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Rose Bushes Make Great Valentine Gifts
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Remember the love that went with those flowers -- roots and all -- you as a child gave your mother. That same spirit can be captured this Valentine's Day with gifts of rose bushes.
More roses are given for Valentine's Day than at any other time of the year, but cut roses only last a few days. As you hunt for the perfect Valentine's gift, consider both a rose bush and cut roses. A red rose bush like Opening Night, this year's All-America winner, may well be the gift that keeps giving for years.
Several new roses this year really have caught my attention. Readers know I am a fan of David Austin's English Roses. My favorite has always been Abraham Darby, a vigorous pink-peach- apricot blend. My second favorite has been a large, vigorous yellow bloomer named Graham Thomas.
This unique breeder from Shropshire, England has crossed these two favorites. The resulting hybrid brings an almost unbelievable copper color to the world of roses. This new rose is named for the hybridizer's wife, Pat Austin.
Pat Austin has a strong, old rose fragrance and is vigorous, reaching 4 to 5 feet in height. The deeply cupped blossoms have 40 to 50 petals per flower.
Another new David Austin rose is Glamis Castle, which has that old Rosa centfolia, or cabbage rose, look. This rose has 120 petals per blossom and should delight lovers of antique-looking roses. It is more compact that most David Austen roses, topping out slightly above 3 feet. It is a creamy white and has a very strong myrrh fragrance.
There are four roses named All-America winners for 1998, and one is bound to fit your garden situation. Two hybrid teas, Opening Night and Sunset Celebration, garnered this year's honors. Rose lovers will recognize the quality of Opening Night, as it comes from a distinguished ancestry. It is a cross between Olympiad, a 1984 All-America winner, and Ingrid Bergman. Opening Night's 4 1/2 inch blooms are a bright deep red, with only a slight fragrance. Its leaves are dark green and semi-glossy.
Sunset Celebration is named in honor of Sunset Magazine's 100th anniversary. It has large 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inch apricot-pink flowers with a moderately fruity fragrance.
Fame, a 1998 All-America winner in the Grandiflora class, is a tall, upright, almost shrub-like rose. Fame's 4 1/2 inch blossoms are a deep rich pink with striking dark green, glossy foliage.
For those looking for a rose for the landscape, First Light -- the 1998 All-America compact shrub rose winner -- may be your best choice. This shrub rose repeats quickly, shows disease resistance and is almost always in bloom with light pink, single form flowers.
Even though a Floribunda wasn't selected this year as an All-America winner, some are our easiest roses to grow. My favorites are Sun Flare (yellow), Sunsprite (yellow), Bill Warriner (coral), Livin' Easy (orange), Pure Poetry (yellow, orange, pink blend) and Apricot Nectar (pink, apricot, gold blend).
The hedge rose Pink Simplicity and shrub roses Care Free Delight and Nearly Wild have been performing very well in Mississippi trials and would work well in most landscapes.
When shopping for these or other roses, it is important to make wise purchases. Roses are graded as 1, 1 1/2 or 2, with 1 being the best.
Before planting your rose, improve the existing soil by adding organic matter like compost or humus, and plant on raised beds. El Nino or not, a rose does not like wet feet.