For instant gratification and long-term dependability, plant Iceberg roses. They bloom like crazy and are far more tolerant of benign neglect than any other rose I know.
I am not really a rose gardener. I just love roses. I especially love antique or old roses. If you’re wondering what an antique rose is, it’s not some old dusty thing you find in a thrift store. It’s a rose variety introduced before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose came on the scene and breeders began focusing on bright colors, strong stems and perfectly shaped flowers. Still, the older roses had some distinct advantages — hardiness, disease resistance and scent. But maybe even more importantly, it’s the sense of history and the evocative names of the antique roses that appeal to me.
I love to read about antique roses. Imagine growing the same variety that Josephine Bonaparte grew in her garden or one that was named for her garden (Souvenir de la Malmaison). Or how about the White Rose of York (Rosa alba ‘Semi-Plena’) and the Red Rose of Lancaster (Rosa Gallica Officinalis)? The War of the Roses was named after those two. You see, I would gladly be one of those rose junkies who plants every obscure old rose I read about in the catalogs. But I really don’t have the space or the energy to devote to an entire rose garden. Instead I have a few roses sprinkled around my beds and some climbers wherever I could squeeze them in. So in complete contradiction to my love for antique roses, I find myself devoted to the Iceberg Rose, a thoroughly modern floribunda.
Now despite all the wonderful qualities of the Iceberg rose, there have been years when mine (I have two flanking my tangerine tree) have succumbed to powdery mildew and black spot. They are supposedly resistant, but there are some years when all bets are off. Luckily most years, including this one, they tend to thrive. They are also nearly thorn free and, in my climate, can be nearly evergreen. Though I find that they look better if I clip off all their leaves and give them a light pruning each January. I think this is an easy enough chore for the amount of bloom that I get the rest of the year.