It's April! The forsythia is blooming! It's time to pick up whatever winter's left behind, prune existing roses, and plant new ones. In my garden, this is the most hectic time of the year. In order to accomplish everything that needs to be done, I've developed a spring routine. Here's what I do.
First task is to clean out the rose beds down to the soil/mulch. I like to recycle garden waste so I select a likely spot for a new rose bed and dump whatever garden scraps I can find there. Depending upon how diligent you are and how much organic matter you manage to accumulate, that pile can get rather high. Every foot or so, I lay down sheets of newsprint and resume piling on the scraps. As it composts, the pile will get smaller and smaller.
Once the detritus has been cleared out, the next task is to survey the damage the past winter has wrought. More than likely, you live in a kinder and gentler place than I do. Around here, Winter in the form of mass influxes of deer can be quite cruel. This past winter, for instance, a herd of deer literally overran the garden, trampling everything under foot, pulling out whole plants, leaving others half-out-of-the-ground with their roots exposed to the elements. It can be discouraging, but rather than let it get me down, and since I tend to try to squeeze in as many plants as possible, I look on it as an opportunity to edit and improve the layout of the garden. Think positive. So in addition to counting up the casualties, I'm also surveying the terrain to seek locations for new plants.
I eschew the use of toxic chemicals -- pesticides and fungicides are verbotten -- so the roses that do well here are those that are number one healthy, number two tough (they get absolutely no winter protection), and number three vigorous with a strong will to grow. Criteria like this excludes a great many roses, and I've tried quite a few that have since gone by the wayside, but the ones that have survived and done well here -- my tried and trues -- are sure bets. They include a number of Old Garden Roses (I'm a Gallica Fanatic so they tend to dominate), the indomitable, indestructible, and exquisitely beautiful Damask 'Madame Hardy'. The voluptuous 'Marie Louise'.
R. gallica officinalis ('Apothecary's Rose')
R. gallica versicolor ('Rosa Mundi')
'Mrs. Anthony Waterer'
'Cardinal de Richelieu'
'Belle de Crecy'