Grafted vs. Ungrafted
Most rose plants are grafted—that is, a cutting or bud from the desired variety is joined to a hardy, mature rootstock (a plant's underground part) of another variety. This gives the rose a head start. In their first year, grafted roses grow bigger and bloom better than ungrafted roses, because they come with an already established root system. But roses grown on their own rootstock will catch up by the second or third season (when both types will reach mature size), and they have a distinct advantage: "They never send out suckers," Lowe explains. Suckers are attempts by the roots to sprout their own, usually inferior, stems and flowers—which can overwhelm the more valuable variety on top. This is much like buying a Golden Delicious apple tree, only to find that the roots send up crab apple shoots every spring.

Both Lowe and Parton recommend buying ungrafted roses whenever possible, but "if you do buy a grafted rose, be sure to get a grade 1 or 11⁄2 plant," Lowe says. Grafted roses are graded based on the number of vigorous canes: the best is a number 1, which has three or more 18-inch canes; number 11⁄2 has two 15-inch canes, and number 2 has two 12-inch canes. The number should be listed on the label or a sign hanging above the plants. "Some people think they can buy a grade 2 and nurture it into a grade 1 plant, but you can't," says Parton. "If you buy a 2, it will stay that forever."

Getting even a top-quality climbing or rambling rose started will require more effort than is necessary for many other vines, but the payoff—masses of wondrous flowers—is tremendous, says Lowe. Not only will they provide vertical interest (and a privacy screen) in a garden or on a house's facade, these exuberant bloomers add a heart-stopping grace note to the landscape.
Ask TOH users about Garden Planning

Contribute to This Story Below

    More in Landscaping