I got asked to write a light but interesting article awhile back but forgot to ask how many words and was asked to clip it but been too busy this summer and need to leave on a tour of duty. Well here it is unedited ... some of you may find this amusing, some interesting, some boring, some livid ... but those who like a laugh ... enjoy it... I laughed most of the time when I was writing it. It's long, I think about 5000 or 6000 words ... all the opinions contained within are mine apply within my property lines and probably no where else.
A Mad Diary of Rose Zone Busting on the Prairie Foothills
Hit Hard and Fast with Everything to Hook Them
"Nothing grows in Calgary" was the tired old clich- that passes as sage gardening advice Â told to me a long time ago when a friend heard I was relocating to Calgary" ... "Rot" I shot back "ItÂs the Banana Belt of Alberta with the Chinooks".
Well from that naive retort long ago about the dubious benefits of the Chinooks, it is now time to pen on this snowy May long weekend of a rose growing obsession. My more philistine non-gardener acquaintances called it that when my eyes glaze over and I begin to wax poetically about my endeavors. Little know to these retrogrades, it is more correctly termed a passion. Yes, a passion it is and one not strange to those who have succumbed to it.
What is this passion? It is growing successfully "out of zone" antique and old garden varieties roses to enjoy their rarity, unique beauty, color, form and lastly, fragrance so commonly missing from the more modern endeavors.
I also have a nobler mission with this coming out and it is in part to reassure those who may think they are afflicted and may wonder if they are mad Â rest assured you are, but your not alone your just part of a very small circle of rose growers I term as "zoned out".
Nature has decreed these "out of zone" roses do not "naturally" belong in her Calgary climate domain. She gives us winter temperatures and accompanying howlers to make sure her rules are followed by the plant kingdom and the gardener. Put slightly more clinically, and succinctly, for the "tell it to me straight types", an out of zone rose will eventually succumb to our wonderful winters if just plopped in the garden like one would do to a pansy.
If we want to break her rules, we can not. We learn quickly when first starting out this is impossible when trying to grow out of zone rose. All "out of zone" rose gardeners do is something more simple, we just indulge her patience a little by trying to bend her rules that a certain rose does not naturally belong here. However you can bend natures desire to correct an imbalance in the zone with this misplaced type of rose by using zone stretching practices that have been developed and passed on by generations of prairie rose growers since the 1920Âs. These pioneers succeeded by experimentation in growing out of zone roses, as well as hybridizing roses suited to our climate Â i.e. termed "hardy roses" as they need no protection to survive winter to bloom.
The second consideration before the tale is told is trying to quickly explain what is an antique rose, an old garden rose (ogr), and a "modern rose"? There are a debates and therefore preferences among the pundits and rose experts as to when and what marks the differences. For my simple needs it is easier to think in terms of dates than go into long explanations of difference and origins. So lets start with the date split between the old garden rose and the modern rose we tend to label as a hybrid tea (there are many other varieties of modern roses but the Hybrid tea is the bench mark and the most commercially powerful).
The type split occurred with the showing in 1867 in Paris France of the first hybrid tea Â a pink named La France (I grow it Â but may not be named right). This rose is the high centered repeating rose we see at our local florist shop on the special occasion trips. The introduction of the hybrid tea was the start of the longest successful commercial run in rose history with it still dominating the market 140 years later. The other two types of roses have been largely forgotten in the face of the commercial onslaught and success of the hybrid tea.
It is not too much of a stretch of bravado for me to state that based on my experience there is not one officially designated hybrid tea created since 1867 (and there has been thousands) that is cane hardy in my zone.
The hybrid tea was developed from the Old Garden Rose and this section of rose history is where the majority of my out of zone growing passion lies. The key attraction and importance of this period in rose history is it marks the period of time where hybridizers moved from once blooming European Antique Roses to creating repeating roses. The repeat on a large scale was credited to hybridizing the antique roses of Europe with specific imported "China RosesÂ" that were found to have a repeating gene.
On of my favourites varieties to come out of this new breeding thrust of obtaining repeating roses was the Bourbon class. This class lend itself well to cultivation in Calgary if both the graft and canes are protected in winter Â small wonderfully fragrant flowers from these roses and if your lucky and have a warm hot summer you may get a small repeat in early to mid Â September Â if it beats the first hard frost and snow.
An antique rose is a term I use to generalize when talking about roses from Europe hybridized before the introduction of the China Rose repeating gene Â though they continued to be hybridized after the fate full landing of the god sent gene to out of zone growers.
The key Antique classes are called Albas, Gallicas, Centifolia and Damask. Their common trait is they only bloom once in a season and on the previous yearÂs cane growth Â except for one example I am aware of named Autumn Damask / Four Seasons rose. This Damask, and I am assuming I have the right one, repeats in the fall. It has proved to be an excellent rose in my garden for "surviving with protection" and repeating in the early fall of a hot summer.
The Antiques are the toughest challenge for me in Calgary. If you fail to protect the canes adequately against winter it will not bloom for you next spring. However just to aggravate you, the canes will grow quite nicely during the season and some reach 4 to 5 feet and producing lots of green and thorns. Then you repeat the protection process again the next year Â and still no blooms. Eventually the rose can fail to bloom even if cane survives for spring Â my experience with some types. Usually by the 3rd season I decide whether to move the rose to a more optimum location or shovel prune it Â a.k.a. get rid of it.
The Antiques also suffer in my garden as they are planted in the north facing gardens. This area only receives direct sun from mid April to mid September and essentially no wind break. Usually the north gardens do not even begin to break dormancy until about the mid May. For comparison the Bourbons Â an old garden rose Â are planted in the protected south gardens and are usually leafed out by end of May.
Based on testing, I have about given up on quite a few once blooming antiques. For example in the gallica class I have tried 34 varieties, in the damasks probably a dozen, and centifolia, again probably a dozen. All that remain are about 22 examples - the rest I have removed.
The ones I have decided to retain were acceded the honour of remaining in my garden because they give consistent blooming with cane protection methods. Some excellent examples I have listed below, but the lawyer in me must state "Your mileage may vary (remember it as YMMV)" Â meaning some I have turfed might do well for you will others I praise, may die in your garden:
Alika Â This is not European gallica, but a Siberian species with a stingy bush form Â you wonÂt win prizes with the red blooms either. But it is the rock star of the generally wimpy out of zone gallicas as it is the hardiest I have ever grown. It never gets protection at all in my garden in the last 3 winters as I refused to do it.
It is planted in a generally lousy, sadistic location for a rose shady and gets little direct sun, no wind protection and is in poor soil Â basically just generally neglected. I read a famous hybridizer in the 1920Âs Hansen imported it to see if he could use it to hybridize hardy roses Â we should all thank the manÂs memory.
All the rest of the gallicas remaining in my garden have their canes and grafts protected. These Gallicas are:
Charles de Mills
Empress Josephine I grow but I believe it to be in decline and this year will tell for sure - but it has lasted 7 years. I continue to grow Tuscany and Tuscany Superior but they are tender and are hit and miss for blooming.
The Damask Roses Â not Portland Damasks who form a repeating sub class - are even frailer than the Gallicas until a Siberian one is found.
Again I protect both the graft and canes. In order of best performance in my garden they are
Mme Zoetmans (a white)
Rose of Castile.
The Rose of Castile barely survives getting turfed because it gives maybe three blooms a season because its canes are very cold sensitive. All others tried are long gone Â pity.
Many a warm climate Rosarian raves about this class due to itÂs messy and muddled blooms that they seem to like (not so with Mme Zoetmans as her are perfectly formed) combined with a powerful fragrance responsible for the Attar of Rose fragrance that costs about hundreds of dollars a gram.
The Albas have been quite successful in my garden. At least 40% of the ones I have tried are semi hardy Â to cane hardy. The remaining ones are tender and protected.
With the Albas I seem to see a trend where the "pure whites" are the hardiest if protected for the first couple of years by methods I will discuss later. The blushes (pink or tinted pink) must be totally protected in my north gardens.
This spring I finally did remove one named Belle Amour. Though it bloomed and was vigorous, it just did not produce enough blooms and the canes were ultra sensitive to cold damage. Personally to me it cane characteristics (thorns) and leaves look more Damask than Alba.
The Albas fortunately saved the Antique Rose group in my garden and I offer the following list in order of best winter hardiness and performance in my garden (YMMV). I note whether I protect the canes, or not with the letters "CP".
Pompon Blanc Parfait
Great Maiden's Blush
Princesse de Lamballe Â CP (though a white being protected until older)
Armide Â CP (though a white being protected until older)
Blush Hip - CP
Celestial - CP
FÃ©licitÃ© Parmentier - CP
KÃ¶nigin von DÃ¤nemark - CP
Mme Legras de St Germain - CP (though a white being protected until older)
Mme Plaintier - CP (though a white being protected until older)
Jeanne d'Arc Â too new to comment
A possible trait of the successful ones (white) is they may not be crossed with tender species or only been crossed once be either nature or the hybridizers.
Many tried and all basically removed due to lack of blooming ÂI donÂt recommend this class in north facing gardens.
There is one more class that straddles both the Antique and Old Garden classes and it is the Moss group Â one of the heaviest represented in my garden. They straddle the two groups because hybridizers succeeded in making this class repeat, whereas the Gallicas and Centifolia remain once bloomers.
The mosses that are the most successful in my garden are again the repeaters. However I do believe I see a real trait where the once blooming versions of this class are marginally better than the Centifolias for winter survival of cane and hence bloom (may just be my imagination) - note the mosses are believed to be a mutation of the centifolia and therefore created by nature.
The best of the once blooming mosses for actually blooming is Henri Martin a medium red which exhibits semi hardy behaviour and is not protected. However the bloom is sparse for me.
The repeating mosses are very reliable in my garden (YMMV) even if the canes die some years to the ground even with protection. One of the better ones is Soupert et Notting (canes protected) - a pink moss
The following are the mosses I grow that I considered repeaters and their performance puts them in no danger of being removed:
Alfred de Dalmas
Deuil de Paul Fontaine
Mme de la Roche-Lambert
Soupert et Notting
In addition to Henri Martin, below are listed some of the more reliable, but not prolific, once bloomers that do bloom with cane protection (YMMV):
Nuits de Young
Mme William Paul
The "good" performers will usually make between 2 to 5 feet depending on their natural height tendency when grown in the appropriate climate.
Now lets balance the above with a little more background information as to why the repeating roses seem to do better in my garden with protection than the once blooming antiques Â to me it is not a mystery and that is because the blooming phenomenon is not dependent wholly on survival of last years canes.
The repeaters will bloom on this years new canes and quite well. It is repeat that put the Antique rose class in jeopardy of extinction in commerce. If it were not for the dedicated efforts Â and right climate Â of a few Rosarians in the last century this class would be gone today Â Graham Stuart Thomas is rather a famous individual who dedicated his life to preserving this class in England. His efforts can be seen at the Natonal Tust gardens at Montisfont Abbey in England
The Old Garden Roses Â My Favourites
This is the class for the out of zone grower who favors pre Â hybrid teas, to quickly taste success becomes the bloom does not depend on the survival of last years canes - with some exceptions. However cane survival increases the bloom density, size and overall bush form.
The survival of cane is an area I have been concentrating on over the last few years with developing and tuning my protection efforts.
To me the stars of this group are the Damask Portlands, Bourbons and the Hybrid Perpetuals classes. These roses do quite well in climate zones 5 to 6.
There are also true Teas, Noisettes and slightly more modern and post 1867 the Hybrid Musks classes. These later roses can be grown and are by me but are high to extremely tender and belong more in the zone 7 to 9 climates.
Now I must push a caveat on you. I must warn that a repeating old rose does not mean your bushes are continuously smothered in blooms from the July flush until the first frost Â far from it. Repeat means after a lull anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks or more your rose will re-bloom but usually not as intensive as the spring bloom. The rose you want, and few exist in the old roses, is the continuous bloomer.
Last year was an exceptional year for me with a repeat occurring on lots of my out of zone roses. However everything is a balanceÂ remember you can not totally bend nature Â and in my experience enjoying a repeat in Calgary is a dicey proposition. Our season is so short that on numerous occasions my fall repeat freezes into marbles on the cane.
JourneyÂs Beginnings and Just General Wandering Around Until the Light
Now that we have started with the end of the story and given you the dry results and all the practicalities, let us travel back 20 years and begin building the drama of how it began. The hope is some of you will not be scared off and see what I see and may take up the challenge Â on a limited scale I hope.
The gardening passion started first - the rose addiction evolved from it some years later. This out of zone rose passion was an accident or too much exposure to pulp fiction Â or being less kind a contempt of the norm or being told you can not succeed.
The story starts innocently one burning hot summer day in a small town in Northern Alberta as I was trying to figure out how to brighten up a drab rental unit landscaping efforts by previous tenants. Now this Town of Hope is a zone 3 climatic island surrounded by a sea of zone 2 - or as I like to say a good area for growing icicles reliably. I am just kidding as in truth the town has a strong and vigorous gardening culture. It is just the inhabitants must take advantage of the long hours of day light to compensate for the very short growing season.
The landscaping in the rental unit consisted of burned out grass, luxuriant growths of choking dandelion and thistle, with lovely contrasting shades of grey bare butt clay baked hard enough to drive a spiked tracked skidoo over without leaving an impression. The solution to my problem on that hot day came in remembering my parentÂs gardens and making a garden seemed to be the natural thing to do to get out of the dirty thirties landscape. I started first with planting annuals and then I moved up to the sophisticated perennials class Â who wants to replant every spring I naively thought to myself.
I became drunk with my success at making eye candy when that first planting actually grew. The first garden was a 3 foot by 6 foot plot choked full of snap dragons, pansies, gladiolas, geraniums, and you name it, if it was green and had a bit of color it was in there Â still over plant even today.
Soon after that first planting splash we ditched the Quonset hut and bought our first house. Again but this time on a belly flop scale I went on over planting by stuffing the new place with deciduous trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and just about anything the local nursery would let me buy Â got to remember folks winter seems very long up in no road north of 60. Then one day I moved beyond the nursery greenhouse and past the shrubs and tree lot and noticed a couple of scrawny rose bushes that were not much to look, but thought a what the heck give them a try. I planted them and to this day I donÂt even know what they were. That spring one rose turned out to be hardy and broke dormancy while the other died.
The survivor put out some kind of bland red bloom that did nothing for me and roses were quickly forgotten. This result compares less favorably to the feeling of success and awe I received from getting the Northern Lights azalea to bloom when I figured out in try two that I should plant with a south exposure and against the house.
Much later as my knowledge grew by 10 cents up north - I may have read at least one paper back book on gardening or maybe I splurged and got RodaleÂs - I realized that the first steps in out of zone horticulture require understanding micro-climates in your yard. However back in year 0+1, I did not even know about efforts made to correlate between climatic zones and associated plants for those zones Â in particular that there were such things as hardy and not hardy plants just south of the artic circle.
My 10 cents bought me the knowledge of the past in that one should only plant what belongs in your zone Â did I heed this advice in those early days ? Nope ignored it as I usually ignore something I am not suppose to do once lured into the nursery because the grass is always greener until you hit the Mohave desert and catii are all thatÂs left Â or is it lichen rock gardens way north of 60.
Eventually due to agreeing to do a favour for my company I tore myself away from the rugged rustic black fly paradise of the tundra gardens and found myself in Calgary Â ah I thought the Banana Belt of CanadaÂs prairie garden this should be good. However in the first years gardening went into limbo due to a need to contribute to leading the lost out of the woods Â also known as extraneous work demands squeezed private time, sanity and a young growing families needs, so gardening was not important as a value.
But the sabbatical from gardening was not long in self-terminating. Once again the need to grow something took over again as a mission to "improve" the yard of the rented house Â why do all rental unit landscaping care and maintenance efforts by tenants look like a masterpiece of creative design to the Adams Family?
The rose growing passion still did not ignite until brief sojourns and detouring forays into perennial and vegetable horticulture died on the vine like the green tomatoes did after turning into baseballs after the second year in a row of early frost. In the missteps from the chosen path, I did manage to achieve a "nice" front yard perennial garden on one of those pie shaped lots where there is no front yard.
However time was drawing short to avoiding the inevitable confrontation with the "Enticer". It happened one Saturday in late August 1998. Innocuously enough, as I was accustomed to doing, I went to the nursery for a mental break from repair bashing the 12 year squeaking, leaking turkey I called domestic transport that goes forward backwards and stops when I want it to and nothing else Â my car at the time. Upon entering the hallowed halls of my favorite nursery I met the "Enticer" whoÂs to blame for where I am today Â it went by the name Rosa Winnipeg Parks.
The nefarious Winnipegger was blocking my path to the perennials with itÂs loud eye catching cherry candy red color- no doubt enhanced by liberal doses of fertilizer and astute lighting and pacing giving it an alluring almost fluorescent hue. As with those struck by the bug, I was immediately hooked and into the garden it went Â never did make it to the perennials. Later I was to learn that this rose was a modern Canadian, prairie hybridized rose from the Morden Experimental Station in Morden Manitoba. Notice I had pride and was not attracted by fragrance Â has none Â but instead by the color.
Being completely hooked by the encounter, I found myself back next day and leaving with roses by the names Abraham Darby (an Austin or English named rose), Ferdinand Pichard (a 1930Âs modern version of the 19th century Hybrid Perpetual class) and then another 6 modern hybrid tea roses followed in rapid succession. One was named Peace Â this 1945 introduction to North America fro France marks the break from old hybrid tea form to the modern, full, high pointed hybrid tea rose we all know from Safeway and weddings mandatory accruements of style.
Now in this missus I have failed to provide a clear and concise portrayal of the excitement and near frenzied approach I took to this early binging because the years have passed and feeling has been reduced by semi rose growing maturity (yeah right) Â but it was there and you are nearly powerless to control it once it has hold of you Â unless youÂre a Vulcan and the you can beat it before it starts because it is not logical as a reaction to some kind of life form Â but in reality the cause is a mysterious allure that well bred roses have on the human physique Â provided you are from planet earth.
Note in none of this first nuts reaction to the passion that was successfully eluded in the tundra with the rose is there any attempt to "learn" through what others knew or had written about roses. Only by pure happenstance did my first Calgary rose end up being what is loosely termed a hardy rose. It is loosely termed hardy in the sense that its canes do not completely survive our zone 3 winters Â 50% to 80% dieback is common in my garden.
So there I was in throes of the obsession before the passion and a good thing because nobody can tell you anything negative about rose in this phase because you are completely into the obviousness of it all as a good thing Â mainly because of the buzz it gives you Â your kind of like that lunatic Dilbert optimistic at work who management has told to jump off the cliff in a suicide mission and he does it because itÂs all a positive experience including the end result at the bottom of the cliff.
Why was this frame of mind a good thing? Because in this phase you are insulated from the misplaced advice and tempering logic forced on you by heathens. I obtained my first experience with this insulating protection from negative vibes by experiencing the North American cultural comment from a nice (sincerely mean it) neighbour that went something like this "Â your nuts with all those roses planted in your yard Â" Â I only had eight planted compared to the seven hundred give or take fifty to hundred bushes of today.
What I did not realize at the time was the rose brings out the weird awe and fear of it in the non-gardener and sometimes the non-rose gardener. A better way to understand this strangeness is if you show them a yard loaded with annuals perennials and shrubs Â really landscaping as opposed to gardening - their first reaction is usually "thatÂs quite nice looking" or "beautiful garden" or "what a great job you done" Â nope with lots of roses itÂs "Â what are you nuts Â" - your free to substitute words "weird", "bent" "crazy" "obsessive" "illogical" - even been told I am on drugs. But from the more intelligent human biped I received an enquiry "How are you able to grow them when I canÂt" Â the last gets answered later.
Well by the new millennium, we decided (we means I am including my understanding spouse in this passion) it was time to get out of rentals and buy. So we purchased Â the new house was a gold medal winner of the ultimate in bleak cookie cutter suburbia contractor landscaping and lacked anything soft and "outdoors" people friendly for my short summers.
It was easy to see that in the neighborhood the traditional Canadian pastime of staying outdoors in the backyard from dusk to dawn was missing because of a lack of privacy in the backyards - no solid fences allowed. All in all the yard was about as enticing as camping in a -50C January howler blasting over the bald prairie at night (my apologies to those who find howlers interesting meteorological phenomenon to quote a famous local weatherman).
But before moving in unfinished business remained, that being rather than leave my roses in the old place to an uncertain future, and probably in the hands of future heathens, I uprooted and potted them for transfer to our new house. For some reason only known to history I decided to plant Abe and Ferdinand in the ground in October of the move in year Â their grafts were planted above ground. The remainder I stored in the garage deducing they would survive to plant in the spring.
Again up to this time I had done no reading about rose culture, let alone about growing out of zone roses in Calgary. However for some reason I decided by NovemberÂs first cold to throw a bit of earth on top of the grafts. It must have been nursery chat osmosis, or something that told me I should do this.
A lucky break indeed because the roses in the unheated garage were dehydrated and utterly dead as door nails by spring - but not Abe and Ferdinand. Both of these rose canes were toast and I had a brief moment of manic depression and the rose saga was perilously close to permanent termination. However being ever the optimistic in non work related endeavors totally controlled by me Â ignoring nature for a moment Â I brushed the covering soil away from the grafts. As the clichÃ© says "Jo lo and behold there was a couple of tiny specks of new growth developing from the inch or two of cane that had remained green Â only a true new gardener could relate to the great feeling to see the green with six corpses in the garage - which should have been a better location for survival (attached to the house Â ah the lessons yet to learn Â still canÂt make tenders survive in the garage).
Though I did not know it yet that little bit of green was the beginning of out of zone rose growing, and believe it or not I still have both roses after 8 years. Indeed Ferdinand was moved from the original south bay window plot to the more hostile northern gardens in the back yard. As a testament to its "survivability" it still produces today Â on Dr Huey rootstock. Note the canes will in some years die over winter to the ground even with protection. Yet some years I start with 3 feet in the spring of green healthy cane. DonÂt ask the source of the inconsistency because I would have to be honest and tell you I do not have a clue Â I just chalk it up to itÂs inherent in the sometimes inconsistent results of efforts for trying to save of cane over winter. In 2006 Â one of the three foot cane springs - it happened to throw an eight foot cane in defiance of its usual zone 3 length of 4 to 5 feet high maximum.
The eight foot cane did not survive the winter but this is one hybrid perpetual that is very conducive to rewarding even a little bit of effort to conserve canes. This rose is probably one of the best of the hybrid perpetuals for cold climates with others coming to mind.
In this class I can easily recommend to try, but protect, Sydonie / Sidonie (3 to 5 feet by seasons end), Mme Boll (3 to 4 feet), Enfant d France (2 to 3 feet), Mrs. Baker ( 2 to 4 feet). By the way it would be extremely unusual to find these varieties in your local to the point I would say you wonÂt. You need to order them from reputable Old Garden Rose nurseries such as Pickering Nurseries in Ontario.
For wetting your appetite I lists below the ones that I grow that do reliably provide blooms and a list of ones more hit and miss (die). The most import aspect to remember for later when we learn some suggested guidelines when starting out in out of zone growing is all hybrid perpetuals (Old Garden Roses) are repeaters.
The second list is the more tender dicey ones I grow but who I find less reliable.
This class of roses actually was the precursor to the Hybrid Tea and was a mainstay of Victorian times in England and France. In my garden all the Hybrid perpetuals are in the aggressive north gardens Â no hybrid teas in there Â and so have been challenged with some doing still well after 7 years Â original plant.
Reliable Bloomers in Zone 3 with protection:
Anna de Diesbach
Baron Girod de l'Ain
Enfant de France
Frau Karl Druschki
Reine des Violettes
Less reliable in zone 3 with protection:
Anna de Diesbach
Baron Girod de l'Ain
Comtesse Cecile de Chabrillant
Duke of Edinburgh
Fisher & Holmes
Paul's Early Blush
Prince Camille de Rohan
Souvenir de Docteur Jamain
Triomphe de l'Exposition
However I get ahead of myself somewhat in the evolution to out of zone growing. First came the planning of the first major dive into rose mania Â 8 was only a tease in the first year of the passion.
During the first winter in the new house, I would pass my time running through my mind how I was going to change this bleak desolate soccer field yard and the contact between it and the all angles " The Big Pink" house meet from a grass wasteland into something softer and reminding me of origins in Northern Ontario Â read trees. During a trip to the nurseries to get a fix of green and some landscaping inspiration I happened upon a little innocuous looking paperback book titled Lois Holes Rose Favourites.
Yes sir this addiction fostering little book was the trigger that caused the full blown rose growing mania Â 8 of year 1 became "Yeah that was nice as bouquet Â now for the real thing" Â this little book would be responsible for me hauling many hundreds of wheel barrel loads of top soil, kilograms upon kilograms of bone meal, shovels, hoes, pruners, hundreds of pounds of river rock, hundreds of pounds of pavers, a small forest of gardens ties, 10 hp Honda tillers, statues, a 600 pound fountain, garden bricks and buckets and buckets of soaking bare root roses not belonging in zone 3 etcetcetc around the yard in early May. And doing this and calling it a fun way to spend what has become an annual two week rite of spring planting ritual Â vacation from another real life.
Something about the format and content of this little book, or more probably its pictures and concise style of writing on the subject created the hunger to grows roses on a maddening scale.Â the net result of that winter book was rose gardening mania displaced landscaping to become the primary raison d'Ãªtre with landscaping geared to complementing the rose plan. In those early heady days all thoughts were pre-occupied with recreating little Britain delusions in my yard Â forget Northern Ontario tree landscape approximation Â thatÂs good for attracting woodpeckers.
The vision that spawned during that first winter Little Britain episode in Calgary was massive glorious trusses of six to ten foot high climbing roses and bushes smothering the walls of The Big Pink and hiding the prison yard chain link subdivision caveat fencing. It was a nice illusion to be in but one fatal flaw. I completely forgot about zone considerations even when reading the book. Did not matter anyways because in the end the results were that the range of truly hardy varieties here was even narrow than within the pages. The reason was unfortunately it was not geared to my "specific foothills microclimate existing exactly within my fence line and within the exact spot I planted each test rose", though it is close, no cigar - or should I say no "Bouquet dÂ Or" awarded Â though I grow it. But credit where due that in the end it was a simple well written, informative and illustrated little beginners "Das Booke" that set me on the road to learning about Zone Busting.
Problem is I did not know it back then that there were to be many successes but more "getting thumped" by the agonies of defeat before I found the right balance between what can be made to grow out of zone and is worth the effort I want to take to do the protection to "make it so Scotty" Â I am Professional Engineer by trades so I like Scotty - but still donÂt have a "British Garden".
What I have achieved is something in between that does draw compliments and gushes from those open to the joys of rose gardening and the awe that goes with really intensive examples almost bordering but not quite on mono-culture (not a good idea because of the limitations it brings with garden textures and bloom cycles - you get long periods of nice green and where is the color? Â or also known as use annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs to give balance to the roses and all season interest.
But back we must go to study evolution. By the time when the first frost hit in the 2nd week of October in year 1 of the New Dawn, the mild hobby before "Das Magnum Kinder Booke" had turned into a full blown practically executed obsession (not a passion yet) for which the enjoyable outdoor part had to end for the winter with about 100 hundred roses of nearly all classes planted and running the gamut of box, potted and bare root roses. By Year 7 the passion had eclipsed the initial primitive obsessive compulsive disorders with an organized garden of about 700 rose bushes in the small subdivision yard of 110 feet by 55 feet.
Ahhh Â least I forget and be accused as a bearer of falsehoods by those sharp tongued experts I need to give perspective on the results of year 1. The hidden realities of zone busting from that first year consisted of the visions of the 15 foot trusses of British roses hitting between 2 to 4 feet with a stretchy metal measuring tape - and receiving as a reward for my enthusiasm, two small mangy blooms from the out of zone roses. Of course being the type that always sees opportunity in delusions busted Â but not seeing the delusion - I saw the truly demented gift that I could "stuff" in a few more roses to enjoy those blooms that can not be replicated exactly the same in the truly hardy roses for zone 3 Calgary Â about 12 in number - just kidding but only just barely.
The Interrogation Â Are You Worthy?
So now that we know how it started, you may wonder what is step one of a sensible progression to deciding and learning how to do zone busting? Â I donÂt know for sure I am still trying to sort out sensible, but not really worrying about it because I am having just too much fun learning.
However we could start by having you ask yourself a number of questions. Here are a few I would ask if I were a rational person. By the way I am not Â even after spending way too much time in science and engineering due to curiosity and free money from the loving sixties Â bless those stuck in the sixties folks as they know why leave?
To me the questions would probably go something like this:
Do you think you would like to grow roses?
if you answer no then stop reading this article unless your having a coffee and TV is boring as the Senators already won the cup. However I would ask you how do you know you would not because you bought this periodical out of curiosity so your already half way there to wanting to try the first step and that is grow roses.
If you answer yes, then I would think you need to ask do you want a real challenge to your gardening skills that requires what others call real work but to you, you would call "joy"? If you answer yes then proceed, if you answer no then stop and go back to what you enjoy Â no hard feelings you just did not make the grade.
If you sincerely think yes, then ask are you ready willing and able to lose to nature to learn to work with her ? (by the way I use gender with nature as I believe nature to be feminine). If you answer no, then I suggest professional help - itÂs natureÂs world we live in so get on with it and work with it.
If yes, then the next question is do you like to read about gardening?
The point here is to avoid making the same mistakes others made but actually wrote down in a book how they succeeded exaggerating how they were a genius and figure it all out on their first try.
If you answered "yes" to reading then youÂre a rational person and well onto using a systematic approach to learning zone busting Â except youÂre likely have strong technocratic tendencies and you will need to suppress these or your totally screwed in that you canÂt understand nature totally by equations and hypothesis - so donÂt try. The best you can hope for is just a close approximation of how she works, how you can work with her, and live-learn and re-learn again approach of peaceful co-existence in your garden with her.
As you may guess, I answered nope to the question, and just did it Â about $30,000, 7 years and 10,000 hours of labour in the garden I realized I should have lied and answered yes.
The way I stumbled into it was by visions of grandeur in the yard with roses and no patience for Nay Sayers, real in depth books, technology and professionals Â but one saving grace is I had time to listen to the verbal tales of battle scared old timers.
And last and most important question, do you want to have rose bushes as big as they grow in California, or just a bloom or two of what they grow there?
If you answered as big as they grow in California youÂre out of this venture - wrong perspective for out of zone growing. Forget California rose growing as the stateÂs climate is a heavenly fluke, or divine after thought of heavenly pity for earth that other climates even exist to add longing.
However a California rose bloom is possible in Calgary it is just that the zone 3 bush equivalent is only 1/10 the size they grow there and your number of blooms is only 1/100 on a bad California rose day.
So if you do all your reading - unlike me - you will discover the following number 1 rule of out of zone rose growing.
Start with rose rated to your zone. That is the number 1 advice experienced Rosarians - or just me who has lost it totally - will tell you. Or being more kind following that advice is what rational people call a sensible plan. Why Â because it gives you the feeling of success and starting to understand the basics or how to plant roses, soil conditions, soil maintenance, watering, location, micro-climates in your yard etcetcetc ... but the initial success is the most important because it allows you to get arrogant and say "thatÂs easy, now bring buddy with the out of zone stuff you claim is so hard".
How do you find out what rose is rated to your zone?
Actually the truth be stated as my opinion, rose "zone rating" is one of the more controversial areas of "no expertise". My "expertise" is limited to the growing conditions within the specific 5000 square feet of my yard, the compass azimuths within it, lights and shadows caused by structures and the sun rises sort of in thee easy and kind of travels above my roof south lie and probably by now somewhere between one or two thousand rose names tested for hardiness behaviour in various location within the yard Â or only one location. If I walk across my street, probably 40% of what I know is useless for my neighbours yard Â except the advice start with a hardy rose.
The point being the level of hardiness behaviors exhibited by a marginal zone rose can be location specific because of micro-climates influences in your yard.
Finding and noting different micro-climates is what an out of zone rose grower tries to discover in their yard. They then use this knowledge to their advantage for selecting the correct placement of the correct type of out of zone rose to do the biggest zone stretch. For me mission ridiculous is now targeting to get a tea rose to have canes survive winter protected in the south gardenÂs most out of zone friendly spot. This area is the "best out of zone microclimate in my yard and for the right rose".
Whereas I have learned to plant rugosas and hardy species in my "very cold" micro climates that are characterized by the first direct sun exposure occurring latter in spring, and loss of direct sun earlier in fall than in my warm microclimate areas in the yard.
The ultimate micro climate in my yard is created by an area in front of a south facing wall with additional protection from cold winter winds from the east and the warm Chinooks from the west. This protection comes from smaller walls. If you can find a similar situation in your yard it could allow you to stretch sometimes stretch to a zone 6 or 7 rose Â albeit not to the height or bloom density of the proper environment for the simple reason our season is not long enough to generate enough heat units in its some 100 plus frost free days.
But let us return back to what we have with respect to understanding whatÂs meant by zone hardiness or a zone hardy rose in Calgary. If you ask someone who grows roses if a specific rose is hardy you can get the full spectrum of replies. The replies will range form the optimistic - typified by an overly stretched imagination as to what are the bare minimum characteristics defining a rose as an acceptable rose the first spring after its first winter - to the overly pessimist fatalist who wonÂt accept blooms on a rose the spring as real because the rose did not come from the local bush lot.
I ignore both these camps definitions when it comes to rose hardiness as they are extreme viewpoints - though at first I fell into the optimistic camp as many of you will. The simple fact Â or in my case my opinion is the rose world does not define well enough in formal circles what is meant by a rose being hardy.
But before tackling this "hardy question as it applies to out of zone roses lets take a side step. Interestingly the scientific calculation of the climatic zone number is fascinating as it has reduced "feelings and observation recordings" about climate and plant compatibility to a mathematical zone equation. IÂll spare you and me it precise equation as even I find it a challenge to understand. The formula is used with Environment Canada data to assign every area in Canada a zone value Â Calgary is assigned zone 3a Â Lotusland varies from 6 to 8.
The equation is not all about temperature inputs because it also includes a number of inputs including one that has always interested me and that is wind. The combination of cold, dry normal winter winds alternating with the warm moist winter Chinook winds have go tot be a thermal and desiccating killer for unprotected out of zone rose canes Â let alone normally hardy plants for our zone. I feel this is because of the desiccating effect on roses not "designed by nature" to compensate for it in our climate.
Out of zone roses that grow low to the ground or procumbent usually have a high tolerance of the winds Â good cane survival - as they are not in itÂs full blast of the wind. However at the same time there are other hardy rose making over 6 feet high that are straight and rigid that experience no apparent winter wind damage except perhaps a little tip die down hence that would seem to make a lie out of the theory desiccations is a killer and not thermal changes Â e.g. Persiana Yellow which is not natural to Calgary but completely hardy. Is not nature wonderful, as no generalization can be really stretched far without finding a contradiction to it (low to the ground equals better survival of canes).
Anyways enough of a side bar, back to trying to define what is meant by, and characterizes a specific rose type and named rose as "zone hardy" to Calgary.
LetÂs start with a scenario, if I was extremely cavalier and filthy rich then the simplest method of determining a roseÂs hardiness in my garden would be to test it. In this very simple test I would plant the rose like you would a perennial - dig a hole as deep and as wide as the roots, plop it in, backfill to the soil line, water and hope for the best. In this test we do not plant the graft below the soil line. DonÂt laugh or call this an unrealistic test as 20/20 hindsight is our friend whereas neophyte rose gardeners do just that when they plant their first hybrid tea with no hindsight or knowledge Â but us being now educated by reading we know there is no hybrid tea hardy to Calgary by the strictest definition to follow soon of what hardy means.
If you have money to burn and did the test mentioned you would likely one of three types of results occur the following spring after planting like offered below:
The real hardy rose is the rose that naturally belongs in the zone 3a environment even if it was not originally a rose created by nature in Calgary or even North America zone 3aÂs. It is characterized by trivial yet important characteristics - it grows leaves telling us the graft is alive and it has no damaged to the canes worth mentioning after winter (meaning will grow larger in itÂs second season in our garden). With respect to cane damage in my books this has to be less 10% of the total cane length (total arbitrary scale on my part) or down of the total number of canes. It is never zero unless the rose is made of plastic.
In my experience there are a very limited number of truly graft and cane hardy roses for Calgary. The truly cane hardy roses in my garden tend to fall into the species or the following formal classes such as the Albas (the whites as opposed to the blushes), Rugosa Â Rugosa Hybrid (but not all as IÂve learned from trial and error), Pimpinefollia (Scots Roses such as Double Blush Burnet), Moyessi (Nevada) and Foetida (Persiana Yellow Â a rose all over Calgary with about the most brilliant deep shade of yellow I have ever seen). Nearly every privately breed prairie hardy rose seems to have one or more of these classes in their background to provide some measure of true cane hardiness.
I neglect to list, due to a lack of in depth knowledge, whether roses exist that are crosses with our own naturally occurring species rose - Rosa accicularis (the provincial flower emblem) Â but the legendary Theresa Bugnet bred in Legal Alberta is stated to have some in her genes.
By the way one spring I had shock when one of my six Alberta hybridized Theresa BugnetÂs Â a rose that falls in this group of truly hardy with no more than 10% die back of the cane length or canes - lost all itÂs canes to exposed crown / graft. To this day I have no idea why this rose did the massive die down. But as we will see with the second category of hardiness, after I cut all the dead canes to the crown s vigorously re-grew all new canes from basal beaks by fall. By first frost she was nearly as high and wide as the previous fall before the die down Â truly an amazing rose to me and one of my favourites Â try and get an out of zone rose to do that.
The cane hardy rose is never shunned even by the true psychotic out of zone grower. They tend to be scattered through out the garden in a vague belief that when they get too old to do protection of out of zone roses they can fall back on the hardies to get their rose fix Â my thinking plus this vague notion I will one day begin hybridizing to stave off post retirement boredom Â this is a pursuit though noble, right now feels to me the equivalent to watching paint dry because of the high level of knowledge, patience, and timing required - all skills I suppress in my need for instant gratification.
But back to the cane hardy, for some reason a large percentage of people starting out in rose growing tend to go through a stage where they turn up their noses at natural success offered by the cane hardy ones. Personally my theory is itÂs all the fault of Safeway in that people believe" if it does not look like the roses in Safeway it canÂt be a rose". Darn subversive.
The second type of indicator of hardiness level for the unprotected rose experiment is finding the majority, or all of the canes or cane length, is dead. But if your patient your patience will be rewarded because the rose will have survived because the graft is still alive even though no viable cane is present at spring.
I call this rose semi-hardy and therefore not out of zone because by mid to late May the rose begins to push out something that looks like green to reddish green leaves from the remaining cane or I will develop new canes from itÂs graft (basal breaks) and bloom in July. Most non-rugosa Parkland and Explorer series roses breed in zone 3 and 5 by us taxpayers (bless us for our foresightedness) fall into this group.
When I started zone 3a rose growing I assumed that because these varieties were declared hybridized for Canadian winters it meant 100% canes hardiness. It was a big disappointment to learn that it did not apply to the canes. However I quickly learned that the vigour bred into the roses compensated for it having to start over. So donÂt be disappointed, they are hardy in that they come back to bloom vigorously year after yearÂ itÂs all in the definition of what do you mean by hardy. This type of rose is the source of friction by the hardiness purist, and the "get real folks" one has to understand a perennial rose is allowed respect.
The last choice an unprotected rose has as a reaction to our winter is the reaction resulting from not being cane and crown hardy Â also known as your rose is so-o-o-o dead come spring. This is the "not hardy" rose.
In this case when the snow melts you notice all the canes are dead to the ground but you still donÂt know if the crown or graft is dead. Usually by end of May to early June if there is no green growth you can be 95% sure the rose is dead Â that dateline is a rule I created for myself. Sometimes a new cane will appear but the rose is not worth keeping as it will not be a healthy plant Â best put it out of its misery.
Now to help the started Â some nurseries warn you indirectly the rose is not hardy by the posted dual hints Â a sign stating something like "Not guaranteed for winter Â no refunds". The box stores donÂt bother as they themselves donÂt know the difference - meaning to the uninitiated is the rose needs protection so donÂt blame us if it dies.
For me the majority of the rose classes developed in Europe and the United States warmer climates (biggest populations and therefore biggest commercial market) fall into this group of "no hardiness" in zone 3. These classes included and tested in my garden include Hybrid Teas, Gallicas, Centifolia, Noisettes, Teas, Chinas, Musks, Bourbons, Damask, Boursalts, English Â Austin roses, Multiflora, and Damask Portlands etc Â all really great looking ones with powerful fragrances in some cases.
This third result of this hypothetical experiment of picking the wrong rose for the Calgary zone, combined with the wrong planting method instantly and permanently terminates most would be rose growerÂs budding passion Â agony of defeat.
Yet this is where the out of zone grower lives and flourishes in his or her private world. The result also breeds the out of zone rose cultivation cult and mystique best understood by the intelligent question I am asked numerous times Â"How do you manage to grow those rose when I can not?"
The Practical - or ItÂs Too Late To Back Out - Your Committed
So how does one grow out of zone roses successfully?
First and most important prepare mentally for the agony of defeat so as to avoid it. To do this one has to immediately remove from ones mind the vision of 10 to 20 foot long trusses with hundreds of rose blooms up the side of the house Â those visions are real in California, not in -30C winter wonderland. Be happy with 2 to 4 foot canes and actually getting blooms as second for "once a season" blooming roses when starting out and in the first few years as you tune your skills to your specific garden.
Once you eliminate the height issue you must also eliminate the issue of canes never dying Â even with protection they will as no method I have tried is prefect. I can have massive die downs of out of zone roses for reasons I have not yet worked out Â some die down is due to a fungal disease called canker that can be fostered by winter protection methods where dampness penetrates the rose protection covering.
Next you ask yourself are you ready to do more than 15 minutes of work per rose in a year, past just planting it. If yes then your looking at approximately 1 hour worth of work per rose per year to ensure itÂs survival before and after winter Â exclusive of watering fertilizing and pruning off winterkill. The extra work consists of 15 to 30 minutes to protect it come fall, and another 15 to 30 minutes in the spring to get it ready for the next growing season.
Next one must pick a rose to do your first experiment with. I recommend picking a rose whose natural lower limit growing zone is close to zone 3, say zone 4 or 5 (lots of Kordes Hybrid teas fall into zone 4 and 5 Â e.g. Folklore). Starting with a zone 6 rose, like a Noisettes say Madame Alfred CarriÃ¨re Â which is the hardiest Noisette I grow, is not really a good idea.
Using zone 4 or 5 rose should allow the greatest amount of retained cane in the spring.
Second pick a vigorous repeating out of zone rose and not a once bloomer like a Gallica Â not yet anyways but you will eventually get to the class. If the repeating rose does not bloom in its first season there is a strong possibility there is something wrong with the rose and not your technique Â it happens. In an extreme case due to poor vendor quality control it took me four tries to get a zone 5 repeating rose to bloom in the first year Â the yellow fading rapidly to white 5 petal (single) rose called Golden Wings.
My three failures had nothing to do with my technique or the real Golden Wings Â it was the vendor either storing the rose poorly or as I suspect a wrongly labeled rose that was actually a once blooming rose because itÂs form and leaves ended up being nothing like the real Golden Wings. The fourth Golden Wings bloomed and repeated and repeated for 3 years straight after winter and is still doing fine Â hence the advice select a vigorous repeater to start.
Next and critical is get your out of zone roses from a "dedicated reputable nursery". I tend to purchase large quantities (about 100 per year) and only buy them from Canadian bare root nurseries who graft the rose to multiflora rootstock. I usually receive them at the end of April for planting in the first two weeks of May Â if I donÂt get 2 feet of snow like a few years back. By the way as a rose addict I usually take two weeks vacation to do the plant.
Picking the optimum location to plant the rose Â sun for better part of the day Â and other steps (getting good backfill soil, remembering water in steps at planting, putting in amendments etc) you will find out in your own reading are common whether the rose is out of zone or hardy. However with selecting the location in your yard special consideration for out of zone growing has to be given. I strongly suggest when starting out you chose a site with a north wind break such as a south facing wall and if your really lucky west and east windbreaks (garage wall and/or neighboring houses) Â when you select this as your location for your first OZR you are now considering the practical aspects of successful out of zone growing.
As I mentioned previously I have such a spot and it is the "premium location where an out of zone rose has to perform within three years maximum or it is out because the space is small and the best location.
The first actual different physical activity in out of zone gardening is digging the hole slightly different as it is the second and the most critical first step towards protection to get next seasonÂs blooms to happen. The hole must be dug to "protect the graft by planting it buried". Therefore the depth of the hole is critical step in zone busting and more than its width Â common rules to hardy and non-hardy apply. The graft is the Achilles heal of the out of zone rose as all new canes originate from it and nutrients pass through it. If the graft union dies in winter, then your rose is dead, dead, dead - or put more simply the egg came first not the chicken Â kill the egg and there will be no chicken to enjoy.
Most people believe as I did in the beginning that it is the freezing of the graft that kills an out of zone rose. I do not believe it anymore. I am of the opinion it is cycles of freeze and thaw that destroy it (remember those friendly warm winter Chinooks in Calgary). By burying the graft you do not prevent freezing Â it will freeze at just below 0 degrees centigrade and stay frozen solid at that temperature.
What you try to prevent is rapid and repeated thermal changes causing freeze and thawing of the graft. Why do I know I am surely correct as to the benefits of graft burial. Simple principals best demonstrated by the Inuit of old - if you find yourself trapped in a winter storm outside for the night dive into the snow bank and stay there so long as you can breath Âthe inside of the snow bank will be at a constant temperature of just around freezing and not at -20 degrees centigrade. Bizarre is it not to use snow (ice with lots of holes in it) to stay warmer Â same thing in out of zone rose graft protection by burial.
What proof do I have for my belief? By February nearly all of my out of zone rose grafts will be frozen solid even under the protection. Nothing is more proven than when in late April I begin to shovel prune and hit blocks of frozen solid rose crowns and roots Â the rose I am shovel pruning is still alive Â because its gone through 2 or three winters but is being removed because I want
ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9