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Low-Maintenance Roses

Rose Care – A Thing of the Past

Hybrid Tea Roses in a rainbow of colors and gorgeous blooms once promised to bring beauty to our garden -- as long as we painstakenly pruned, fertilized, and treated for black spot and other pests. For most of us, the vision of a beautiful rose garden turned into the reality of leafless thorny stems with a few mediocre blooms.

The latest trend in roses is a complete U-turn from the roses of the last generation. Gone is the idea that roses should be pampered or are the domain of the most diligent gardeners, and the tolerance for intolerant roses has ended. It was realized that the biggest factor preventing beautiful rose gardens was the plants themselves. The selective breeding of roses to create the multitude of hybrid tea roses had left behind a few key characteristics -- namely, disease resistance. Rose cultivators went back to hardier rose stocks to recreate the variety of roses we've grown accustomed to but, this time, they put the emphasis on healthy, low-care roses.


This effort has been so successful -- and the demand for healthy roses so high -- that professional gardens have led the effort to replace temperamental and high maintenance rose gardens. The Peggy Rockefellar Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Gardens has been slowly transformed by curator Peter Kukielski from a display of beautiful-but-finicky roses to a collection of hardy, self-sufficient roses. Similarly, the Rose Garden at Olbrich Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin features a sustainable Rose Garden, with roses that are adapted to the Wisconsin climate and do not require extraordinary water, chemical, and care demands. 


At Garden Gate Nursery, we now exclusively carry tough, disease-resistant roses such as David Austin Roses, Easy Elegance Roses, and Knockout Roses. This is in stark contrast to when we first opened in 1995, when almost all the roses we and everyone else sold were the finicky hybrid teas.


Does this mean that roses are now completely "care-free"? Not entirely. The new varieties shouldn't need disease treatment. However, disease-resistant doesn't mean disease-free, and even the toughest rose can't handle every insult unscathed. While some rose varieties are sufficiently tough for completely neglected plantings, others now simply require equivalent care to any other flowering shrub instead of being particularly high-maintenance. Just as with any other plantings in your garden, we recommend the following to keep your roses healthy


  • Plant roses in their preferred location -- mostly sunny, well-drained soils, with decent air circulation. This is the most critical requirement for healthy roses. Even the most disease-resistant rose will get a fungal disease if planted in a damp, shady spot. 

  • Amend poor soils when planting

  • Occasionally/seasonally fertilize marginal soils to replenish nutrients

  • Seasonally tidy & prune rose bushes


For more rose care tips, read our old article about rose care. But keep in mind that these new varieties don't require nearly as much care -- for example, we used to recommend treating roses every week for black spot! In contrast, the new varieties shouldn't need any disease treatment -- ever.


David Austin Roses

Rose breeder David Austin was an early pioneer in the field of breeding hardier, disease resistant roses. He started cultivating roses in the 1960's with English shrub roses. These roses were hardy, fragrant, and had beautiful multi-petaled blooms, though they lacked the color variety and only bloomed once a season. Fifty years of rose breeding has resulted in an abundance of hardy, gorgeous rose varieties that are prolific, season-long bloomers available in a multitude of colors. Learn more about David Austin Roses.


Our David Austin Roses are grown locally for us in the Midwest by Midwest Groundcovers in St. Charles, Illinois. 


Easy Elegance Roses

Easy Elegance shrub roses were bred for their beauty, disease resistance, and hardiness to be “top-performing yet effortless.” Not only that, they were bred to never require any chemical treatments. Any rose that developed any disease -- even when deliberately infected -- was eliminated from the breeding stock.  Learn more about Easy Elegance Roses. 


Our Easy Elegance Roses are grown locally for us in the Midwest by Midwest Groundcovers in St. Charles, Illinois and Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota and Illinois.


Knock Out Roses

Knock Out roses bloom from spring until frost, are disease resistant, drought-tolerant, and do not need dead-heading. Optional once-a-year pruning after the first hard frost. They are tested in a variety of climates and chosen for their adaptability and abundance of blooms. Learn more about Knock Out roses.



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