Heirloom Roses: Three Things Grandma Didn't Tell You

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Heirloom roses are always mentioned as something good for your garden, but what exactly are they? Heirloom, also known as antique or old roses are the rose varieties that existed before 1867, the year the first hybrid tea rose was developed in France. Heirloom roses lost favor with gardeners since they did not repeat blooms like the new roses do. Today, a lot of gardeners still look at heirlooms as being inferior to the modern varieties. While modern roses bloom several times over a growing season, heirloom roses produce blossoms in early summer for a period of two to four weeks. When they bloom, though, the fragrance and abundance of blooms is astounding.

If you're thinking of adding some heirloom roses in your garden there are a few things you should know before you plant them.

1. Heirloom Roses are Hardy and Diverse

It is mind-boggling how many colors, sizes, flower forms and fragrances there are to choose from with heirloom roses. If you want climbing roses, or short roses or tall roses� you'll find something to fit the bill. With all this variety, you're sure to find one or three that you can't live without.

Heirloom roses are still around for a good reason� they are very hardy. They survived for centuries without the benefit of fertilizer, pesticides and systemic treatments for leaf mold. Heirloom roses also grow very well in northern climates. While not all heirlooms will do well there, you'll find many species that are very suitable to endure even the coldest winter in Canada. Some of these hardy beauties include Alba or White roses, Centifolia or Cabbage roses, Damask roses, Gallica roses, Spinosissima or Scotch Brier roses and Bourbon roses. The Damask roses are the least hardy of all these species, but they are the most fragrant. Their blooms range from purest white to deep maroon, and they have a long history of being used to make rose oil. Gallica is the most popular species of heirloom roses. They have a pleasant fragrance that is not overpowering.

2. They�re Really Easy to Take Care Of � It's True!

Heirloom roses are no more difficult than modern roses. To grow well, these roses need four things: well-drained soil, sun, water and good air circulation. Plant your heirloom roses in a spot where they will enjoy at least six hours of sun per day. A good quality garden soil is a good start, just mix in some compost and manure to add extra nutrients. Be sure to water them regularly, and make sure the drainage is sufficient so the rose can take what it needs and the rest will drain away from the roots. Roses don't like soggy soil. Don't crowd them together. Unlike hybrid roses, heirlooms like to spread out. Most heirloom varieties do not need pesticides or have an aversion to them. Don't use it if you can help it. If you really need to use pesticides on them, do so very sparingly. Prune the bushes in the spring to get rid of any dead or diseased wood. Don't prune just to prune! That's all you need to do to care for heirloom roses.

3. They�re Worth It

Why put all this effort into a rose that only blooms a very short time every year? Well, they really don't require much attention� they practically take care of themselves. When they do bloom, the plants are covered with brilliant blossoms that emanate an intoxicating fragrance. There is the added bonus of the history behind these amazing roses. They grew in the gardens of royalty for centuries, were immortalized by painters, and now they are available to enhance your own garden.

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