! Pope John’s are some of my FAVORITES. What is it about that shade of white that is so perfect? Glad to see your garden is doing well!

  19. “They’re very obliging about putting on dewdrops to provoke hope.”

    You are such a poet….

    “Roses appear to hold no grudge.”


  20. I just bought a 110-year old farm house and can’t wait to establish a garden – there currently is none. I moved in a bit too late in the season for planting, but plan on doing a lot of fall plantings. I have a long narrow lot with a LOT of sun, and think that climbing roses (rosa ragosa?) might look good along the long fence. I also am hankering for some hydrangeas, as they have been particularly lovely this summer.

    As for gardenias, I have a potted one which is a 15-year old cutting from my mum’s now 45-year old plant. It’s just blooming now and smells fabulous!

  21. Hah–if growing roses is a middle-aged sort of activity, I must have been middle-aged at sixteen.

    For me the most challenging part of raising roses is finding the right cultivars for a given climate/microclimate. Where I live, (Illinois, in northern Zone 5) the aptly-named Chicago Peace and Mister Lincoln work especially well. To keep them blooming from year to year, with our harsh subzero Januaries and capricious early springs, I’ve learned that it’s not so much keeping the plants warm that is key, but rather keeping the rose graft at a constant temperature.

    I’m afraid I talk to my roses and treat them like pets with roots.

  22. Love the white roses! Mr. 24 has always wanted a white garden…maybe one day we’ll carve out a littel area for it. We don’t have any roses at the moment but one day I hope to have tons and your wonderful las a faire attitude about their care will be my guide! Our climate is of course a bit moist here in the PNW but we also do grow lovely roses…somehow and I know we will prevail!
    Love the white rose in the green bottle btw…
    Have a fabulous Fourth…
    xo J~

  23. Oh, you make me feel better. My roses thrive on benign neglect, though I doubt they would win any prizes. I’d be curious if anyone knows of a good climbing orange one.

  24. Here in Cambridge, UK, we have roses growing like weeds. Everywhere. And it doesn’t seem like our gardener does much about them they just like it. Perhaps they need the ever-fluctuating climate England has to offer? Sun, rain, warm but not hot, and cool days in-between. In either case, the roses are always gorgeous. I have a climber underneath my window that was the last one to bloom before frost and the first one to continue in spring. I will truly miss the English roses. No pun intended. :c)

  25. Until very recently, the only part of my yard that got sun was out back near the pool, along the small ridge between the house and the cliff below. I always had roses there and I adored them. Alas they were trampled and uprooted by the men-in-boots during a major pool and deck repair.

    Of course there is always hope for more roses and I am sure they will find their way into my life again.

  26. We have rosa rugosas everywhere. They are impossible to kill. You probably couldn’t set fire to them or shoot them dead. They grow on the highway medians!

    They are not as well behaved as yours, though.

Comments are closed.