Hardy Roses for Iowa

The harsh winter of 1995-1996 was hard on the modern garden roses (hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras). Many were severely damaged, some were completely destroyed. While the modern garden roses can be difficult to successfully grow in Iowa, there are many less demanding, disease resistant, cold hardy roses. This group of low maintenance, hardy roses includes old garden roses (those introduced before 1867), species or wild roses, hybrid rugosas, and others. Though these hardy roses will survive winters in the upper midwest, some winter injury may occur. The following hardy roses produce attractive flowers and also possess excellent cold hardiness and disease resistance.

Rosa rugosa is considered by many to be the hardiest of all roses. Several rugosa cultivars and hybrids are excellent landscape roses. 'Blanc Double de Coubert' bears large, double, pure white, fragrant flowers. Plants bloom heavily in June and moderately throughout the summer. 'Blanc Double de Coubert' has glossy, dark green foliage. It is a vigorous shrub that grows approximately 4 feet tall. Another excellent rugosa hybrid is 'Th r se Bugnet.' This shrub produces large (3 1/2 inch diameter), double, medium pink flowers. Flowers are moderately fragrant. 'Th r se Bugnet' blooms heavily in June with only light bloom during the summer. The blue-green foliage turns shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall. Its red canes are an attractive addition to the winter landscape. The shrub grows about 5 feet tall. 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' (sometimes referred to as 'Frau Dagmar Hartopp') is a seedling of Rosa rugosa. It produces single, light pink, 3-inch flowers. The blossoms are moderately fragrant. 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' blooms prolifically in June, with moderate bloom through the summer. Added features are large, red hips (fruits) that form after flowering. Also, the dark green leaves turn yellow to orange in the fall. 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is a dense, spreading shrub which grows approximately 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. 'Hansa' is a hybrid rugosa with large (4 1/2 inch diameter), purplish red, double flowers. Large orange-red hips appear later in the season. 'Hansa' is an upright shrub that may grow to a height of 5 feet.

Generally, climbing roses don't perform well in Iowa. Many bloom on the previous year's growth, but suffer extensive winter dieback. As a result, many climbing roses bloom little or not at all. However, three Canadian-bred Explorer Series roses do perform well as climbing roses. Explorer roses are noted for their hardiness, vigor, and disease resistance.

'William Baffin' produces semi-double, deep pink, 3-inch flowers. The center of each blossom contains bright gold stamens. Plants bloom heavily in June with light to moderate bloom through the summer. 'William Baffin' is an upright growing plant which can reach a height of 8 feet. It can be grown as a large shrub or climber. The rose is named after the English navigator who searched for the Northwest Passage in the early seventeenth century.

The long, arching canes of 'Henry Kelsey' may grow 8 to 10 feet long. It can be grown as a climber or as an arching shrub. 'Henry Kelsey' produces semi-double, medium red, 3-inch flowers. Golden yellow stamens highlight the center of each blossom. 'Henry Kelsey' blooms heavily in June with light to moderate repeat bloom. The variety is named after Henry Kelsey, an agent of the Hudson's Bay Company who explored the Canadian plains.

'John Cabot' bears deep rose-pink, semi-double, 3-inch flowers. The blossoms are moder ately fragrant. Plants bloom moderate to heavy through the summer after a heavy June bloom. 'John Cabot' can be grown as a spreading shrub or as a climber. The variety is named after John Cabot, a Venetian navigator, who discovered the North American continent for England.

'Nearly Wild' is a hardy Brownell floribunda rose that blooms profusely throughout the growing season. The bushy, compact, 3-foot shrub produces single, medium pink flowers. As many as 15 to 25 two-inch flowers are produced in a single cluster. Though it sometimes suffers winter dieback, 'Nearly Wild' grows back vigorously and blooms heavily.

Another rose that blooms heavily from late spring to early fall is 'Ballerina.' The arching, 3 1/2-foot shrub produces small (1 inch), single, pink flowers with white centers. Flowers are borne in large clusters. Each cluster contains 25 or more flowers.

Gardeners who like yellow roses should consider 'Harrison's Yellow.' This variety bears sulphur yellow, semi-double, 3-inch flowers. 'Harrison's Yellow' is a one-time bloomer, blooming heavily in June. The suckering shrub grows approximately 6 1/2 feet tall and 11 feet wide. It is considered by many to be the yellow rose of Texas.

No mention of hardy roses would be complete without mentioning the more than 85 rose cultivars developed by the late Griffith Buck during his tenure at Iowa State University. Dr. Buck's roses are noted for their free-flowering habit, disease resistance, and winter hardiness. Most varieties do suffer significant winter dieback. However, they grow back and bloom vigorously. 'Carefree Beauty' is Dr. Buck's most well known variety. It produces medium pink, semi-double, 4-inch flowers. 'Carefree Beauty' blooms heavily in June, moderately through the summer. The shrub grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. His other rose introductions include white, yellow, apricot, red, and mauve cultivars. 'Blue Skies' has lavender-blue flowers.

Those individuals who think of roses as demanding, short-lived, disease-ridden plants, should consider the many hardy, low maintenance roses available to the home gardener. The aforementioned roses are just some of the many roses that will perform well in Iowa.

This article originally appeared in the June 14, 1996 issue, p. 101.

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