Valentine's Day has come and gone. Candy, jewelry, flowers and cards have been given and received. I have no idea how many roses were given this past Monday, but I'm fairly certain the number would be in the millions.
While the petals were beautiful and the thoughts behind them were lovely, those roses most likely didn't last too long. If that lack of longevity frustrates you, may I suggest that you give a gift to your valentine that keeps on giving. A properly prepared and maintained rose garden might just be your ticket to years of marital bliss, or maybe not.
When I was a young, happily married man, my bride made a simple request. She requested that I plant a rose garden. Knowing the degree of work required for successful rose production, my simple answer to her simple request was, "I never promised you a rose garden."
My clever response received a look, a half-hearted laugh, and a comment that she was being serious. Well, I ignored her request for a couple of years, until finally one sunny February day I gave in. Now understand I was told that all I would have to do was plant the roses, and that my wonderful wife would do the rest. In retrospect I don't think that the rest was totally understood by either of us. I am also relatively sure that the rest in her mind's eye included only cutting and arranging.
Now, dear reader, this honored request does have an extremely happy ending. I have been happily married for more than 37 years and happily growing roses for the majority of those years. Without my wife's insistence, I wouldn't have ever known the joy of a bud slowly turning into a full bloom or the splendor of the new red leaves that bring new life to old canes. I must also issue a warning. Growing roses the right way may be far more work than you ever thought possible.
There are plenty of resources both through your county extension office and in bookstores about the how-to of growing roses. I am often asked about my favorite roses. I basically have grown hybrid tea and grandiflora cultivars. There are so many wonderful types and other varieties available that I almost feel guilty mentioning only a few. However, time does not allow for a full discussion of the thousands of roses that have graced gardens for hundreds of generations, so I'll focus on what I'll simply call my elite eleven.
If I could grow and see only one rose for the rest of my life, it would be the Double Delight. With its amazing rose red and off-white combination color and aromatic scent, this hybrid tea is No. 1 on my list, but the elegant Mister Lincoln is a close second. From bud to full bloom the Mister Lincoln is the classic red rose. Its heartiness and ability to resist diseases makes it a must for my rose garden.
The Granada is a two-toned red and yellow hybrid tea that is so unusual and beautiful that makes it a solid third on my all-time favorites list. Fragrant Cloud is not only a beautiful orange-red color, but has absolutely the most pleasing fragrance of any of the more modern roses. No. 5 would have to be the poised Tiffany. This pink beauty has the most incredible buds which open into lovely blossoms. The next of my favorites would have to be the stately Pristine. This white rose might be the best choice for those who wish to enter rose shows.
Six down and five to go, but the hits just keep coming. The seventh cultivar on my list is the much revered Queen Elizabeth. She is amazing from pink bud to bloom with strong canes and beautiful foliage. The hybrid tea Color Magic is a fun rose to watch as she changes colors from bud to petal fall.
Selections get a little tougher as we move to my ninth choice, but I'll go with the world's favorite. The Peace rose has such an amazing history and remains a highly rated rose even today. My 10th choice will be Tropicana. My favorite color is definitely not orange, but this rose could come close to changing my mind.
There are so many more and only one more slot on my list. First Prize, with its deep pink hue and strong buds is my No. 11, however, would be much higher if I could grow her more successfully in North Georgia.
Well, those are my favorites. If you have others on your list let me know. But now I'd better go for it's time to start pruning.
Gene Anderson is the interim Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.