Peter Kukielski is a rose fancier with a special fondness for late bloomers — the re-flowering kind that save their best and brightest displays for the invigorating weather of autumn.
As curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden and Rose Collections at The New York Botanical Garden, Kukielski has helped replace a few hundred less-impressive performers with 2,000 new rose plants, many capable of producing constant color from early June until the first killing frosts of fall.
"We tried to bring in more ever-blooming varieties so the garden has interest all season long," Kukielski said. "In my opinion, late September into October is a very close second to June as far as beauty. The days are nicer, the nights are cooler and the sunlight is better, coating everything with a golden glow."
Summer is hard on roses, which require a lot of energy to flower.
Many rose growers encourage a flush of intense flowering in autumn primarily by deadheading — removing spent flowers from the bush to keep it producing longer.
"You have to deadhead to get more blooms," Kukielski said. "Whatever you cut off, you'll get right back."
Roses store up energy during the long growing season, which makes their blooms especially showy in autumn, said Keith Zary, vice president of research and a rose hybridizer with Jackson & Perkins Wholesale Inc. in Medford, which ships 3 million roses and other plants to growers each year.
"It occurs with a rush of luxuriousness and exuberance in fall that's better than in the spring," he says. "Deadheading produces more growing centers for more flowers."
Of the many major rose classifications, all but the Heritage (also called Old Garden, Antique, Heirloom — anything developed before 1867) and Species (or wild) roses are re-bloomers. Although they only flower once per season, both types are extremely hardy, drought tolerant and pest resistant. They bloom long and large and are highly aromatic.
"They can fragrance a yard," Kukielski said.
Popular repeat-blooming roses
- Hybrid tea: the most widely grown garden rose. Characterized by a single, high center bloom attached to the end of a long cane. Showcase looks and perfume-like aromas make this the favored cutting rose. It produces flowers throughout the season. Hardy from USDA Zones 5-9 if protected with some wintertime cover.
- Floribunda: shrubs with smaller hybrid tea-like flowers that tend to bloom in clusters, making a big splash in the landscape. A strong rose type. Zones 4-9.
- Grandiflora: blend of hybrid teas and floribundas. Some plants display single-bloom stems while others produce in clusters. Tall and energetic. Good in Zones 5-9.
- Miniatures: the smallest rose variety in bush size, blooms and foliage. A great container plant and highly decorative when massed in borders or hedges. Zones 5-9.
- Mini-Flora: a new type, classified by the American Rose Society in 1999. Flowers are too large to be miniatures, too small to rank as hybrid teas or floribundas. Zones 5-9.
- Climbers: characterized by long, stiff canes that can be trained to grow over and through arbors, trellises and fences. They have no tendrils, however, and must be secured to supports. They bloom singly or in clusters. Zones 5-9.
- Landscape: Can grow upright (like the Knock Outs) or spread as low ground cover (similar to the Flower Carpet series). A combination of both types will cover large areas when fully mature, which takes several growing seasons. Many new varieties are being introduced, all extremely hardy. Zones 4-9.
Landscape or shrub roses can be used effectively for erosion control and will produce color even when planted in filtered sun. Shrub roses are a great, easy-care choice for inexperienced gardeners.