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Hybrid Tea Roses

March 8, 2013

rosa barbara streisand

Yesterday, a post that I worked on with my friend Andrew went live in my column on Apartment Therapy. We had fun with it and it was the summation of an email interview/conversation between the two of us. Quite surprisingly (at least to me) — some people really didn’t like it. It goes with the territory over on AT — there is a culture there of people unleashing every so often on the writers and using the computer as a shield for things that I would assume they probably wouldn’t say in person. Who knew it would rear its head about a plant post?  But say it or think it, a few people thought we were being catty.
I’ve read and re-read my words and while I wonder if part of it is the lack of tone in the written word (and then the inference of tone in our own heads when we read things) I generally don’t think that I would change anything about what I said. But there is one thing that I want to still talk about — primarily because perhaps, if you read it a certain way, I can see how it might have come off differently than I meant it.
Andrew mentioned Hybrid Tea Roses as being a plant that he finds annoyingly over used. To which I replied — “really, do you actually know anyone planting hybrid tea roses these days?”
rosa alte liebeAnd while I think some thought that catty and perhaps judgmental — I really mean it — who is growing hybrid tea roses?
Yes, I know that someone is going to raise their hand (and I hope you do), but in this modern world, I really see these as plants that are limited to advanced gardeners who have the patience of Job, deep pockets, and are a glutton for punishment.
My mom is one of these people…I have been gifting her roses to replace roses for years. She loves them and there is absolutely nothing wrong with her or them. (I guess she feels about them the way I feel about peonies). But for someone starting out in the gardening world, I wouldn’t encourage jumping in at the roses end…go with something that is going to give you a lot more bang for your buck — something that not only has nice flowers, but pretty leaves too and doesn’t have a whole section in the garden center dedicated to specialty products needed for it to succeed.

rosa dream
But if you choose to jump right into the deep end, I say go for it — I just don’t see very many people doing it because I think the messaging that these roses are a pain in the butt has gotten through and all that garden center stuff is intimidating and the plants are pricey…and so I was questioning that Andrew has actually seen a lot of rose growing going down…because (excluding my mother), I haven’t.

I’ve never (in 10 years) planted a rose for a client – not that I wouldn’t if someone wanted them – but I literally have never had someone ask for them. And, last spring I sat in on a talk given by a former president of the national rosarian club where he talked about how his organization has dwindled from once having many chapters across the country to literally only a handful of people nationwide. I subsequently have the distinct impression that this is not the market that it once was.

rosa just joey

I just want to clear this up….

I hope that every plant has a set of enthusiasts who love it for what it is and enjoy its cultivation. We need more of that in the gardening world.
So, to clear the air – because I feel I must — no judgement if you are planting hybrid Tea roses — I am actually quite curious to know who you are and if in fact I am totally wrong about how many people are truly into rose growing. Are there legions of rosarians out there that I don’t know about?
I’d love to hear from you and maybe even invite you to share a bit of your passion in some guest posts.

And also — (for the record)– did you read this piece in Leaf (about Roses inspiring beautiful designs) and this one about Josephine Bonaparte and her roses? I put a lot of work into those pieces…and I am super proud of them….I am not anti-rose.

images Rosa ‘Barbara Streisand’, Rosa ‘Alte Liebe’, Rosa ‘Dream’, and Rosa ‘Just Joey’  all available from Heritage Roses

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  1. Amanda says:


    I read you and Andrew DAILY, and I love to learn your insights and opinions. I also follow AT. I just posted this over there:

    I follow the blogs of both Rochelle and Andrew, and they are both incredibly thoughtful, interested, and knowledgeable plant nerds (see for yourself: Studio G Landscape Blog and Garden Smackdown). The nerd part is important: plants are what they’ve worked with, what they study, and what they pay attention to, and what they love! So whereas a lot of people on AT may have strong opinions on Eames, or granite countertops, or the use of the color turquoise — that’s plants for these two. So a lot of it is aesthetic preference. And it’s fine! I hate cacti and knockout roses.

    I think what they’re trying to share here is the knowledge that many popular plants are actually not all that fun to live with. People with less plant experience may not look at a gorgeous new arborvitae and picture it with bagworms all over it and full of rust-colored branches, but that’s the likely future. Really, check out Andrew’s book, Why Grow That When You Can Grow This. I got it for Christmas and keep it on my bedside table now. You don’t have to agree with everything in it to gain valuable information to help you live with and nurture the plant you choose, even if it is a rhododendron (which I love!).

    One more thing, I saw on Rochelle’s blog this morning that this post is from emails exchanged between she and Andrew. Of course it’s going to be opinionated and familiar — they’re dorking out!

    I don’t think either of them would judge someone for filling their beds with mophead hydrangeas and having a lawn, but these are their opinions, gathered from personal study and experience.

    • rochelle says:

      Thanks Amanda for the back up— while I do my ever best to let it all roll and not take it personally, it means a lot (to both Andrew and I) that our readers have our backs. Thank you! xo – R

  2. Very interesting… I have to say I am kind of glad that people never ask for them and that the message that they are difficult appears to have reached at least some… Unfortunately, at least in Michigan where my family lives and where I usually garden during the summer months, hybrid teas and the Knock Out series are still practically the only roses available at nurseries and home improvement stores, with an occasional smattering of rugosas here and there. And while a well-grown hybrid tea can be a thing of beauty – the Knock Out roses I am not so sure about; too me they are incredibly bland little things – in Michigan dry, brutally cold winters and sweltering humid summers they are almost always miserable. Many antique roses and shrub roses do wonderfully there but are simply not available except to dedicated gardeners who mail-order them from other parts of the country, and so people keep planting things doomed to fail. Incidentally, much the same is true for all kinds of broad-leaf evergreens…

  3. CC says:

    See, I don’t agree. I am the ultimate frugal gardener. 90% of my garden is salvaged/recycled materials and many of my plants started out as waifs on discount tables.

    And I LOVE hybrid and mini roses.

    Of course, you have to think outside of the box. I can get a hybrid rose or a mini/patio rose for around $5-7 at a chain store. Or I can buy a pot of annuals for about $4-6 dollars. So for a dollar more, I get a much sturdy plant with color that will make it through my hot dry summer. (Central Texas)

    If the rose turns out to be get blackspot once our rainy season (in late fall ) hits, then I’ll shovel prune it come winter. Several roses, though, have surprised me by adapting very well to the vagracies of Texas climate, blissfully unaware that they are supposed to high maintenance plants.

    I am always amused how all my neighbors plunk down tons of money for their annual bedding plants each year, but won’t touch roses because of the ‘cost and maintenance’.

  4. Andrew Keys says:

    It IS nice to know people get it! You rock, Amanda!

    The thing is, there are no problem plants, only problem planters. We are far, far more sentimental about plants than we realize, and what’s unfortunate is that many of the plants we tend to be most sentimental do not grow well for a lot of people in a lot of situations. Kids grow up, remember their love for grandma’s roses, try them, fail, and throw in the towel on gardening altogether.

    Of course that’s not to say we should never grow hybrid tea roses! Roses can be grown well and sustainably. But if people fail at roses, I want to help them understand why, and give them the tools to find a new favorite plant evocative of roses they CAN grow, whatever their situation is.

    As for tensions over roses running high, of course we feel strongly about these sentimental favorite plants. Let’s harness that passion and use it for good. If you grow roses well and sustainably, terrific! Keep it up! If you’re pining over your dead roses, join the club! , When you’re ready, let’s find you a new favorite plant that will grow for you.

  5. Mark McKnight says:

    Hybrid or not, it’s just the same. The more important thing is that you’re doing what you love most, that is gardening. Nothing compares to the sight of blooming roses planted by you on your garden.

  6. The beauty of gardening is that like all art (yes, I said art), everybody has their own style. That’s what makes life fun! Even if you did hate roses (which I understand is not what you’re saying), who cares?

    You are creating and taking the time to share your opinions with your readers. For that I say thank you!

  7. commonweeder says:

    No one is growing hybrid teas in my neighborhood of western Mass. They are just too tender for our weather. They also, rightfully I think, have the reputation for being fussy a lot of work. Unfortunately, many people have generalized to think that ALL roses are fussy and a lot of work which is a shame because there are so many hardy, trouble free roses to enjoy in this world. That is one reason I have The Annual Rose Viewing at my garden every June. My gardens are not spectacular, but I have a ‘substantial’ collection of roses and I want people to see a bit of what is available if they want to add a rose or two to their garden.

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