Landscaping with Roses
Fresh ways to grow these garden favorites

A hedge of white shrub roses along a white picket fence, a climbing rose cloaked in red blooms at the back of a hot-colored flower border, coral ground cover roses spilling over a stone retaining wall: these are ways gardeners incorporate roses into the landscape today -- boldly, and with savvy attention to bloom color and growth habit.

Among the many long-blooming, easy-care roses now available are types that are superbly suited to landscape use. Small, compact types are excellent edgings along walkways or in narrow beds; they also look good in containers. Low spreaders are ideal as ground covers. More upright varieties are handsome in shrub borders or, planted 3 or 4 feet apart, as an informal hedge. Climbers dress up arching trellises, obelisks, or fences.

There's always room for roses -- no matter what their habits -- in any landscape. "Roses fit any style of garden, from casual English cottage to Mediterranean to formal," says Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses in Upland, California.

All you have to do is make sure their flower or foliage colors work together, as rose fancier Heidi Tanner does in her garden in Pleasanton, California. Tanner fills her garden with roses for nearly nonstop color. She arranges them in color themes, using red and orange roses to spice up hot-color borders, and apricots, blushes, and whites in her "quiet garden."

Position the roses where they'll deliver maximum effect, as another rose fancier, Sheri Workman, does in her Fountain Valley, California, garden. Workman grows 'Abraham Darby', a lanky-stemmed David Austin shrub rose, against the wall at the back of a 2-foot-wide border and allows it to arch across the border toward the path. "The plant is so huge in my mild climate that it grows into a fountain," she says. "The blooms are right in your nose when you walk by."

For maximum color impact, you can pair roses with annuals or perennials, as Workman does. Other ornamentals help hide the roses' "ugly legs" and give the garden a filled-in look, she says.

The dormant season (from January to March, depending on climate) is the prime time to set out bare-root plants such as roses.

Choosing the right varieties

Before you shop for roses, check see our links to varieties above left.

For other ideas:

Visit public rose gardens. Many local botanical gardens and parks display roses suitable to your climate. The American Rose Society can help you find them.

Ask a rosarian. E-mail your questions to a consulting rosarian in your region. On the ARS website, click on "Ask Us," then "CR by Geographical Area."

Contact local rose societies. Some rose societies have websites that offer lists of roses adapted to specific climates.

What to plant with roses

Roses look best when they're planted among other landscape plants. While low-growing perennials are perfect for hiding bare canes, taller ones -- delphinium, for instance -- are best planted behind or to the side of a shrubby rose, or in front of a climber. Here are our favorite companions.

Low plants to grow beneath roses. Agapanthus (dwarf), arabis, basket-of-gold, brachyscome, campanula, candytuft, catmint, coreopsis, dianthus, dusty miller, erigeron, feverfew, geraniums (species types), heuchera, lamb's ears, licorice plant, nemesia, scabiosa, sweet alyssum, thyme, verbena (ground-cover types), yarrow.

Tall or spiky plants for contrast. Alstroemeria, bearded iris, canna, delphinium,
Verbena bonariensis.

Shrubby or clumping partners. Japanese barberry (with red or gold foliage), lavender, ornamental grasses, Russian sage, santolina, summer phlox, Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'.