Roses are now bursting out with buds already showing and even some colour. But I am absolutely amazed to hear of aphid problems already on roses and would highly recommend simply washing them off with a gentle flow of water.
In terms of sprays, if you wish to stay organic, use Safer's 'Trounce' every ten days as a foliar mist. To keep mildew and black spot in check, pick off any infected foliage and every ten days, alternate an application of old fashioned garden sulphur with an application of a baking soda solution (8 grams per one litre of water) mixed with a teaspoon of Trounce to act as a spreader-sticker so the spray adheres to the leaves. It works. There are also organic fungicides now available, like Safer's 'Defender' (which is sulphur).
In spite of roses being slightly acid loving, they love well-rotted manures. Fibrous manures, such as mushroom compost, are dandy and should be applied at least four to six inches deep around your roses. If you covered the bud unions of your roses in winter with bark, sawdust or soil, remove it now and work it into the soil along with the manures. Roses are heavy feeders. There are many organic and traditional rose foods on the market, but be sure they are rated low nitrogen, high phosphorus and high potash with micronutrients. Roses should be fertilized every two months.
There are some interesting new roses out that are very disease resistant. Bailey's Nursery has introduced a series of roses, called 'Easy Elegance', that have great hardiness, attractive flower forms, compact size, recurrent blooming habits and yes, great disease resistance. My top pick of this series is 'All the Rage' because of its glossy foliage and ever changing flower colours. Coral buds explode into 3-4 inch apricot semi-double open flowers with yellow centres and finally mature to vibrant lipstick pink. Growing only 2-4 feet tall and hardy to zone 4, this shrub rose has a very clean appearance, a rounded form and great disease resistance. Classified as an everbloomer, it has colour all summer long.
'Super Hero' is not overstating this 'Easy Elegance' rose which evolved from 'Rose Hero'. It's a good everblooming red with clusters of 2-3 inch hybrid tea shaped blooms that just keep coming all summer long. It grows anywhere from 3-5 feet tall and its red colour contrasts nicely with its medium to dark satiny foliage which is very disease resistant. Classified as a floribunda, its petal count is an amazing 35-40, which is pretty impressive.
'Sweet Fragrance' is a grandiflora with 3-4 inch apricot flowers that just keep coming all summer long. It only grows 2-4 feet tall with its full blooms held high on sturdy stems. It matures to an attractive salmon pink. Initially rated as a zone 5, it is now on trial in zone 4, but with mulching, it should be fine.
It's hard to imagine that there's one member of this series that outblooms the others but there is one that never quits because it has sterile flowers that produce no hips, therefore it doesn't know how to quit blooming. 'Mystic Fairy', with its continuous, massive clusters of 3 inch red blooms with pink undertones, is a variety that does great all summer in containers on sunny decks. It's very disease resistant with rich dark green foliage. It's a keeper.
I'm also very intrigued with a new series of landscape and shrub roses from the famous Kordes family, who have been growing roses in Germany for four generations. The 'Vigorosa' series is a new breed of roses that is very disease resistant and continuous flowering. It's winning awards across Europe.
On the whole they are very compact, vigourous - as the name would imply - and provide new opportunities for easy care roses in the landscape. 'Ruby Vigorosa' is a brilliant crimson red semi-double that flowers in large clusters; is slightly perfumed; has very glossy dark green foliage; is compact in nature (growing only 2x2 ft.); and blooms all summer. It has sparked a great deal of interest, winning ten international medals, including six gold.
'Apricot Vigorosa' changes colour from a rich apricot yellow to a beautiful apricot pink when its medium sized double blooms open. It too is low growing (about 2 x 2 ft.) and of course blooms all summer long with a pleasant sour-fruity scent. Its rich green glossy foliage is another attractive feature, which is why it's won six international medals, including gold.
As the name would suggest, 'Inocencia Vigorosa' is a pure white, softly perfumed double that blooms in clusters of 10-15 flowers and it has dense, very dark green glossy foliage. It's a littler shorter, growing only 1 -2 ft. tall and wide. It's often the first to bloom and is quite stunning in mass plantings.
'Salmon Vigorosa' gives us a rich, hot pink colour in the garden with medium sized double flowers in sprays. It's very compact, growing 20x20 inches. Its recurrent flowers have unique elongated buds with attractive high centres and it too has rich glossy foliage. This variety has won four international medals, including gold.
'Siena Vigorosa' has dark red buds that open into brilliant semi-double orange-pink blooms with a yellow base. Its flowers sport a light to medium perfume and its foliage is more a glossy medium green. It's compact, growing only 2 -2 ft. wide and tall. 'Siena' has won four gold medals in international trials.
I've seen quite a shift in demand, moving away from the traditional modern rose varieties to the more versatile shrub roses and to ground cover and easy care, disease free, hardy, continuous blooming varieties.
Brian Minter is owner of Minter Gardens.