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Published June 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Growing Green: Hardy shrub roses for Minnesota

If you’ve wandered through any of the colorful rose gardens in Minnesota, you may be wondering if you could include some of this beauty in your own yard.

By: By Robin Trott, Minnesota Extension Educator, The Osakis Review

If you’ve wandered through any of the colorful rose gardens in Minnesota, you may be wondering if you could include some of this beauty in your own yard. You’ve heard that roses are time consuming and challenging to grow. Tales of powdery mildew, aphids and the “Minnesota tip” have discouraged you from planting roses in the past. Don’t fret! You can have roses in your garden with minimum maintenance and maximum color! How: by planting northern hardy shrub roses.

Hardy shrub roses make an excellent addition to your “gardenscape” while requiring no special winter care. Usually these roses are grown on their own root stock, so even if the tops die back in hard winters, they will still sprout true the following spring. Remember, not all “hardy shrub roses” survive Minnesota winters. Look at the hardiness zone listed on the label. (Douglas County is located in cold hardiness Zone 4A.) There are many prolific blooming roses in a variety of colors. Visit your local nursery and look for the Canadian Explorer Series, The Parkland Series, Morden shrub roses or the new Minnesota varieties developed by the University of Minnesota and Bailey nurseries called Ole, Sven and Lena.

The Explorer, Parkland and Morden series were developed to survive -35 temperatures by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Morden Research Station in Manitoba. These roses vary in size from 2 feet tall to 9+feet tall. They also come in a wide variety of colors including light pink, red, purple, yellow, peach and white. All are cold hardy, disease and insect resistant, and require no winter cover. My favorites in this category are William Baffin, a towering 9 foot tall, hot pink climbing monster; Therese Bugnet, a purplish, very fragrant variety that grows 4’-5’; and Morden Sunrise, a peachy yellow/pink rose that grows 2’-3’ tall.

In the early 90s, the University of Minnesota started its own rose breeding program, and, last year, added three new cultivars to the hardy shrub rose line-up: Sven, Ole and Lena. These compact, mounding plants (averaging 2.5’ tall) bloom throughout the growing season. Sven has a mauve/purple double flower, and is the most fragrant of the three. Lena has single pink blush blossoms reminiscent of the old, less hardy, musk rose cultivar called “Ballerina”. Ole is a semi-double pink/white bloomer with dark blue/green foliage, and is the most prolific bloomer of the three. Each of these varieties is available at your local garden center, and can be planted through mid-summer. I intend to try one of each this year.

If you are adding roses to your landscape this year, remember these helpful hints:

Plant roses in full sun (at least 6 hours/day).

Don’t crowd roses, good air circulation fights disease.

Keep soil cool and moist with a 3”-4” layer of mulch.

Fertilize monthly through August.

Cover with leaves in the fall as added winter insurance.

In the spring, prune out winter kill and shape bushes for summer bloom.

Until next time, happy gardening!

Kim Taveirne

U of M Extension, Douglas Co

720 Fillmore Street, Suite B090

Alexandria, MN 56308

Phone (320) 762-3890