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Top Classical Choices for Performance & Easy to Grow

by Dr. Tommy Cairns, past ARS President, Award of Merit 2017

All photos by Rich Baer

With the close proximity of bareroot planting season almost upon us in Southern California (how lucky we are to have such a mild climate to permit planting) it is time to think about which varieties to buy for planting.

Over the years we always seem to give prime attention to selecting those varieties that are new introductions while often ignoring those varieties that are either classical with reputations or are easy to grow and maintain.

This review attempts to summarize the recommendations for certain classifications as well roses for certain specific uses. Hopefully this selection will assist the first time grower and novice to find out that rose growing can be made easier. Often it is this first experience with rose growing that can instill enthusiasm and confidence in growing good roses.

This approach to the classics, so to speak, has been devised as an alternative to choosing new introductions appearing in the September/October 2017 issue of the American Rose. Therefore, this review attempts to recapture the best varieties that now have a long established history of growing in our Southern California climate. So instead of always thinking “New” turn your attention to varieties which have proved their place in rose history. The following pages showcase varieties for specific purposes as well as various popular classifications such as English Roses by David Austin.

Create an “Easy to Grow” garden by a wise choice of varieties listed to replace any bushes badly in need of replacement.

‘Veteran’s Honor’ (ABOVE)

dark red, 2000, Zary

Immaculate 2 inch buds spiral into the most grandiose floral masterpieces conceivable (25-30 petals). The color fast deep red can survive even the hottest sunny days. Petals have so much starch that they survive for week s in the garden or can make an excellent cut flowers for the home or rose show. Plant is extremely vigorous and upright. Flowers can also sustain rain showers without blemishing the bloom. An impeccable red rose that will not disappoint anyone.

‘St. Patrick’ (ABOVE)

medium yellow, 1996, Strickland

The novel chartreuse-shaded buds spiral open to flowers of remarkable endurance. Super slow opening rose (30-35 petals) ideal for those warm humid climates. In cooler weather the blooms can pick up just a touch of gold, but in those warm climates the blooms certainly show off that attractive green quality around the edges. Fragrance is really not detectable to any extent. Foliage is a lovely dark matt green that rarely shows signs of disease. Plant is an appealing well rounded bush reaching 4-5 feet tall. AARS.


white, 1998, bred by Carruth

Plant is humongous with thick healthy large foliage that defies any disease to invade its structure. Blooms possess absolutely perfect symmetry accentuated by the delicate pink on the edges of petals turning the flower into a porcelain work of art. Stems are long and straight covered with succulent foliage. Fragrance is reminiscent of mild-tea and rose. Plant grows to 6-8 feet tall giving an abundant crop of blooms every 5 weeks. This is truly a plant that thrives on indifference.

‘New Zealand’ (ABOVE)

light pink, 1995, bred by McGredy

Strong honeysuckle fragrance pervades the garden when you plant this rose. Blooms ( 30-35 petals) are a soft creamy pink with all the symmetry that you expect from a classic hybrid tea. Foliage is a incredible dark green glossy offering a constantly disease free display throughout the season. Plant generally grows to about 4-6 feet tall with a more than generous number of blooms forming a floral canopy over the bush.

Selection of Fabulous Floribundas


white, 1958, Kordes

Undoubtedly the world’s most popular selling rose from Zanzibar to Timbuktu! This floribunda is grown as a bush, standard, or climber providing massive attractive displays of thousands of pure white flowers (20-25 petals) throughout the growing season on a bush described as handsome and rounded. In certain cool climates, however, don’t be surprised to see a flush of pink in it occasionally. An exciting sport of ‘Iceberg’ has been discovered in Tasmania with flowers that are a cerise pink and cream blend ‘Brilliant Pink Iceberg’.

‘Livin’ Easy’

orange blend, 1996, Harkness

With this no nonsense variety all you need to do is plant it and watch it grow and grow. The plant needs very little attention, just water and some fertilizer. You will see no evidence of black spot on this variety with its glossy green resistance foliage. Flowers (25-30 petals) borne in clusters put on quite a show with their showy apricot orange color that lights up any drab landscape. Variety is a consistent performer in all climates, cool to hot and humid. Bush grows to about 4-5 feet tall by the end of the growing season.


red blend, 1976, Cocker

This Scottish import took a while to find its way into the hearts of American growers. The simplicity of a single petaled rose with such rambunctious colors of orange and scarlet with a yellow eye put on a colorful show in any garden setting. The bush is easy to grow and covers itself with glossy green foliage impervious to disease in most climates. Blooms do have a sweet apple fragrance. Flowers grow in medium sized clusters on strong straight stems capable of supporting such astounding displays. Flower size can decease in hot climates.


white, 2007, Zary

Mesmerizingly beautiful with its creamy, white flowers contrasted with deep green foiling it delights with its warm, sweet color reminiscent of a romantic, summer night. Perfect for cut flower arrangements. Growing up to 5 feet in height, this AARS winner is strong, vibrant, mildew resistant and trouble-free with generous branches. Its blooms entice with a subtle, raspberry scent. Stronger fragrance than its famous parent, 'Iceberg.'

‘Julia Child’ (ABOVE)

medium yellow, 2005, Carruth

Named for the woman who brought French cuisine to the kitchens of America, 'Julia Child' combines intoxication aroma with a delicious presentation of uplifting color! Appealing licorice scent may bring you back to the days of penny candy stores. Giant clusters of big, fully double, 3-inch blossoms can be enjoyed numerous other ways, though, with this attractive dark-green shrub. Looks great as cut flowers on a table.

‘Hot Cocoa’ (ABOVE)

russet, 2001, Carruth

Certainly a variety to cause drooling and mass hysteria. The color is outrageously, heart-stopping gorgeous, though it seems to vary with temperature, time, and the eye of the beholder. Often described as cinnamon, brick, russet, smoky, and "rich chocolate-orange with a purple-burgundy cast. Rosarians who've grown it in their test gardens raved wildly about its health, vigor, and ability to hold color in heat. Lush healthy foliage, fruity fragrance, and fast repeat bloom.

Superb Selection of Miniature & Miniflora Roses


medium yellow, 1996, Saville

Long urn shaped buds spiral open to give clear bright yellow blooms (12-25 petals) with a lighter reverse. The color is amazing even in hot sunny climates. The florets are borne in small clusters on very strong stems. Flower form is the classical hybrid tea type with high centers and petals unfurling in a symmetrical pattern. In spite of the low petal count the blooms can last for weeks. Foliage is a medium dull green on a vigorous, upright small bush.

‘Rainbow’s End’

yellow blend, 1984, Saville

One of the most attractive miniature roses ever developed. The blooms (35 petals) start off as deep yellow with a spectacular red edging to the outer petals giving it a terrific eye catching quality. As the blooms age the blending of the red colors deepens to within the heart or bloom creating a true mosaic of colors, each bloom distinctively toned - a tapestry of living color in the garden changing with time. Variety was given the “ARS Award of Excellence” in 1986

‘Luis Desamero’ (ABOVE)

light yellow, 1989, BennettThe late Dee Bennett named this double, high-centered pastel yellow rose for a very special rosarian who headed up not only the ARS Award of Excellence Program but also the ARS National Miniature Rose Show and the ARS Miniature Rose Hall of Fame. The plant habit is tall growing and blooms profusely throughout the season. Since its introduction it has proved to be one of the top exhibition roses both in the U.S. and throughout the world. ARS Hall of Fame 2014. A fitting tribute to a truly GREAT ROSARIAN!

‘Party Girl’

yellow blend, 1979, Saville

Belongs to the classical Miniatures developed in the late 1970s where the emphasis was concentrated on form. Blooms are best described as apricot-yellow, double, high cantered and often borne in magnificent clusters. The bush is upright and compact, ideal for selection as container-grown. Its heritage is legendary for it was used extensively in breeding with tremendous success. Awarded AOE in 1981 and elected to ARS Hall of Fame in 1999.


white, 1898, Bennett

Became a world favorite because of the masses of impeccable white blooms with exceptional classical form borne both singly and in clusters. Plant is tall growing with the bloom color showing variance with weather conditions: in cooler climates there may be a greenish tinge to the outer petals. Blooms have an exceedingly long life either on the bush or as a cut flower. One of the charming features is the light pink centers that develop as the blooms open in our sub-tropical climate to give the bloom a romantic appeal.


yellow blend, 2002, Bridges

This bicolor makes a dramatic statement in any garden with yellwo blooms edged with red on very long straight stems. The dark green foliage often overwhelms the flowers, especially in the hot summer months when the florets can shrink in size, just a little, but then this is a Miniflora. Sometimes prone to mildew. Plant in the back of a flower bed for it can grow exceptionally tall. in our sub-tropical climate.

‘Miss Flippins’

medium red, 1997, Tucker

This variety has been embraced by rose exhibitors as the best red Miniature in the U.S. and for good reason. The tall vigorous plant produces exquisite, classically shaped, brilliant medium red blooms. Bloom cycle is fast, about 47 days. They are borne singly or in big clusters with shiny dark green foliage to compliment the blooms. The plant tends to spread so give it plenty of room to grow. This year ARS membership voted this variety into the Miniature Hall of Fame. Bred by an amateur rose breeder who has had numerous successes in this field of hybridizing

‘Leading Lady’

white, 2007, Benardella

Supremely elegant addition to the Miniflora class bred by the late Frank Benardella, this variety emulates the desired classical shape of a hybrid tea. Long tapered light pink buds open gradually to magnificent white blooms, large and multipetaled. Florets are borne mostly singly on long stems suitable for cutting. Plants needs room to spread when planted in the ground or in a containers. Granted ARS AOE in 2007

‘Butter Cream’

medium yellow, 2004, Martin

This excellent butter yellow Miniflora variety from the hands of successful amateur breeder Bob Martin has impeccable form. The color tends to fade a bit in strong sunlight. It forms a pleasing, well-rounded bush, with blooms that come mainly one to a stem.

‘Gourmet Popcorn’

white, 1988, Desamero

A floriferous white miniature, semi-double (15-20 petals), consistently voted top of the list in garden display. A sport of ‘Popcorn’, this variety boasts of pure white flowers in massive clusters, with a light fragrance, on an upright and bushy plant. The growth habit is also admired for its dark green disease resistance foliage. This variety has received universal acceptance - looks great in containers, hanging baskets.

‘Glowing Amber’

red blend, 1996, Mander

A favorite throughout the world, this variety has a neon-like color that demands attention in the garden. High centered, the blooms are usually borne singly on long stems and are long-lasting suitable for exhibition in rose shows - nearly always a winner! Plant is upright, vigorous and prolific in bloom quantity with a short rebloom time of about 45 days. Some susceptibility to mildew in coastal climates. Variety sported resulting in an equally beautiful miniature called ‘Amber Star’.

‘Candy Cane’

pink blend,1958, Moore

Although introduced almost 60 years ago this free blooming miniature climber is still as popular particularly in California. One of Ralph Moore’s earlier successes this delightful climber is happy against a fence or wall and will display a beautiful tapestry of colors. The plant has good disease resistance and requires minimal care. Besides it will always remind us of the genius of the “Father of Modern Miniature Roses”, Ralph Moore of Visalia, California.

Selection of Old Garden Roses

'Charles de Mills’

HGal, mauve, before 1746

Flowers are usually a dark red to crimson to rich glowing purple, quartered, and can reach a size to up to 4-5 inches wide making it the largest of the hybrid gallicas. Blooms emerge from flat -topped buds to give at first a cupped shaped bloom quickly followed by a gigantic saucer shaped flower. The multitude of petals in the floret have the texture of velvet with just a hint of fragrance. Bush has the architecture of arched canes reaching about 6 feet on a fairly erect bush. Variety is often referred to as “The perfect OGR”.

‘Rambling Rector’

Hybrid multiflora, white, 1830

Evocatively named this old cultivar of unknown origin was discovered growing around ancient structures in and old garden estates in England. Adopted by a clergyman it became known as ‘Rambling Rector’. Give it lots of room for it can grow to 20-30 feet in all directions. Smothering fences and garden sheds. The small, semi-double white flowers come in very large clusters. Plant is exceptionally vigorous and needs minimal maintenance. After Spring blooming there is good display of hips. Musk fragrance.

‘Rosa rugosa alba’

Species, white, before 1845

The name R. rugosa refers to a group of wild species found in the high mountain regions of Japan. This pure white hybrid has the typical quilted foliage so attractive as a background for the impeccable white florets produced in small clusters. If the plant is groomed after the first blooming in early Spring, there are additional bloom cycles every 60 days until the Fall making it’s presence in the garden a must for the simplicity of 5 petaled roses.

‘Apothecary’s Rose’

(Rosa gallica officinalis)

Species, dark pink, before 1600

Possibility the oldest cultivated rose in Europe having been extensively used for medicinal purposes and played a major role in the “War of The Roses” (1455-1485) as the emblem of the House of Lancaster. Semi-double blooms have 4 rows of petals that gradually change from bright crimson to purple with golden contrasting stamens, all complimented with lovely dark green foliage. Blooms have an intense fragrance making the petals ideal for making potpouri.

‘Rosa Mundi’

(Rosa gallica versicolor)

Species, pink blend, before 1581

A sport of ‘the Apothecary’s Rose’ , this is the oldest striped rose known. Blooms are semi-double, usually 4 inches wide, basically white flowers striped with red and pink, accentuated by golden yellow stamens. No two petals are alike on the bloom, each a masterpiece in color! This once blooming plant grows to about 3-4 feet tall with a sprawling habit. Variety is suitable as a low hedge plant. Variety believed named for the mistress of Henry II of England, “Rosamund’s rose”.

'Konigin von Danemark’

Alba, medium pink, 1816

Tight buds spiral open to give flat flowers packed with bright flesh-pink petals, darker at the center. Blooms can be exceptionally large, about 3-4 inch diameter, usually appearing in heavy clusters that often arch the supporting stem so much that they touch the ground. Fragrance is exquisite! Plant grows to about 4 feet tall covered with the characteristic gallica foliage, deep bluish green leaves that in themselves are quite an attractive feature. Variety is the best alba around. In very wet regions the blooms do not fully open.

Selection of English Roses by David Austin

‘Golden Celebration’

Shrub, deep yellow, Austin, 1993

Probably the largest and most spectacular of David Austin’s yellow varieties considered a rival for the title by ‘Graham Thomas’. The richness of color is dramatic as is the fragrance. Tends to grow with small clusters thereby allowing the stems to hold the weight without drooping. If you had to chose just one Austin variety to grow this is the easiest to grow and maintain. The plant is exceptionally vigorous and needs plenty of room to spread, but requires grooming to maintain a bush habit rather than a climber.

‘Graham Thomas’

Shrub, deep yellow, Austin, 1983

This variety could easily be identified as the Flagship Variety of “English Roses by Austin”. Named for an ionic personality/writer in the horticultural world in the UK, it is a vigorous grower and in some climates like Southern California behaves just like a climber. Massive clusters of deep yellow blooms are the hallmark of this variety acclaimed The World Favorite Rose by WFRS in 2009 ensuring it will remain popular for centuries. Graham Thomas passed away in 2003 and his legendary career to roses and many other plant forms lives on with this variety.

‘Abraham Darby’

Shrub, orange pink, 1990, Austin

This variety is one of the very best “English Roses” from the talented hands of David Austin. Very large cupped flowers appear in small clusters. Blooms are a peachy pink/apricot blend with a very pronounced fragrance. Foliage is dark green and shiny. Plant habit is a well disciplined rounded bush that can grow to 4-6 feet tall or taller in warmer climates. It is popular as a shrub border providing a constant display of color. This variety adapts exceptionally well to landscaping with other plants.


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