Mid-January officially qualifies as the dead of winter. Here in the Inland Northwest, skies are gray, trees are gray, and even the snow on the ground grows dingier every day. While gazing out at January's monochrome landscape, it's easy to get lost in a fantasy of summer as a riot of color shimmers on the snow like a mirage in the desert.
Even those born without the gardening gene long for signs of spring in the midst of winter's cold desolation, but for gardeners, this is the time to plan for the milder days to come. For those who feel ready to tackle a project more challenging than a six-pack of annuals, a new guidebook will help gardeners choose roses selected to thrive in the Northwest climate. Roses for Washington and Oregon, published by Lone Pine Publishing, catalogs 144 varieties that grow (relatively) easily and will work in most Northwest locations. Rosarian Brad Jalbert, who co-authored the book with researcher Laura Peters, owns and operates Select Roses near Vancouver, British Columbia - western Canada's largest grower of miniature roses - and he often travels to speak with groups of rose enthusiasts.
Roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow, and the authors do not gloss over the challenges. But the book explains all of the basic elements of rose care, from preparing the soil to pruning and winter protection, in easy-to-understand language. An entire chapter is dedicated to the pests and diseases that attack roses, but the authors urge readers not to be discouraged by the details. "You may never encounter any of these problems," they write, noting that blackspot (a fungal disease) and aphids are the most common afflictions. "Remember that your best defense against any pest or disease is a healthy rose."
If you're still enthusiastic about growing roses after plowing through Bacterial Canker and Mossy Rose Gall, then your reward awaits in the book's final (and largest) chapter describing the roses themselves. Divided into nine sections, the chapter outlines nine classes of roses and the varieties within each class that are suitable for growing in our region. If, like me, you have a single mental image that comes to mind with the word "rose," then the sheer variety will be a delight.
Each rose is given its own page, with a full-color glossy photo and facts about color, flower size, scent, plant size, blooming schedule and hardiness zones. The descriptions of old garden roses (those discovered or hybridized before 1867) include details of each rose's history, while the hybrid tea roses focus on the strengths of each variety. Most of the roses showcased are hardy from Zone 5 to Zone 9, but a few are more particular and may not be suitable here in the Inland Northwest with our often harsh winters. Still, the photos alone give one hope for the coming of spring.
Rose Tips for the Inland Northwest:
* According to Hardiness Zone Maps, much of our region lies within Zone 5. Hardiness Zones are simply starting points, however, when determining whether a particular rose variety will thrive in your garden. Consider microclimates formed by elevation, exposure, shade and wind.
* "Roses are heavy feeders and drinkers," the authors write. "They expend a great deal of energy producing their flowers and don't like to share root space with many other plants." For this reason, avoid planting roses near trees with large root systems.
* Roses don't like full shade; however, some light afternoon shade may help prevent damage from our intense mid-summer sunshine. (Come on, you remember our intense summer sun, don't you?)
* "Wind can be the enemy of roses, increasing evaporation from the soil and drying a rose out quickly, especially when there has been little rain," the authors note. "Protect your roses from the prevailing winds with fences, buildings and hedges."
* The best time to plant bare-root roses here is in the spring, when the soil is cool and moist, and the roses are still dormant. Container roses (those grown in pots at the nursery) can be planted later in the season because their root systems are already established.
* Rose fans with little yard space can grow roses successfully in containers. Choose a container with plenty of room for the roots to grow and adequate protection from extreme temperatures. The authors recommend floribundas, polyanthas, miniatures and the smaller hybrid tea roses for container planting.
The American Rose Society
With contact information for local rose societies across the nation and region, including Spokane and Coeur d'Alene.