Roses For Your Valentine

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Roses For Your Valentine

A bouquet of long-stemmed, hothouse-grown roses paired with fern and a few sprays of baby's breath is many a lover's go-to Valentine's gift.

Unfortunately, these highly cultivated, pricey bundles offer very little of a rose's greatness -- especially when you're seeking to woo a gardener with a flowery gift of love. Sure, they look pretty all wrapped up with a bow, but odds are they aren’t fragrant, were environmentally expensive to produce and transport, and they won’t last very long at all. So, consider a few alternative flowery options instead.

Years ago, before we married, my love surprised me with roses for Valentine's Day. Well aware of my love for cut flowers but also in tune with my passion for gardening, he decided to give me six rose plants instead of the ubiquitous lovers' posy. In February those plants looked like six pots of dead, thorny twigs, but to my gardener's eye, they were absolutely beautiful. I knew that within just a few months, they would be blooming in reds, peaches, pinks, and whites. And, their fragrant blossoms would fill both our home and garden with beauty and perfume for years to come. It has now been a couple decades since he gave me this gift, and although we no longer live in that first tiny rental home, I know those sturdy shrubs are quite likely continuing to thrive -- as does our love. Had he opted for the expensive, conventional bundle of long stem red flowers, I would have been thrilled, but those highly cultivated buds would have never perfumed the air, and they would have wasted away long before these long lived additions to our garden began to break bud for spring.

Want to give your favorite gardener living roses to show your love this season? Consider these options:

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Tea, Hybrid Tea, Floribunda & English Roses: If your love adores big, showy blooms and doesn't mind the meticulous care needs that goes into keeping these beauties going, consider these highly cultivated and grafted options. Each year nurseries and catalogers will offer an assortment of offerings in a wide array of colors, flower forms, and in some cases fragrance. Keep in mind that with these you may also be giving a pest and disease-prone option that requires a lot of TLC.

Rambling Roses: Giving a rambler may mean you’re really giving a Rosa multiflora, which hales from Asia. This non-native travels around, over and through everything else in a mixed garden bed. And, in some areas, it is invasive to the point of being a noxious weed. If your local nursery offers these, confirm before you buy that theirs are appropriate for your beloved’s beautiful beds.  Ramblers can bloom repetitively during the season, but don’t expect the big showy blooms offered by the aforementioned group.

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Native Roses: One of my favorite roses is the Nutka rose, which is native to the Pacific Northwest. Its canes stand upright and spread quickly, covering wide areas. Its clustered blooms range from white-pink to deep pink. It feeds pollinators, and its fragrant flowers are a delight for native plant lovers. Plus, in autumn, its rose hips are deeply red and very showy -- making it interesting late into the gardening season.

‘Knockouts’: The ‘Knockout’ rose is a new rose for a new millennium. Introduced just a few years ago with the promise of disease resistance, profuse blooms, and low maintenance, they sounded like a dream come true despite their lack of fragrance. And, really, they are pretty great. Unfortunately, as my fellow Fiskars® garden pro writer Dee Nash has learned the hard way, they’re susceptible to a nasty virus. Check out Dee’s information about this issue at www.reddirtramblings.com before you risk your lover’s raised eyebrow at this well-intentioned garden gift. (And head’s up: it’s not just the ‘Knockouts’ that are troubled by mites and witches’ broom forming virus that they spread.)

Climbing Roses: There's nothing like being greeted at the entryway to a garden with the aroma of an antique climbing rose. These vigorous, vine-like shrubs work equally well climbing a trellis against a brick chimney, covering the arched gate to a white picket fence, or draping a weathered stone fence. Some come from the wild, but many are cultivated varieties of Tea, English and other similar roses. Known for their vigorous growth, climbers can take some work to keep in check, but their often-tiny blooms are generous -- in quantity and unparalleled rosy scent. Some will produce one set of seasonal blooms; others bloom all season long. Plus, though they're small, they make for lovely indoor, perfumed bouquets. (More on climbing roses by Dee.)

Tough Area Roses (Rosa glauca): Rosa glauca is known for its resistance to black spot and its unique blue-grey foliage.  Plus, following its burst of pink flowers that pop against its dark foliage, this shrub drips with showy red hips that brighten up borders well into autumn.

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A Rose by any other name: If true roses sound a bit too challenging, consider other non-rose plants that have been honored with a rose-like name. No garden is complete without a bit of rosemary, which is evergreen, fragrant, pollinator-feeding, flowering, and delicious. Popular winter and spring blooming perennials like primrose and Lenten rose have a place in just about every garden. A rockrose is rose only in common name; this hardy summer bloomer tolerates blasting summer heat and depleted soils. And for summer, there’s no fragrance quite like that of the delicate rose geranium.

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If giving roses for Valentine's Day sounds right for you, shop early to hit February bare root sales. During these sales, nurseries will be offering dormant, long-lived rose bushes at prices well below what you might otherwise pay for a few soon-to-expire florist stems.

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Whether you give the gift of cut flowers or a living rose, a pair of Fiskars® Loop Handle Carabiner bypass shears does double-duty preparing cut flowers for a vase or pruning rose or even rockrose shrubs year-after-year. For pruning rosemary, rose geranium or other herbs, consider adding on a pair of micro-snips to your gift.

More general rose care & disease information:
On the Care and Feeding of Roses

Some Days Are Diamonds