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When I moved into my first home, I inherited a lovely perennial garden from the former owner. The one corner of the backyard garden included a couple of rose bushes that had obviously been around for some time—one of them had enormous, thick canes with massive spikes. They terrified me. I promptly added rose gloves to my birthday list. Besides being a challenge to prune, my old rose also suffered after bad winters and had several pest issues, like black spot. Overall, I found it a finicky, hostile plant to care for and I told myself I’d never purposely add a rose bush to my garden. That was until a few varieties of hardy roses suddenly crossed my radar.
The Canadian Shield™ rose
The Canadian Shield™ rose was introduced this past spring at Canada Blooms as part of Vineland Research and Innovation Centre’s new brand called 49th Roses. This first variety that they’ve released is hardy to zone 3a here in Canada. That means it will survive -40 Celsius and Fahrenheit. It’s also self-cleaning and disease-resistant.
Why did this new hardy rose change my mind? After listening to Amy Bowen, a program research leader at Vineland, describe all the research and work that went into breeding this rose for our harsh, Canadian climate, I was curious. Though you still have to prune them (obviously), this variety seems much lower-maintenance. Unfortunately my local garden centre didn’t have any left when I went to buy one, but I had another hardy rose delivered right to my door. I’ll get to that one in a minute.
I saw on social media that my friend, fellow garden writer and Ontarian, Sean James, a master gardener and owner of Sean James Consulting & Design, had planted a Canadian Shield™ rose this past spring. “I was interested to test the hardiness,” he said when I asked him what about it had interested him. “What has impressed me most is the new glossy, deep-red spring foliage.”
The At Last® rose
Another hardy rose that I learned about at Canada Blooms is set to launch in 2018, but a new garden friend, Spencer Hauck from Sheridan Nurseries (who will be distributing the roses), delivered an At Last® rose right to my door. It promptly went into my front garden where I had a perfect spot waiting.
Bred and developed by Proven Winners, this rose bills itself as the first disease resistant rose with a classic rose fragrance (which is referenced in the clever name). It blooms from early summer to fall (with no deadheading required), is resistant to powdery mildew and black spot, and is hardy from USDA zones 5 to 9.
Here’s a YouTube video of the Toronto Botanical Garden’s Paul Zammit showing the At Last® roses he’s trialling for 2018.
Easy Elegance® roses
When I was at the California Spring Trials with the National Garden Bureau this past spring, I also discovered Easy Elegance® roses. “Roses You Can Grow” is their tagline and on the “Why Easy Elegance” page, they state that their roses have been bred to be tough and reliable—disease resistant, heat tolerant and hardy in extreme cold.
I asked Sean if he would say all these plants are part of a new generation of hardy roses because of their hardiness, disease resistance, etc. Sean replied: “Yes and no—there are several amazing David Austin roses that are hardy in Winnipeg and quite disease resistant, but not new. I would say it’s more that we are learning to breed for hardiness and disease resistance again. We had forgotten about those things in favour of bloom size and colour.”
Indeed an article I found in The Telegraph from last year pretty much said the same thing. And the Brits know their roses.
This will be my At Last® rose’s first winter and I’ll be sure to report back with an update on how it fared.
Have you sworn off roses, but are tempted to try these newer varieties of hardy roses?