Many gardeners shy away from planting roses thinking them fussy or not winter hardy. And while this may be true for tender tea roses, there are many robust, cold-tolerant roses suitable for Canadian gardens. These include Rugosa roses, Gallica roses, and species roses.
When selecting roses do a bit of research before you head to the nursery. Take a look at your garden space and match the rose to the site. Some roses make excellent groundcovers while others can grow several meters tall and wide.
All roses grow and flower best in full sun with rich, well-draining soil. Amend the bed before planting with compost or aged manure and add a slow release flower fertilizer. Once the plants are in the ground, water them deeply. Continue to water several times a week during the first growing season to ensure good establishment.
The best roses for Canadian gardens
Rugosa roses are popular for their rugged hardiness, reliability, and rich fragrances. Popular cultivars include ‘Alba’, ‘F.J. Grootendorst’, ‘Hansa’, ‘Louise Bugnet’, and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’. ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’, is widely grown and renowned for it’s semi-doubled, pure white flowers. Those blooms are highly fragrant and repeat on and off all summer long.
Pavement roses are also a type of rugosa and make excellent medium-sized hedges. ‘Pink Pavement’ is a standout growing 1 1/2 metres tall and repeat flowers from early summer through frost. The large, extremely fragrant bloom are semi-doubled with clear pink petals and bright yellow centers. For white blooms try ‘Pristine Pavement’ or ‘Snow Pavement’, whose snowy flowers also hint of lilac purple.
‘Thérèse Bugnet’ is among the hardiest of the rugosas with soft double pink flowers. The plants grow tall, up to 2 metres, and are cold hardy to -50C! This popular cultivar is also disease and insect resistant and perfect for flower borders.
The 49th Parallel Collection of landscape roses are the result of Canada’s national rose program established in 2010 at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The three roses in the collection are winter hardy to zone 3 and disease-resistant, but they’re also beautiful plants that bloom for months.
Canadian Shield, which was released in 2017, is a versatile rose that grows up to 150 centimetres tall and 120 centimetres wide. The large double red flowers are lightly scented and held above glossy green foliage.
Chinook Sunrise is the second cultivar in the series and has beautiful coral-pink flowers. The plants grow 120 centimetres tall and wide and are resistant to common roses diseases like powdery mildew and black spot.
Aurora Borealis was named for the bright dancing colours of the northern lights and has blooms with deep pink petals and gold centers. It grows about 100 centimetres tall and wide and like Canadian Shield and Chinook Sunrise is an excellent low-maintenance landscape plant.
Alba roses are old garden roses and have been in cultivation for centuries. ‘Maiden’s Blush’ is over 600 years old with large fully doubled flowers with blush pink petals. They are incredibly fragrant and bloom for several weeks in mid-summer. The 2 meter tall plants are cold hardy to zone 4 and resistant to common rose diseases.
‘Queen of Denmark’ is another alba rose and considered to be one of the finest cultivars. The vigorous plants reach 1 1/2 meters tall and 120 centimetres wide and are hardy to zone 4. ‘Queen of Denmark’ produces classic old-world roses with quartered blooms and a rich perfume. The petals are bright pink and contrast nicely with the deep green leaves.
Gallica roses are European in origin and known for their strongly scented blooms. ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ is beloved for its deep purple flowers that open in early summer and last for several weeks. The plants grow up to 120 centimetres tall and wide. ‘Charles de Mills’ is another classic Gallica rose and has dark reddish-purple flowers that are deeply fragrant. The plants grow 150 centimetres tall and are hardy to zone 4.