Buchanan Park Rose Garden

Horticulturalists at Longwood Gardens and Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm shared these tips for rose success.

Horticulturalists at Longwood Gardens and Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm shared these tips for rose success.


First, research what type of rose you have bought and are planting, says Senior Horticulturist Kerry Ann McLean, who oversees Longwood Gardens’ outdoor rose garden.

If it is an heirloom or heritage rose, these are tough roses that need little fussing. They should be pruned right after they bloom because they set next year’s buds on this year’s new growth.

If it is a modern rose (bred after 1867) and repeat blooming, prune throughout the season to encourage reflushing and reblooming.

Within the modern roses are hybrid teas and other early-century roses that may be prone to diseases. If you love the flower and are willing to regularly apply chemicals, go with it. Otherwise, there are a lot of newer varieties that are relatively more disease resistant.

Pruning techniques vary based on size and growing habit, McLean says. What does not change is keeping tools disinfected between plants using alcohol wipes or sprays and trying to open a rose up so that there is good air circulation and light penetration to each branch. A congested plant is a disease and bug magnet.


Amend the soil with compost, McLean says.

If the rose is a repeat bloomer, apply a low dose of a balanced fertilizer every few weeks during the flowering season to help plants push new growth and new blooms.


Think beyond the blooms

Roses bring ornamental features beyond their bloom and Lauren Kope, Wyck’s manager of living collections, recommends considering these when picking a rose.

Beyond the flowers, there are other ways to extend the seasonal interest.

Does this plant provide colorful hips in the fall?

Will the foliage remain disease free and persist into autumn, even perhaps turning a beautiful bronze?

Does the rose have a graceful, arching habit that will provide structure to the winter garden?

Are its blooms intensely fragrant?

Are its canes and thorns an interesting color or texture?

These features add nuance to the garden and can play off the surrounding textures and colors. Kope’s favorites to plant under roses are: salvia (S. officinalis and S, nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ are favorites), ladies mantle (Alchemilla mollis), poppies (P. somniferum), iris (I. siberica) and self-seeding annuals such as feverfew (Tanecetum parthenium) and larkspur (Dephinium).

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