Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

GARDEN FANATIC: Now is the time to plant roses

When I first began wooing Catharine, I brought her a single rose on our first date. I wasn’t sure if she would think me cheap or romantic, but something went right, because she consented to a second date, which brought her two roses. I continued this practice through 12 dates, but superstition and economics dictated that I not bring a 13th.

The Greek poet Sappho described the rose as the “queen of flowers” more than 2,500 years ago. To the east, Confucius noted extensive rose gardens in the Imperial Gardens. Today’s roses owe their heritage to these ancestors, mostly five-petaled native roses of the northern hemisphere.

The five rose classifications that were once considered the ultimate in perfection have been superseded by new hybrids. But these old garden roses, called antique roses, remain in the gardens of old homesteads and are enjoyed by today’s modern rosarians. Included are the alba, centifolia, damask, gallica and moss roses. Renewed garden interest for antique roses has increased with availability from commercial antique growers.

The “modern” era of rose growing began in 1867, with the introduction of the first hybrid tea, La France. Roses introduced before that year are now considered antique roses. Among today’s modern favorites are the hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, polyantha, shrub and miniature roses.


Although roses are sold throughout the year, the best time to make your rose selections is now! Roses go through a period of dormancy (except for this past week in Laguna) from December until late February.

During this time, roses are sold as bare-root, with a much greater selection available at your favorite nursery, because these plants require less care and space. In addition, you will save money on bare-root roses, and they are easier to plant!

Before you buy, you’ll need to consider more than just flower color. Your favorite nursery can introduce you to: new roses, older favorites (which cost less because their patents have expired), fragrant roses, roses that will tolerate some shade, roses that will grow with your perennials, and most importantly roses that will grow well wherever you live in Laguna.

The culmination of events, of course, was our marriage. The bride and her attendants all carried red roses. As we continue to build our life together, Catharine and I find ourselves likening our lives to “a bed of roses.”


See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award-winning writer Catharine Cooper, and has four dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to