No flower in history has enjoyed the admiration and tradition of the rose. According to legend, roses perfumed the Garden of Eden, and since that time the Queen of Flowers has enchanted and influenced virtually every culture on Earth.
During the 18th century, a new “midget” rose captivated European royalty. Where it came from is one of the rose world’s great mysteries.
Most believe it was introduced by China traders. Others say it was found growing wild in a window box in Switzerland. Still others insist it fell off the back of an Australian ship and drifted to shore.
The truth remains elusive but one thing is certain: the miniature or “fairy” rose soon became the most sought-after plant of the era.
Today, new generations of enthusiasts are discovering the pleasure of cultivating miniature roses. Almost everyone can find room for a few minis, and anyone can grow them, including children and inexperienced gardeners. They make a colorful addition to perennial beds and borders. And despite their fragile appearance, miniature roses are very hardy.
Minis offer mega choices
Like their larger cousins, miniature roses boast a vast array of sizes, colors and forms, including teensy micro minis, singles, and pompom-style blooms. Some varieties, such the exhibition darling Irresistible, have the spiraling, high-centered blooms of a hybrid tea. Others like the “climber” Jeanne Lajoie will smother an 8-foot fence. Red Cascade can be trained as a ground cover and is perfectly suited for hanging baskets.
With so many choices, it may be hard to decide which plant to buy if you’re just getting started with minis. Jennifer Smith of Two Sisters Roses recommends vigorous, rich-pink Giggles. “She’s very hardy, and is the perfect confidence-builder for folks who’ve killed their discount-store roses and think it’s their fault.”
In my garden, Giggles is always in bloom during the growing season and laughs at blackspot.
Hardy to USDA Zone 4, miniature roses require the same basic care as any other rose. They need least a half-day of direct sunlight and good soil that drains well and contains plenty of organic matter.
Minis also like frequent feedings and lots of water. Once your roses begin to sprout new leaves, you can start applying a balanced fertilizer according to package directions. Don’t think that more is better – too much of a good thing can burn tender roots.
Also be sure to offer at least a gallon of water per bush per week.
Your minis may fall prey to the same diseases and insect infestations as larger roses, but the major threat is spider mites. These nasty creatures can actually defoliate and kill a bush. The best preventative is to direct a strong spray of water to the undersides of miniature rose leaves at least once weekly, preferably early in the day.
Aside from being vigilant about spider mites, you’ll find miniatures are quite easy to grow. They tend to be more forgiving than larger bushes and don’t require constant pampering. In fact, you can prune minis one stem at a time like hybrid teas or with a hedge trimmer. Either way, they’ll come back strong.
PSSST: Part of the fun of growing these Lilliputian treasures is discovering new and unusual ways to display the dainty bouquets. Ceramic thimbles, eggcups, cream pitchers, and jelly jars are just a few possibilities.
Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To read more by Lynn, click here.You can also follow her on Twitter.