Choose your Wild Roses carefully. For a wildflower area, you'll want roses that don't grow too big or require any special care. In fact, in a good portion of the US, many roses really require no maintenance at all. If you live in Zone 6 or colder, the only thing you may have to do is trim off the dead wood after winter. It's simple. When the leaves begin to emerge in the spring, you simply prune off any dark dead wood at the top of the canes. For example, in Maryland, the top 8 inches or so of each branch may be dark and dead. In Minnesota, the dead wood will be probably half of the cane or more. In either case, you just snip it off, and new growth begins at the cut. Since none of these rose grow into huge bushes, this job is never much work.
Where to place your roses. For the reasons above, your roses should be placed either near a fence, at the front or at an edge of your meadow area, or someplace else where you don't mow.
What kind of roses are recommended? Like everything else about your meadow, this is up to you. But most wildflower gardeners want to add rose plants that are no- or at least, very low-maintenance. And in this area, you're in luck. Many of the roses available are the most carefree plants you can own. However, finding low-maintenance roses means totally ignoring the largest group — the "tea roses" (the delicate hybrids with the big florist-style blooms). Yes, they're beautiful, but they're the opposite of what you need, and require lots of care. Look instead for shrub roses, species roses, and other types are almost totally work-free.
What is a wild rose anyhow?
This is an interesting question, and the answer is simple. A true "wild rose" is one that nature created, not one hybridized by man. There are only about 100 basic native species in the worldwide rose family, and they all have just five petals. That lets out most of the roses you've seen, right? Since the rose is so popular, and has been hybridized so heavily, there are now over 20,000 different roses, but still only 100 truly "wild" ones. These wild ones are called "Species Roses" by botanists, and some are quite famous. Most people have heard of the Rugosa Rose, (Rosa rugosa), the really tough single red or white rose from the Far East, now very common as a landscape rose in North America. There are others you may have heard of with common names like "Prairie Rose", and "Pasture Rose." But don't believe everything you hear from Grandma about roses that are "wild." You can read more on this subject — the fascinating history and romance of the rose, and about the famous North American native roses — at our info page, .
The best roses for wildflower meadows
If you can find a true species rose plant, by all means add it to your meadow, but they are hard to find, since very few nurseries stock them. In addition, most of the species roses have a very short blooming season, during early summer, and then are flower-free the rest of the season. Most wildflower meadow gardeners prefer plants that contribute color for more than just a couple of weeks.
By cross-breeding certain species roses with others which are "repeat bloomers", the horticultural world has created some relatively modern shrub roses that are perfect for wildflower meadows. They have flowers that echo the lovely, simpler shape of the wild rose, they re-bloom through summer and fall, and they still require almost no care. Most of them also carry the always-loved fragrance roses are famous for. With some, you may want to trim them every few years, but none are rangy or rampant, and all are tough and hardy as oaks. They're all very good candidates for being great color-makers in any wildflower planting.
The "near wild" roses
Others that fit this description have names like "Carefree Beauty" and "Carefree Delight." Many of their names make it clear how much care these beautiful shrubs demand. But check carefully before you order, and be sure the plant is hardy in your neighborhood.
Low Maintenance is the number one factor we considered in choosing this group. We've also grown some of these beauties up in Vermont, so some of the recommendations are based on personal experience. Bonica, for example, is probably the easiest rose in the world to maintain, and in Vermont, (Zone 4) it grows beautifully. However, it is so severely set back by the winter freezes, we recommend it for Zone 5 and above.
Cold Hardiness is a big factor to wildflower gardeners, whether they live in Minnesota, Virginia, or, say, Colorado. After all, why bother to plant a rose bush just to have it killed by next winter's freezes? This is why you must be careful in your choices.
Some of the most cold hardy of all are the ones developed in Canada by the Canadian Ministry of Horticulture. They call this group of roses the "Canadian Explorer Series," and they've been turning out these beauties for decades. If it's from this group, it's very cold tolerant. In addition, these roses do very well further south, far from Canada, as well.
In this group, some names are famous, like Henry Hudson. Most everyone has heard of him. But the others are less famous. Other Canadian explorers with names like John Franklin and Henry Kelsey also have roses named after them. In addition, the lovely Chuckles Rose, although not named for an explorer, was bred in Canada.
To learn more, visit our article, .