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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Choosing Roses

Hot pink rose 'Rina Hugo' and the tiny blooms of climber 'Lady Banksia'

There was a period in my gardening life when I looked at books and catalogs and lusted after ALL the roses. I was seduced by the copywriter’s lines and the photographer’s enhancements. I ordered roses base on pictures and sometimes I was disappointed. But I learned a lesson, and later I found a better way to asses roses – I went to my city’s public rose garden and I looked at roses In Real Life. We all know that IRL is different from screen time, and I highly recommend it.

I live in San Jose, California, so I can visit the Municipal Rose Garden, where there are hundreds of roses, organized and labeled in blocks, and a few beds of test roses, too. I like to visit in August, when roses are a little stressed by heat and long, dry days. It’s easy to look good in May, but late summer tells you which roses can go the distance. I take down names and I’ve found some winners using this method.

Pink Promise is a good example. It’s a very tall rose, and in midsummer it still looked elegant and healthy. I planted one in my yard and was happy to discover that the blooms have a long vase life – much more than the average rose.


There are others that I haven’t been able to fit in my garden (yet) but I’ve taken their names and maybe someday I’ll get to grow them. Violet’s Pride, Memorial Day and Sunsprite, to name a few.

This past year I added some new roses on the advice of Danielle at Rose Story Farm. I asked specifically for roses that would be good as cut flowers and bought six: Apricot Candy, Lasting Love, The Lady Gardener, Crocus, Lichfield Angel and Ingrid Bergman. So far they’re all wonderful, but Apricot Candy is truly outstanding.

If you’re in the market for new roses, the best time for planting is early spring, but here in Northern California you can get away with planting at other times. I advise you to check your local gardens and see which varieties do well where you live – don’t believe everything you see online!

L to R: 'Veilchenblau,' 'Just Joey' and 'Joseph's Coat'

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