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22 Favorite Roses to Grow

Whether for fragrance, a long-lasting cut flower, or a beautiful habit, there are a million and one reasons to grow roses

Johanna Silver and Mike Irvine
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La Vie en Rose

In 2007, Fallon Shea ­Anderson had green hair, a melancholy outlook, and a job in retail. The then-19-year-old was perpetually dawdling at the sidewalk sale rack—wishing more than anything to be outdoors—until she took a friend’s suggestion to check out a wholesale rose farm in California’s Sonoma County. “The owners found me in their fields, sniffing flowers,” she says, “and begging for a job.” Impressed by her enthusiasm, they hired Anderson on the spot.

Lacking any previous experience, it was trial by fire. The teenager had more than 5 acres and at least 5,000 roses to oversee, so Anderson hunted down rosarians and read every book she could find to educate herself. Eleven years later, she can now tell you that a rose’s scent is strongest three hours after sunrise, that thorns range from bristly to wide and transparent, and that leaves are as individual as thumbprints. “I don’t know the names of many other plants besides roses,” says Anderson, today a consultant on rose cultivation and floral design in Southern California. “And I know almost all of their names.”

Anderson’s obsession dovetails perfectly with the current rose resurgence. And we’re not talking about the bright red, long-stemmed, will-you-accept-this-rose rose. Those varieties (often greenhouse-grown in South America) are bred to be standardized and perfect. They’re scentless and tend to rot before they open. “During the past few decades, the idea of luxury was such that the flowers were perfect,” says Sarah Ryhanen, founding director of Saipua, a New York City floral boutique at the forefront of garden-­inspired design. From 2012 to 2016, Anderson shipped her roses to Ryhanen’s studio, creating a cross-country bond between two like-minded flower lovers. “My work is a rejection of perfect. I am interested in seeing flowers in their wild, natural state,” she says, “and Fallon’s roses were simply bar none.”

What’s old is new again, but how to best get your hands on stems? “Grow your own,” says Anderson, who now consults from San Diego, where dormancy is just two to three months. Roses have never been so accessible: Modern-day hybridizing allows the cultivation of classic roses, but on repeat-blooming, disease-­resistant bushes. “Roses aren’t the fussy divas they used to be. They’re actually totally functional features of the landscape.” Just be careful, she says: “It’s an addiction.”

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Romantic Arrangement

“Harvesting straight from the garden helps me decide how to style an arrangement. I see what’s available and I let that guide me,” says Anderson, whose design portfolio can be found at fallonshea.com. Each bouquet has a whimsical shape and an added bonus: “Look closer and you’ll see little color stories within the larger arrangement.” Pictured here: ‘Gourmet Popcorn,’ ‘Sally Holmes,’ ‘Honey Dijon,’ and ‘Sombreuil’ roses, as well as a supporting cast of columbine, bearded iris, Japanese snowberry, honeysuckle, and plum.

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Where to Find Them

Your local nursery will have the best selection of varieties suited to your climate. To venture into Old-World charm, order directly from David Austin Roses (davidaustinroses.com); Heirloom Roses (heirloomroses.com); and Rogue Valley Roses (roguevalleyroses.com).

What follow are Fallon's favorite varieties, plus more of our own.
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‘Distant Drums’

This shrub rose boasts a difficult-to-name color that ­transitions from blush lavender to caramel, making for a versatile, goes-with-anything hue.

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‘Sally Holmes’

A climber with clusters of sweetly fragrant, single, creamy white flowers and pink-peach buds. This ­survivor variety looks delicate enough to shatter, but it won’t. Grow as a hedgerow, climber, shrub, or even as an espalier.

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'William Shakespeare 2000'

With a petal count well over 120, this blossom explodes with fragrance and velvet color. As it matures, will turn a deep purple like a glass of red wine.
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'Johann Strauss'

Pearl pink and apple-scented, this hardy floribunda won’t disappoint in the garden. Expect enormous clusters weighing down every stem from spring through first frost.
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‘Charles Darwin’

An English rose with red buds that open to an antiqued yellow, this variety is prized for its form: blossoms start out perfectly ­globular, each with up to 140 petals.

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About Face

While most bi-color rose varieties have petals that are light on the outside and dark on the inside, About Face does the reverse—peek inside for a bright golden yellow, a beautiful contrast to its outward facing display of a deep, bronzed orange hue.
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'Monsieur Tillier'

Bury your nose in this flat, double bloomer for the delicious aroma of a spicy herbal tea. A French tea rose originally bred in the late nineteenth century, blooms range from pink to salmon.
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'The Prince'

A double bloomer with that traditional, deep burgundy hue, but look for mesmerizing tints of royal purple when flowers are at their fullest. Cut stems will fill a room with a pleasing perfume.
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'Brigadoon'

A cut flower favorite that only gets better as it matures on the stem. Swirls of creamy white and coral-pink compete for our attention, intensifying in color as the blossom opens.
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Rosa Rugosa ‘Alba’

Akin to wild roses, durable rugosa roses are known for hardiness and tolerance of subpar conditions, in­cluding harsh coastal conditions. Their lovely single white blooms look like a fountain-like habit of tufted foliage, followed by thick hips.

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'Brandy'

Huge deep-apricot flowers are a treat for the eyes, as well as the nose. Bonus: a vigorous grower with long stems ideal for arranging.
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'Dark Night'

A great choice to plant in difficult soil or high temperatures, 'Dark Night' is tough as nails. A hybrid tea variety with deep red to nearly black blooms, plus soft and creamy hints of yellow on the underside of its petals.
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Koko Loko

A florist’s favorite with a color transformation that can only be believed if you grow it yourself—watch as coffee- and cream-tinged buds unfurl into a stunning, dusty peach-hued blossom.
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'French Lace'

An ivory floribunda with that classic rose shape, but it’s the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pale apricot center that makes 'French Lace' a favorite for growers and florists alike.
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‘Hot Cocoa’

Rust-colored flori­bunda with dark purple guard (outer) petals.

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'Sweet Juliet'

A tall upright shrub that’s ideally placed towards the back of a planting bed. Disease resistant and reliable, fragrant blossoms glow pink and peach.
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Fair Bianca

A compact grower that’s great for smaller spaces, its large ruffled blooms are the brightest of whites and have that familiar intoxicating rose scent.
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'Purple Tiger'

No petal is alike on this show-stopper with stripes and flecks of purple, lavender, and white. Avoid overhead watering on all roses, but especially for this slightly finicky variety that can be susceptible to disease.
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‘Memorial Day’

This gorgeous hybrid tea has large pink flowers and an intoxicating scent. Things come and go in the Sunset test garden, but we always keep ‘Memorial Day’.

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'Ballerina'

Blooming well into autumn, this hybrid musk rose has pink-edged white blooms.

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'Mister Lincoln'

This classic hybrid tea rose has long, deep red blossoms and a deeply sweet fragrance.

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‘Sunset Celebration’

Our very own rose! Named to commemorate Sunset’s 100th anniversary, this apricot-colored favorite is highly fragrant, disease-resistant, and holds up well as a cut flower.
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Upkeep Tips

Pruning is optional. Skip the regimented hacking, says Anderson, and instead prune for aesthetics. Shape the shrub for how it best fits in your garden and don’t be confined to any rule book. At the very least, defoliate your plants come winter to prevent disease from carrying into the next season.

Feed your plants. Find a chemical-free approach that works for you. If you like foliar sprays, try fish emulsion. If you prefer slow release, combine alfalfa with bone and blood meal. Fertilize as soon as they leaf out and after each flush.

Take a slice. Anderson swears by skipping the traditional 45°-angle cut when harvesting a rose. ­Going straight and horizontal exposes less surface area, making a smaller wound for the plant to heal.

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