Despite what you may have read - or even experienced - growing beautiful roses isn't difficult.
What's the secret? Learn to avoid picky performers.
Casual gardeners generally choose a rose because of the way the flowers look in a catalog photo or on the bush at a garden center.
But when homeowners decide to get rid of the rose, it's because it didn't perform well - the foliage was constantly covered in black spots, the canes became scrawny, and blooms were few and far between.
Rarely does a rose grower link the choice of a rose and how it performs. But there's a very real connection - some roses are better performers than others, and if you want everything to come up roses, you need to know which ones they are.
To further complicate the issue, certain roses do better in one part of the country than another because of climate variations.
So what's a gardener to do?
1. Ask advice from an expert. Almost every medium-size and large city in the US has a rose society that contains experienced rose growers - called consulting rosarians - who will answer your questions and give you counsel based on where you garden.
If you can't locate a rose society near you, get cyberhelp through the American Rose Society's (ARS) consulting rosarian Web page, www.ars.org/
2. Grow only highly rated roses. Each year ARS members vote on how the roses they grow have done. These rankings are compiled in a booklet, Handbook for Selecting Roses. It's available by sending $4 to American Rose Society, PO Box 30,000, Shreveport, LA 71130.
The top-rated roses - those that have earned scores of 8.5 or above - are listed on the Web at www.ars.org.robinlist.html.
But in order to use these lists, you have to know the names of the roses you are thinking of planting. Always read the labels and remember names - they make a difference.
3. Choose award-winning roses. I have had few problems with roses that have won All-America Rose Selections awards in the past 10 years; they are almost always outstanding. You can identify them because AARS winners usually have special tags attached to the bushes.
4. Consider shrub or ground cover roses. Look for Flower Carpet roses, Dream Roses (new for 2000), and Medilland roses. They don't produce huge blooms, but they're almost carefree. Plant them in sun and treat them as you would any other flowering shrub.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society