Book Review: Hardy Roses

Growing roses in New Brunswick, Canada, nursery owner Bob Osborne knows a thing or two about cold-climate gardening. He’s recently released the third edition of his book, Hardy Roses: The Essential Guide for High Latitudes and Altitudes (Firefly Books, 2020). This is a great book for those new to rose growing or someone who has grown roses for awhile and wants to expand the selection of roses in their garden.

(For those interested in really tough garden roses, check out the May/June 2020 issue of Northern Gardener, which has an article on award-winning, sustainable roses for northern climates.)

Hardy Roses book coverHardy Roses begins by talking about how gardeners can integrate roses into their gardens. Many of the older roses that Osborne recommends are being used less now because they bloom just once in a season. Gardens can be—and should be—designed like a tapestry, he says, with some plants taking the spotlight in different times of the year. The key to creating those tapestries is understanding how plants work—what they need to thrive, how they bloom and what they contribute to the garden when they are not blooming.

Hardy Roses has succinct sections on rose care, covering siting, drainage, soil pH and fertility; pruning; and diseases and pests. Illustrations are particularly helpful in the siting and pruning sections. He covers all the usual suspects in the pest and disease section. For Japanese beetles, the pest rose growers hate the most, Osborne recommends going after the grubs in soil with Steinernema nematodes. Osborne also devotes considerable space to propagating roses.

The second half of Hardy Roses is devoted to more than 100 varieties of northern-hardy roses, all of which are pictured in the lovely photos by Beth Powning. Some are familiar, such as the members of the Canadian Explorer series and Polar Joy (one of my favorite northern roses), but others were new to me. Tuscany is a rose you could grow north of St. Cloud with a deep purple/red bloom and a yellow center. It’s been around since the 1500s, and probably came from Italy. Or, how about Schneezwerg, a USDA Zone 2 hardy, fragrant white rose? Or how about Goldbusch, a creamy yellow rose that grows 8 feet tall and was introduced in 1954?

As you might guess, while you can certainly find some of these roses at your local garden center or nursery, some may require mail order. Helpfully, Osborne lists a variety of nurseries that you can order from.

Overall, Hardy Roses is a well-designed, useful guide to growing roses in the North.





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