An Old Favorite’s New Tricks : Roses can climb, cover ground, grow in shade or in a pot. Some types can even tolerate drought.


Take another look around the garden if you think there’s no more room for roses. They’re more versatile than that.

Try them in that partially shaded corner or in parts of the garden that seldom get watered, where they can grow like wildlings. There are shade-tolerant and drought-tolerant roses.

Splash them on the ground. A brand new group of ground-covering roses are as tough as junipers and nearly as low. Or, take to the air and train them up a trellis or tree. With a little support, roses can climb almost anything.


And, don’t forget that many roses do exceptionally well in pots, so they can grow on a deck or patio. Herewith, some of the other uses for roses:

If your garden is maturing and becoming increasingly shady, take a look at the surprising list of shade-tolerant roses on K8 put together by Frank Burkard Jr. of Burkard Nurseries in Pasadena, based on his and customers’ observations over the years.

Roses on this list will bloom with a minimum of four hours of strong, direct sunlight. Ideally, they should get sun all morning or sun all afternoon. Though only a few English roses are listed, he says that most do well in partial shade.

The list of drought-tolerant roses comes from the catalogue of Mendocino Heirloom Roses (P.O. Box 670, Mendocino, Calif. 95460; catalogue, $1). Proprietors Alice Flores and Gail Daly have observed these roses growing with virtually no care in old gardens in that historic town, or naturalized in the hotter interior wine country valleys. They think these heirlooms varieties would do as well in our coastal and valley gardens, though inland they may need some water in summer.

Ground-covering roses are the hot news, even though only a few are readily available yet.

They stay low and spread, some even rooting as they go. Typically, they remain under 30 inches, according to Keith Zary, the director of research at Jackson & Perkins, so they’re not in the same low-growing league as iceplant.

White Meidiland is probably the most tried. Barbara Engel, of the Sunshine Greenery in West Los Angeles, planted a pride on a fairly steep bank in Pacific Palisades. Spaced about five feet apart, they’ve completely covered the bank with dark glossy leaves and crisp white flowers, and they did it in just over a year. They’re irrigated with drip (two 1/gph emitters on each plant), and a shredded cedar mulch helps control weeds.

Weeding these ground-cover roses could be problematic because all are thorny. In her Torrance parking strip, Sharon Van Enoo grows White Meidiland and says weeding is a problem. Her solution is, “You don’t.” Make sure weeds are gone before you plant, and mulch heavily.

Ground-covering roses have really caught on in Europe (where most originated). They’re even used to landscape freeways and are often mowed by large maintenance machines. In the garden, simply pruning any canes that are growing up, instead of out, seems to do the trick. However, Keith Zary recommends pruning about a third of the growth each winter.

More are on the way, but here are some to look for now: Jeepers Creepers is a handsome new single white, while Magic Carpet and Baby Blanket are two new pinks. Natchez is a very usable pink, Central park is peach-colored and Aspen, a pastel yellow.

Flower Carpet, coming this spring as a container-grown plant, is a deeper pink and “blooms and blooms and blooms,” according to some who have tried it. It is also evergreen, since one parent is Rosa sempervirens , though most of the ground covers are nearly so in our mild climate (all have the nearly evergreen R. wichuraiana in their background).

As well as covering ground, roses can climb. Not by themselves, but tied to a support.

They define an entrance when grown over an entry arbor. They can clamber over porches and arbors, or scramble up a wall if you provide some structure, such as the lattice sold at lumber yards, easily fastened to even stucco walls.

Gardeners know Iceberg as a medium-sized bush with crisp, white floribunda flowers that never seem to stop, and it seldom gets any of the rose diseases. Now it’s available as a climber, keeping those qualities, but growing very quickly to become a 25-foot explosion of white. It can make 10 feet in one year, according to Tom Carruth, horticulturist at Weeks Wholesale Roses in Ontario, who has one in his back yard.

If red is more to your liking, try Dynamite, which Sharon Van Enoo says is better than Blaze, an old favorite. It’s a more moderate grower, to 10 or 12 feet.

The real sensation with avid gardeners is the rediscovered Sally Holmes, which has huge, single, creamy white flowers. Some people grow it as a large shrub, but Carruth said it is a “climber, period,” and, as proof, has a 22-foot giant growing on the west wall of his Altadena house. The simplicity of flower form and the soft color help it meld with other flowers in the garden, which is why it’s suddenly so popular with flower gardeners.

Roses aren’t often grown in containers, but Tom Carruth thinks people are missing a bet when it comes to miniatures. For his own garden, he favors miniature roses that make a dense rounded bush, such as Cupcake (a pure pink), Little Artist (red and white with long-lasting flowers) or Rainbow’s End (a blushing yellow).

He also grows miniatures trained as little trees and prefers the 36-inch tall kinds over the lower ones. “They give you a second story in the garden, so you can still grow other things under them,” he said.

Favorites are the grape-colored Sweet Chariot, which tends to cascade, Gourmet Popcorn, a good white miniature that is even better trained as a tree, and Baby Grand, which makes “a perfect round ball of pink” with old-fashioned looking flowers.

Carruth also grows some bigger tree roses in containers, including the new floribunda Singin’ in the Rain, with stunning cinnamon-apricot flowers. If you like a cascading, weeping look, try the old-timer the Fairy, trained as a tree, or Sea Foam.

He grows the bigger kinds in 20-24 inch pots, and the miniatures in slightly smaller containers. He uses potting soil bought by the bag at nurseries, but adds his own garden soil, so it makes up about one-quarter of the mix. “Roses in general like a little heavier soil,” he explained.


Drought Resistant Roses


American Pillar

Belle of Portugal

Climbing Cecile Brunner


Dr. Van Fleet

Double Plum

Dorothy Perkins

Francois Juranville


Homestead Hybrid China

Mme. Gabriel Luizet

Mme. Plantier


Navaroo Ridge Noisette

New Dawn

Paul Ricault

Paul’s Double Musk

Rambling Rector

R. banksiae Lutea

R. x Harisonii

R. rubiginosa

R. rugosa


Silver Moon

Roses That Bloom in Partial Shade

Hybrid Teas Brandy Brigadoon Double Delight Gold Medal Graceland Ingrid Bergman Voodoo *

Floribundas French Lace Iceberg Sweet Vivian *

English Roses Bow Bells Dapple Dawn Fair Bianca Golden Celebration Heritage Lilian Austin Mary Rose Pretty Jessica Red Coat The Prince *

Shrub and old roses Blanc Double de Coubert Comte de Chambord F. J. Grootendorst Gruss an Aachen Hansa Jacques Cartier La Reine Victoria Old Blush Reine de Violettes The Fairy *

Climbers American Pillar Ballerina Buff Beauty Cecile Brunner Constance Spry Golden Showers Climbing Iceberg Lady Banks New Dawn Penelope