by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia
Mom was not a gardener but she loved beautiful flowers in her yard. Roses were always her favorite, and the roses bushes in her 43-year-old yard still bloom, even though she’s been gone four years this month. As a child, my father was the yard man – mowing the grass, trimming the bushes and planting and caring for a very large vegetable garden. When I was old enough, I began to help and a life-long love for gardening formed.
For decades, roses have been a part of my garden – as gifts for Mother’s Day and as gifts to self. My first rose love was Sterling Silver, a hybrid tea in lavender tones. It’s a subtle-scented rose with a sweet citrus smell. Once shrub roses became popular, I was hooked. Knock Out and Flower Carpet roses, which can be used as flowering hedges, borders or in perennial beds, began to consume my garden. I especially like them among smaller shrubs like nandina and rose-of-sharon because they form eye-catching contrasts in colors and textures. I’m also fond of David Austin roses, especially ones with golden yellow and apricot hues. In a former garden, I had a David Austin rose grow in a bog-like area where salt tidal waters occasionally flooded it – a growing condition not exactly friendly for a rose but the plant survived and bloomed many years.
Overall, roses need good drainage, full sun, rich soil and mulch. Trimming to remove crossing, rubbing, dying and diseased branches allows air and light to penetrate interior parts of the plant, thereby reducing the likelihood of disease and pests. For annual beetle control, I snipped all flower buds from the plant until the beetles were gone and then allowed the plant to bloom again – and had virtually no plant damage from the pests. My only complaint about roses? Thorns, of course, but a little prick is worth the price of such beauty and grace in any garden. Mom smiles from heaven, enjoying my garden of roses!