I must be nuts. I’m thinking of putting in a rosebed in front. Even as I contemplate it, I’m thinking of last summer’s various rose heartbreaks: the discovery of cankered and winter-killed canes to be pruned out, the teeming hordes of tiny squish-bodied aphids nursing the juicy goodness out of the newly sprouted leaflets in early spring. These can be blasted off with a good spray from the garden hose, at least, that’s what I’m told. Failing that, I brush them off by hand, and failing that, I give up. Birds and ladybugs finish the job. I don’t think aphids do permanent harm. If only the ladybugs would arrive sooner, I could appreciate the ecology of it all a little better.
A beautiful flush of roses arrived in May, but the microscopic thrips soon found the light colored roses and made them look gray and tattered, like used Kleenex bushes, not rose bushes. Then in mid-summer came the last great plague, the plague of Japanese beetles. These monsters appear singly at first, iridescent beetles that nestle in the center of opened roses and eat. But at the peak of the season, they are legion and they can cover entire roses. There really is not much to do about them except flick them off into a jar of soapy water.
Besides these, there is blackspot, cercospora, and powdery mildew making the leaves unsightly, storms that batter the flowers to pieces, and humidity that causes certain roses to “ball” and never open. Occasionally other mysterious blights arise but they almost aren’t worth worrying about in comparison to the above.
There is a reason, it turns out, why roses have a reputation for being hard to grow. They’re not hard to grow, but they do suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune throughout the season. But what else, besides roses, would I grow in that sunny spot in the front yard? Everything else seems kind of boring.
The first couple years that I grew roses, I had a picture in my mind of a floral cottage garden in my back yard, and so I did not cut many of the roses, just a few. I wanted to leave plenty out there to create the beautiful pastoral landscape in my mind. However, last season, I finally learned to gather my rosebuds while I might–before the Japanese beetles got them.
My next rosebed should, therefore, focus on roses whose blooms make especially good cut flowers. The verdict of my deliberation is, plant more roses. I suppose it was something of a foregone conclusion.