When I moved to this area I came from Lake Tahoe where the climate is similar, and I had given up on roses, because not only did I have all the difficulties of this climate, but I also had a lot of shade. Since I’ve been here I’ve met quite a few people who’ve come from the milder areas of the West—areas where they grew roses—and they really want those roses here. Of course since I’ve been here I’ve rationalized that now I have a lot of sun so it wouldn’t hurt to try roses again….
There are many rose varieties, but the rose that people are most familiar with is the Hybrid Tea. Hybrid Teas were first bred in the 1870’s and are the result of much cross breeding. They do have the tender China roses in their lineage, and are not fully hardy, and that is just too bad for Chiloquin rose lovers because without a whole lot of coddling they just can’t survive our winters. Even if you do manage to get one through a winter, the late spring freezes will set it back quite badly, often to the point of killing it outright.
Traditionally roses are pruned in the winter, but don’t try it before April here. Also, I have discovered that the size of the rose has a lot to do with surviving our winters and springs. Roses any smaller than a 1 gallon pot size, often die the first winter if planted out, while if they are kept in a garage or other cool place for the winter and then planted out late in the following spring they tend to do much better. I’ve found nothing quite so frustrating as seeing new shoots in April on small plants that had survived the whole winter in the ground, and then seeing those shoots killed by a freeze in June.
Roses are sold either grafted onto a hardy rootstock or on their own roots. If a grafted rose gets hit by a freeze and the top dies back, it is likely that the rootstock will send up shoots and take over. If you have a large climbing rose, with lovely red semi-double blossoms that are not fragrant, it’s likely that you are growing a Dr. Huey rose, which is commonly used as a rootstock. I have one, yet I know I have never bought a rose that was not fragrant. I’ll keep my Dr. Huey, but if I’d known I was getting a climber instead of a shrub, I would have put him in a different location. If you don’t want to worry about this happening to you, buy roses on their own roots. An own-root rose is rooted from a cutting and if it freezes to the ground and survives, it will sprout back out from below the soil surface with the original variety intact.
Rugosa roses are once-flowering, sometimes very fragrant, with large colorful hips, and are supposedly very hardy, but my three year old Rugosa is not doing so well here. It is growing right next to a Gallica rose that really is thriving. In fact, if you have a sunny spot you can’t go wrong with a Gallica. They are once flowering but that flowering can last for several weeks, and they are very fragrant. Also thriving is my Hybrid Musk rose, Darlowe’s Enigma. This rose was a chance discovery by Mike Darlowe in Eugene, and it has everything. It is a constant bloomer, the clusters of small white flowers have a sweet fragrance and waft scent over a large area, it is cold hardy, disease resistant and will even take some shade. I saw it at the Lonesome Duck my first year here, and came right home from that visit and mail ordered one. Shrub roses usually do well here, as do Ramblers and Climbers. Just be sure to give them lots of sun and plenty of water.