Many organic gardeners have turned their backs on roses, thinking these classic flowers require an arsenal of toxic chemicals. On the other hand, many rose enthusiasts have turned their backs on organic gardening, committing themselves to a weekly routine of pesticide use. Can there ever be a happy marriage between organic gardening and growing roses? I believe so. It all begins with picking the right rose for your climate.
In the Deep South and other warm climates (such as Florida, parts of Texas and California, and the Gulf Coast), true tea roses are among the easiest to grow. Tea roses are the ancestors of modern-day hybrid teas; their blooms are slightly smaller than those of the hybrids and tend to nod or droop slightly. They can tolerate heat and drought conditions, but not prolonged freezing temperatures. Here are a few I recommend:
In colder climates, such as the Northeast or Midwest, you can grow some great cultivars that need little care, such as:
Some of the most "bulletproof" cultivars—those that remain absolutely free of disease and insect troubles in these cold climates—are wonderful climbing roses. I grow a couple of them in my own garden:
In the coldest regions, like Maine and Minnesota, the sprawling Rosa rugosa hybrids and old garden roses (for example, gallicas, damasks, centifolias) will prosper, as will the many delightful Explorer roses from Canada. Rugosas cannot tolerate any sprays at all—even horticultural oils—and will drop their foliage if sprayed. Simply prune them to keep them free of clutter, and you should have no trouble growing them.