Landscaping Roles for Roses

Thanks to their remarkable range of sizes and growth habits, roses lend themselves to a variety of applications outside traditional beds and borders. The following are some other landscaping roles for roses.

Defining a Boundary

Living barriers can be beautiful when they are made of rosebushes. Instead of erecting a fence, plant a hedge of shrub roses. One of the thornier varieties, such as the hybrid rugosa ‘E. J. Grootendorst’, will also deter pets and intruders.

Unlike constructed fences, living fences look equally pleasing from both sides. When using roses in this way, stick to a single variety for uniformity and visual appeal.

Low-growing floribundas or miniature roses can lend a fine finishing touch as an edging for a perennial or shrub border. They can also be used to line a path to a front door, to parallel a driveway, or to separate a patio from a lawn without creating a visual obstacle. For an informal look, plant roses in beds or borders with scalloped or gently curved edges. If the edging is two plants deep, you can choose a taller variety for the back and a lower-growing variety for the front. Roses for hedges and edgings should be planted up to 6 inches closer together than normal, to ensure dense, floriferous growth.

Covering the Ground

A barren expanse or a bare slope can become a bank of color when roses are used as ground covers. Spreading, low-growing varieties can also prevent erosion and smother weeds. The best roses to use as ground covers are the hybrid rugosa ‘Max Graf’, the shrub rose ‘Sea Foam’, the miniature ‘Red Cascade’, or one of the several low-growing Meidiland shrub roses.

Ramblers can also make good ground covers if allowed to grow along the ground instead of on supports. Many of these roses will take root along their canes as they sprawl, making them seem more like vines.

Screening an Area

Almost every home has an eyesore such as a gas tank, a storage shed, or a trash receptacle that is in need of tasteful concealment. A rosy solution is to place a trellis in front of the area and let climbers do the screening. One or two large shrub or old garden roses will substitute nicely for climbers and will be just as appealing.

Tall privacy screens of roses can block out distracting street traffic, neighbors, or nearby buildings, and are more attractive than high fences.

Evergreen shrubs are usually the plants of choice to hide the unsightly foundations of houses because their foliage makes a year-round screen. But conifers do not flower, and broad-leaved evergreens flower mainly in spring. Mixing roses among these plants, or planting them in front of the evergreens, will add summer color without detracting too much from the winter beauty of the evergreens.

Providing Cut Flowers

No cut flower is more esteemed than the rose. You can grow long-stemmed beauties for the home or office by dedicating a few plants as cutting material. If you plant a few rosebushes near the back door, it will be easy to reach out and snip a few blooms for the dining-room table. Rose beds devoted to cutting can also be laid out; such gardens are usually situated in an out-of-the-way place, with the roses aligned in functional rows. With their long stems and long-lasting, classically shaped flowers, hybrid teas and grandifloras are the best roses for cutting gardens. Some floribundas also make good cut flowers.

Adding Fragrance

Think of fragrance when planning locations for roses. Fragrant varieties are especially effective when planted near open windows, alongside a patio or a porch, or flanking a garden bench. If you have a fence with a gate, plant a fragrant rosebush at both sides of the gate to create a scented welcome for visitors. Many rose gardeners plant fragrant varieties exclusively, because they want to use the roses in potpourri or cooking.

Enhancing the View From Indoors

Roses can enhance not only the beauty of their outdoor setting but also the view from inside the house. If you place them within sight of a window, you can watch the buds unfold into exquisite flowers that glisten with morning dew, or enjoy your roses at day’s end as they reflect the brilliance of the sunset. A many-windowed sun room or conservatory can make a brilliant vantage point for viewing roses. Roses in containers, placed near the windows, can make the room and its plants seem an extension of the garden.

Filling Small Spaces

You don’t need much room to grow roses; they can be effective even in small spaces. Look for pockets in the garden where roses will work—around the base of a flagpole, beside a rustic mailbox, or disguising an outdoor light. Rock gardens are ideal spots for small polyanthas, floribundas, and especially miniatures. Rock gardens are traditionally designed with more spring-blooming plants than summer-blooming ones, so using roses prolongs the attractiveness of the rock garden by several months.

A spot near where the driveway swings into the street is ideal for a welcoming burst of roses. Plant it with white or pastel roses, and it will stand out at night. A small brick wall in front or in back of the planting, and a spotlight to illuminate it, will complete the effect.

Miniature roses can play a very important role in a garden where space is especially limited. Plant them in accent spots or in drifts; use them in mass plantings instead of annuals. They are excellent for edging a bed or border, or in containers. If there are young children in your family, give them a few miniature roses to tend and watch them thrill at the appearance of tiny flowers, which they can present to friends, teachers, or grandmothers.

Adding Height

A traditional rose arbor is a perfect addition to a sunny garden. Breezy and romantic, an arbor made of lath provides dappled shade if left unadorned, or becomes a focal point when embellished with climbers or ramblers. The top can be covered with coarsely woven shade cloth or a non-woven material known as landscape fabric; both are available at hardware stores and garden centers. This will offer additional shade and protect the blooms growing under it from wind and hail, while letting rain drizzle through.

The uses of climbers and ramblers extend far beyond the rose arbor. Train them along split-rail or picket fences to brighten up the wood and add curving grace to the straight lines. A portico at the entrance to a house can he accented with climbing roses that are trained to grow up the sides and over the roof. If you have a porch, you can tie the garden and the house together by planting low-growing roses along the base of the porch or at the sides of its steps, and letting climbers sprawl from the ground to the porch roof or overhang.

Climbers can be espaliered (pruned and trained in two-dimensional patterns) against a stockade fence or the wall of a house. They can also cover eaves or outline windows and doors, adding graceful color to the outside of the home and softening hard edges. Climbing roses can ramble up posts, cover old tree stumps, grow high into trees, or spill over from the tops of stone walls. Dark wooden retaining walls can be brightened by planting climbing roses atop them and letting the canes hang over the walls. Keep the canes in place by pegging them to the wall with hooks or clips; for summer-long color, be sure to select an everblooming variety of climber.

Some climbers, such as ‘Don Juan’ and ‘Golden Showers’, grow tall and erect since they have stiffer canes, and are perfect for trellises, arches, and pergolas. Large beds of roses or perennials can incorporate a freestanding pillar of climbing roses in the center to add height and break up the monotony. In large beds or borders, you can also install two posts or pillars and connect them with a chain. Plant a pliable-caned climber or rambler at each post or pillar, and train them to grow along the chain until they meet.

Tree roses, too, bring needed height and accent to the garden. They may be used as solitary specimens in a formal rose garden, or planted amid low-growing floribundas or annuals for a more informal look. If you plant them against a wall or fence of a contrasting color, the beauty and form of the tree rose will stand out even more. Tree roses are also effective in lining a walk. Standing straight and tall, they give direction to the path. To tone down their stiffness, try surrounding them with mounds of lower-growing roses, annuals, perennials, or a mixture of all three.