Peach Drift Rose ‘Meiggili’
COURTESY OF STAR ROSES AND PLANTS

The National Garden Bureau named 2017 the “Year of the Rose,” one of four plants it highlights annually. For nurseries and garden centers, this presents an opportunity to renew their commitment to promote and sell America’s favorite flower and all the products associated with it.

We’ve seen remarkable changes in the rose industry over the past 10 years. Easy-care roses are gaining popularity, making breeds like the Knock Out rose nationally appealing in an unprecedented way. The role of roses in traditional landscapes has also changed and become more versatile. Varietal improvements continue to enhance the character and fragrance of the blooms. These are the qualities that gardeners want in their roses, and even with all the changes in the rose industry, there are breeding trends and constant varietal improvements and evaluations that you can take advantage of to sell more roses and related products, from soils and mulches to pruners and pest controls.

Think about these rose trends as you consider the best way to group, display and sell roses and rose-related products.

‘George Burns’
COURTESY OF WEEKS ROSES
‘Violet’s Pride’
COURTESY OF WEEKS ROSES

Roses by region

This is the ultimate evolution of “easy care” roses and may be the best news for rose growers in a long time. Many rose varieties have been described as “disease-resistant” and “easy-to-grow,” but we know that not all roses grow well in all climates. Is the rose that is resistant to black spot in Alabama also resistant to powdery mildew in California? Do the best roses for Seattle also grow well in Phoenix? The answers to these questions are often disappointing for gardeners.

Thankfully, rose breeders, rosarians, wholesale rose nurseries, public gardens, universities and others are increasingly evaluating varieties on a regional basis. Programs like the American Rose Society’s American Garden Rose Selections (AGRS) and Earth-Kind Roses of Texas are recommending roses for specific areas based on field-testing in those climates. AGRS even evaluates fragrance.

Take advantage of regional evaluations wherever you can find them. Look to local chapters of the American Rose Society, public rose gardens and cooperative extensions for the best roses for your area. Your customers will appreciate the knowledge of why and how you chose the varieties that you carry.

Landscape versatility

Free-blooming, disease-resistant landscape roses continue to evolve with increased flower colors and form, more fragrance and versatile plant shapes. Better yet, they are most effective visually when planted in multiples, presenting opportunities for increased sales. Encourage your customers to incorporate roses as ground cover, in containers or as climbers.

Groundcover roses, such as the Drift Roses series and varieties like ‘Happy Chappy,’ are easier to grow when planted through landscape fabric and watered with drip irrigation. They also grow well in pots and will cascade over walls. The new pink floribunda, ‘Easy To Please,’ is distinctly upright, perfect as a hedge or background planting, and it has a delightful spicy fragrance. Even climbing roses are becoming more useful. Pink flowering ‘Cupid’s Kisses,’ called a mini-climber, has more restrained growth and is perfect for gardens with limited space. Promote the versatile landscape roses for all they’re worth.

The Double Knock Out Rose
COURTESY OF STAR ROSES AND PLANTS

Color diversity

Roses are increasingly available in new eye-catching colors. Take, for example, the yellow-and red-striped miniature ‘George Burns.’ Striped or marked bi-color roses, like the orange-and cream-striped climber, ‘Tropical Lightning,’ are particularly popular.

There also seems to be a surge of fragrant violet and lavender roses like floribunda ‘Violet’s Pride,’ hybrid tea ‘Simply Magnifiscent’ and English-style, shrub rose ‘Lavender Swirl.’ Try displaying them with other purples like purple fountain grass, verbena, dahlias or lavender. Or, go bolder and match them with orange flowers like lilies, marigolds and daylilies.

Fragrance intensity

Fragrance has almost become a requirement for rose customers. Fortunately, more and more varieties are delivering on this demand. Put the fragrant varieties up front and encourage your patrons to follow their noses. Check back to the May 2016 issue of Garden Center Magazine (bit.ly/255WXu8) for more ways to market fragrant roses.

Flower form interest

‘Easy To Please’
COURTESY OF WEEKS ROSES

Flower form can dramatically affect the overall character of a rose plant and give it powerful impact. David Austin English Roses have returned old-rose charm to center stage. There are other unique rose varieties that make great accents, like the floribunda ‘Easy Does It,’ with beautifully ruffled, peach pink petals, and ‘Topsy Turvy,’ a floribunda with red petals that twist as they open to expose a white reverse.

Bouquet suitability

Florists have discovered what many gardeners have known for a long time — hybrid teas are not the only types of roses that look great in bouquets. Sprays of old roses, English roses and even of floribundas and miniatures add as much character and romance as other cut flowers. They may not last as long in a vase as hybrid teas, but they are definitely worth the effort.

Try having your best flower merchandiser make a “bouquet of the day” using whatever rose varieties are in bloom as well as other good cut flowers. Then display the plants around the bouquet. The bouquets don’t have to be complicated — just the right combination of a few flowers can be stunning. Remember, there is beauty in simplicity.

‘Cupid Kisses’
COURTESY OF WEEKS ROSES
‘Easy Does It’
COURTESY OF WEEKS ROSES

Cause affiliation

Miranda Lambert
DREAMSTIME.COM

Some roses are named for and associated with charitable causes, with a percentage of the sales benefiting an organization. For example, proceeds from sales of the new hybrid tea, ‘Grateful Heart,’ support the American Heart Association. The Miranda Lambert Rose supports its country music star namesake’s MuttNation Foundation, which helps homeless and suffering animals, and proceeds from the great red rose, ‘Veterans’ Honor,’ benefit American veterans’ health care. Promote these roses on appropriate holidays or events and show your philanthropic spirit.

Distinctiveness

Eyeconic Lemonade ‘Sprolem’
COURTESY OF STAR ROSES AND PLANTS

There’s always something new in the rose world, and recently that includes Hulthemia roses. True Hulthemia roses are native to Persia and are tough, thorny plants that bloom sparsely. They are often considered weeds. Their uniqueness comes from the pink to red center or “eye” of the flowers, which sets them apart from other roses. Hybridizers have crossed the Hulthemia roses with modern roses and created a new group of better-behaved, repeat-blooming hybrid varieties. Look for roses like ‘Raspberry Kiss,’ with single, pink flowers with a distinct red eye, and Eyeconic Lemonade, bearing yellow blooms with a red eye. Eyeconic Lemonade is susceptible to black spot and best adapted to dry summer, western climates.

Pest resistance

Even the most disease resistant varieties are not immune to all diseases, nor are they resistant to insect pests. Serious rose pests, such Chili thrip and the rose rosette disease, are spreading into new areas. Keep your customers up to date on pest and disease outbreaks and give them the tools to deal with them. Steer them to a systemic, multi-purpose product — one that provides protection against insects and disease, as well as fertilizes to promote strong roots and beautiful blooms.

Lance is the Bayer Advanced garden expert and author of “Roses for Dummies.”