Get own-root roses, as opposed to buying grafted plants. This is a little-known fact, even among gardeners, but it’s very important. A plant that has the pretty-flowering branches grafted onto a tough, easily-propagated rootstock will decline and die in ten or fewer years, no matter what you do or how much you pamper your plants. This inexplicable decline could make you doubt your own gardening ability or sanity.
The good news about own-root roses is that, unless you spray them with plant poison, and since you garden organically, you won’t do that, or dig them up and leave the roots to wither in the sun, they can outlive you. They just get bigger and fiercer every year. Marvelous!
The oldest rose in the world is at Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. It is thought to be a thousand years old. Here’s a picture of it with people nearby to show its scale:
Here’s where to get own-root roses:
If you’re not lucky enough to have a nursery that sells own-root roses [if you live in Austin, Texas, you are blessed with a plethora of choices] you can buy online at www.heirloomroses.com or www.antiqueroseemporium.com. These are the two best places I’ve found. Both sites are also gold mines of information on rose culture.
Heirloom Roses, in Washington State, sells the roses very tiny but with big roots. This saves you money on shipping. The gigundo Awakening growing up and around and around my front porch I bought from Heirloom in 1998. It was — I kid you not — the thickness and length of a number two pencil. Ten years later, it is a monstrosity that grows the width and height of my house [35 feet by about twelve feet] and periodically threatens the mailman with its huge, vicious thorns.
The Antique Rose Emporium, in Central Texas, sells established plants in gallon pots, so the plants are more developed when you get them, but you pay through the nose for shipping.
Online vendors such as Jackson and Perkins and Jung’s also carry own-root roses. Usually whether the plants are own-root or grafted is listed as part of the variety information.