I have fallen in love with tender roses. A true prairie girl, I was raised on simplicity and until recently never gave a second thought to having something so exquisite in my garden as a tea rose. Susceptibility to our cold winters, ghoulish maintenance (spraying once a week with fungicide…who has time for that?), and outlandish cost were all reasons I cited for not planting these beauties in with my prairie-hardy plants.
And then a colleague of mine dared me to try a few.
To my utter and delightful surprise, tender roses are not all created equal; there are actually dozens of varieties of tender roses that, while not being particularly winter hardy, are nonetheless easy to grow and low maintenance in the annual landscape. Simply plant in a sunny spot with rich, well drained soil and watch the magic unfold; no spraying or labor-intensive maintenance required. Forget the high prices too – a potted specimen sold “ready to bloom” at a garden centre runs at approximately the same cost as a hanging basket of petunias.
For our purposes in the Canadian prairies, the tender rose category actually encompasses more than hybrid tea roses; grandiflora and floribunda roses are also included. Commonly sold under the general term “tea rose,” these beauties will captivate any visitor to your garden with their magnificent blooms and unrivalled scent. Where hybrid teas tend to grow approximately 1m x 1m, grandifloras and floribundas grow a bit larger at 1.5m x 1.5m. As the names suggest, grandifloras usually produce many petalled, large blooms, and floribundas produce an abundance of blooms, often arranged in clusters at stem ends.
So how do you know which tea roses are the best for our area? I recently spoke to Ed van Zanten of Pan American Roses (one of the largest and most respected rose propagaters in North America) to get the low down on some of his favorites. Following are some of the varietal highlights in his vast repetoire, selected for ease-of-care in our climate, show, and affordability.
1) Black Baccara Hybrid Tea – Recognized as a truly unique variety, mahogany – colored blooms grace this sturdy plant. Terrific for cut flowers as the 45-petalled blooms last for up to two weeks in a vase. Very light scent. Dark green leaves.
2) Cherry Parfait Grandiflora – Gorgeous, large begonia-like blossoms top a bushy plant. Blooms are bicolored: creamy at the centre and cherry pink at the tips. Light fragrance. 30-35 Petals per bloom.
3) Gold Medal Grandiflora – Large yellow blooms with copper tips bloom continuously all summer. Semi glossy foliage. Flowers boast 35 petals per bloom. Moderatey scented.
4) Love and Peace Hybrid Tea – Stunning 5″ flowers on long stems make this a perfect cut flower. Blooms are bicolored: golden centres with cerise margining. A very fragranced flower with 40 petals per bloom. Dark glossy green leaves are disease resistant.
5) Opening Night Hybrid Tea – One of the classic reds, this variety features open, 4″ blooms atop sturdy stems and dark green, semi glossy foliage. Light fragrance dances from the 30-petalled blossoms. So magnificent is the show on this plant, in fact, that it has won the All American Rose Selection award two times in the past 14 years.
6) Princess of Monaco Hybrid Tea – Resembling an antique-style rose, this variety boasts an ivory bloom with curled, pastel pink tips. Looking like a subject of a Monet painting, plants produce armloads of scented blossoms atop sturdy stems with glossy green foliage. Perfect as a cut flower.
7) Rio Samba Hybrid Tea – Striking in its color and habit, this tea rose produces a profusion of beautiful golden blooms with orange streaks and tips. Dark green foliage. Blooms boast 25 petals and a light scent.
8) Tournament of Roses Grandiflora – Simply one of the prettiest salmon-pinks on the market, this variety won the All American Rose Selection award in 1986. A heavy producer, it has been said that this plant sometimes flowers so profusely that it can resemble a rose parade float. A very light scent and dark green glossy foliage add to the refined and elegant nature of the plant.
9) French Lace Floribunda – A classic, this variety features creamy-white blooms with a slighty apricot centre. Lightly scented, this full blossom (up to 35 petals per bloom) is borne atop sturdy stems, making a perfect cut flower. Foliage is dark green and glossy.
10) Sunsprite Floribunda – Arguably the best yellow tender rose, this variety boasts vigorous production, a beautiful scent, and superior disease resistance. Stems are sturdy and covered with glossy dark green foliage. Cut flowers last for weeks in a vase.
Tender roses have a definite place in any garden. Pure aesthetic beauty, surprising ease-of-care, and affordability position them as a perfect addition to planters or flower beds. I for one plan to plant several around my home this year!