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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Shrub Roses (2)


White Persicaria and Red Roses

White Persicaria polymorpha, Rose Emily Carr and on the left foliage from Eupatorium purpureum that will bloom later in the seasonThe above drama occurred serendipitously.  Originally, a flowerbed was planted to be a theatre perormance. Contrasts in colors, textures, heights, and movements supplied by a composition of continuously blooming roses and perennials were created for the pleasure of apartment dwellers when they looked down from their terraces high above a garden in a private park.

The tall red roses planted five years ago – Emily Carr, from the Canadian Artists collection of hardy shrub roses - were the focal point of the flowerbed. Although they looked stunning in bloom, something was amiss because most of the strong visual energy that the roses supplied weakened by the time it reached the twelfth floor above. More staging was required.

The solution and inspiration came from a visit to a wholesale perennial grower in the countryside. A large round flowerbed was planted in the center of a circular driveway to serve as a landmark for clients approaching along a winding country road.

In the centre of the 10-foot diameter bed, three Persicaria polymorpha perennials were planted in triangle formation several feet apart from one another. At the time of my visit, the composition had matured over three years to create a tall swaying grove of white feathery texture.

The very rugged but elegant plant, also known as Knotweed, is a sun perennial that also grows with magnificence in part shade. The bloom period is quite extensive and the luxuriously sensual flower heads - alive or dead - remain shapely and texturally interesting throughout the season.

To draw focus to the flowerbed, I decided to use this perennial as a proscenium for the red roses. In addition to contributing height and drama, it also diverted tenants' eyes away from a view of the neighboring apartment building.  

However, never was any thought given to the powerful visual impact this perennial might make on the appearance of the roses themselves. Emily Carr roses were intended to be the main attraction, to enhance the appearance of other plants and to give pleasure to the apartment dwellers. Instead, Persicaria made the roses appear to bloom more beautiful than ever before. It enhanced the red color; it showcased the shape of the flower; it made the composition glow and gave it movement. A new dimension to the overall design of the garden was created simply by planting this white perennial behind the red roses. That is serendipity.


More About Roses

Shown here is a planting of Rose Knock Out enhanced by a grove of blue Salvia. This picture was taken at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was found at ""

When I first started gardening, I planted a Hybrid Tea Rose garden for my mother who loved the aroma of pungent flowers. Back then, if one wanted to grow Hybrid Teas, it was advisable to keep a few chemicals handy to feed the roses and cure them of any infestation of pests and diseases. However, when I began gardening for myself, I decided to forgo the fragrance of roses in favor of easy care because I was no longer comfortable using chemicals to cure plants.

It seems unnatural to grow plants that are guaranteed to attract diseases and pests and then buy chemicals to heal them. I also consider it annoying that each autumn one must bury a collection of Hybrid Tea roses to protect them from winter. That’s a lot of work.

So, imagine my delight when I began to learn about roses that were relatively disease and pest free, which would bloom most of the summer, often into early winter, and that could survive the cold in zone 5a without protection. I have already written about a few of them. Here is a list of several types of Roses worthy of your attention because they are maintenance free and hardy in cold climates.

OSO Easy Roses. This is a collection of low-mounding maintenance free roses hardy to Zone 5. An example of a rose in this family is “OSO Easy Paprika”.

Knock Out Roses. This is considered to be the most disease resistant collection of roses yet developed. It is a self cleaning rose so that dead heading is not required to maintain vigorous blooming. Roses in this series bloom continuously but they are hardy only to zone 5. My favorite rose in this series is called “Rainbow”.

Explorer, Parkland and Canadian Artists Roses. These three are arbitrary names of the same maintenance free rose collection that is hardy to zone 3. An example of a Canadian Artist Rose is “Felix Leclerc”, an example of an Explorer Rose is William Baffin. Morden Sunrise is an example of a Rose in the Parkland series. All of these roses were developed with the assistance of the Government of Canada, Department of Agriculture. Because winters are cold in Canada, hardy roses are essential.

Shrub Roses. This series contains all of the easy care hardy roses not classified into any of the other collections. Roses in this category will grow from 4 to 12 feet in height and are hardy up to zone 4. Some will bloom continuously into early winter so it’s worth paying attention to the characteristics of all of the roses in this group. Included in this catch-all collection are two of my favorites “Carefree Wonder” and “Bonica”.

Rugosa Roses. Roses in this collection grow into tall spreading shrubs. They are hardy to zone 4 but be aware that they spread via suckers and, because of their vigorous growth, are best used as lawn specimens rather than as part of a perennial garden. Not all roses in this collection are continuous bloomers so it is important to do research before making a selection. “Therese Bugnet” is an example of a rose from this series.

Care. Roses require a feeding of all purpose slow release granular fertilizer and Epsom salts once in early spring and once in early summer, and lots of water throughout the growing season. Because they are always hungry, roses may be fed additional nutrients as long as the last feeding is before July 1. Except for the Knock Out series whose roses are self cleaning, it is important to remove spent flowers throughout the growing season to encourage continuous blooms.