Good roses for high altitude Rocky Mountains climate

polygonum_tinctoriumDecember 31, 2008

It's winter, and a gardener's fancy turns to next summer's garden.

I'm interested in adding some roses to our yard next year. I was hoping for some recommendations from everyone.

Here are the challenges I have to work with:

My altitude is over 8000'. I think I'm on the zone 4/5 boundary, with temps below zero almost every winter but rarely below -10F. We get our last snow in June, our first snow in September.

We live in the Pikes Peak Granite zone (in Colorado), and thus have gravelly decomposed granite as our so-called soil.

The mammals are vicious -- deer, rabbits, rodents, etc. I expect that we'll have to cage the plant for several years. It would be nice if the rose was vigorous enough to eventually outgrow the mammalian pests.


Here's what I'm looking for:

Hardy in my climate/altitude/soil.

Repeat flowering, though I'm willing to plant something wonderful with a good single-flowering period.

Minimal or no pruning/spraying/mulching needed. I don't particularly like hybrid teas, and would prefer a non-grafted, own-root plant.

I have some interest in growing a rose that will cascade down a concrete wall and/or get tied horizontally along a fence at the top of that wall.

I'm very fond of rugosa roses and other old-fashioned-style roses with nice scents. I tend to prefer the more double roses over the single-petaled varieties. We already have some wild native roses with lovely single petals. Rose hips in the fall are a bonus but not mandatory.


Does anyone have some varieties to recommend?

Are there nurseries along the I-25 corridor in Colorado that have a good selection of roses that would fulfill the above criteria? I'm willing to travel anywhere from about Boulder/Longmont to Pueblo, plus some distance east and west of I-25.

What are you favorite mail-order places for roses that will thrive in the Rocky Mountain region?

And does anyone have any suckers or cuttings from suitable rose varieties they'd be willing to share?

Thank you!

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You might look into the "Explorer Series" bred in Canada. They're virtually indestructible.

The link below is in no way a recommendation of variety or company, just the first thing that had descriptions which popped up on a search.

Here is a link that might be useful: link with descriptions

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 7:50PM
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windwhipped(Z4 WY)

I'll second the recommendation for the Canadian Explorer series. I have a William Baffin which is a dark pink climber that I don't do anything to for winter protection, and I'm in zone 4 at about 5200 ft. The only criteria of yours that it doesn't fit is that it is pretty much once blooming, but I don't know if that is true for all the Explorers.

For a good internet source try High Country Roses. I have never ordered from them but I have drooled over their website, and they do seem to get good reviews on Garden Watchdog.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:33PM
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Ooh, thanks for reminding me about High Country Roses! Wow, they carry many more roses than they did the last time I checked them out (several years ago). They have some nice rugosas and Canadian Explorer roses as well as other interesting-looking varieties. Hmmm....

Thank you for the hortico link. They're in Ontario, and thus might not be the best shipping source for here. But it is a very nice site for learning more about various cold-hardy roses.

Can anyone recommend nurseries in the Colorado I-25 Front Range region (anywhere from Boulder/Longmont to Pueblo) that have a good selection, too?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 1:21PM
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The canadian series of roses have "no" scent and like another poster said, no repeat bloom. I'm at 6800'. Having said that.....have you looked into "buck" roses? They're own root,double petalled in most cases & scented. I just got 3 "Hi Neighbor's" and found they propagate easily in a terrarium & bloom continuously. Purchased @ Walmart. Bonica is a good one. I've shopped for roses all over and I keep going back to Walmart & Home Depot, for price,selection,quality and the one year warranty. Knock out is nice, but does not fit your criteria, it's single petalled, no scent,'s hardy,own root and is never out of bloom.

Deer will eat roses, also pocket gophers will eat the roots. Fencing is the only deterent that really works. Aphids & thrips will be a problem also.

To look up roses that fit your criteria try the above link.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 7:49PM
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Thanks for the extra info about the Canadian roses. The High Country Gardens site lists them as "r" and "f", which I guess is a tactful way of indicating not much fragrance and not much repeat bloom.

No, I hadn't known about Buck roses. I'll look at them to see if I like them. I see that they're carried by Heirloom Roses in Oregon, which is a very reputable source of interesting roses. High Country Gardens also carries them.

Yes, deer will definitely eat roses! I don't think we have pocket gophers, but we do have ground squirrels and chipmunks. They spend the winter re-arranging the bulbs that they don't eat. The rabbits will also take nibbles of just about everything they can reach.

I'm hoping that a vigorous rose will outgrow the worst depredations if we can keep it in a cage for a few years. The deer usually weren't able to decimate our rugosa roses after the bush was about 7-8 feet tall and wide.

The helpmefind site did not have anything that met all of my criteria, alas. I'll try subsets and see what happens. Good recommendations from experienced local rose growers such as yourself are probably my best bet!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 1:44PM
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Canadian all the way!! I'm at around 8250, it is remarkably windy here and our snow is September through June as well.

I started three Canadians in spring of 2007 and they came back beautifully in 08!!! I have Morden Blush, Morden Sunrise and Winnepeg Parks. This year, I added a non-Canadain, Fairy, and it seems okay. I also added a non-Canadian Kaitlin Ainsley and I think it died during the summer.

I love Harlequin Gardens in North Boulder off of 28th and just north of Jay. I think all of their roses are "own root" and they have lots of Canadians there.

Also, their prices are less than the bigger nurseries.

Oddly enough, all my Canadians are from the Parkland series. I haven't tried any of the Explorer series roses yet. Next year!!

They all seemed to do just fine and I only feed them. I am not much of a "treating gardener". I prune but I don't spray. They did get some aphids but I squished those off. They looked good through the whole "season".

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 2:39PM
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Summer Wind, another buck rose. Zone 4b....I think it could take a little more "cold" if ya heaped some manure on top to overwinter it the first year. It was a $5 Walmart purchase.

Here is a link that might be useful: Summer Wind

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 1:53PM
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Hello, I live at 7000 feet in wyoming and really like polstjarnan rose, you may find it a little too much like the wild roses you have now but it is a hardy once bloomer with lots of white bloom and the bloom lasts a while. It is about as vigorous as you will ever find. I planted a own root 2 years ago and it is already well above the reach of a mule deer. Therese bugnet is probably a good choice for you as well. It is supposed to bloom quite a bit and do well with the cold but I haven't had it long enough to know for sure. I am kind of disappointed in william baffin, it sounded like the perfect plant for my place but not much bloom and doesn't grow like I thought it would. I also recommend harison yellow it is a tough once bloomer that should do well for you and it will try to stay ahead of the deer. If you find something better I sure would like to hear about it and give it a try here.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:03PM
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Oh, the neighbors also have a Harrison's Yellow and it is gorgeous! Completely filled with blooms, people stop when they pass it to admire it.

I should also give a bit more detail:
The Morden Sunrise did not bloom very much and the blooms did not last that long, but they are pretty.
The Winnepeg Parks is so bright that I just stare out the window at it! Mine is more of a bright, deep pink than the description which says between dark pink and light red.
The Morden Blush is so incredible I wonder why I haven't filled the yard with them! incredibly profuse with blooms, grows like mad but stays contained. Loves pruning; I took a huge bagful of slips to the neighbor's and it grew back with more blooms. I'm not sure if I would call it a "continuous bloomer" because the season is so short here, but it did bloom ALL of my season with about thirty blooms turning into rose bud popsicles when winter finally decided to show.

When I planted the Morden Blush and the Winnepeg Parks in 2007, they were not that big. I put a link to what should be a photo of them right after I put them in the ground, blush on the left, parks on the right. In 2008, the blush almost quadrupled in size but the parks had less growth.

Nothing is perfect: I should add that the Morden Blush did have a few stems of flowers that were nearly white while most of them were pink as described. Not sure why it happened but I enjoyed it. Also, both the blush and the parks had some die back in early spring when they were just filling out with folige. About two or three stems died on the blush and about four stems on the parks.

I have yet to try a Buck but I sure do think about it!! Are those the Iowan roses? They were recommended to me by many people.

Here is a link that might be useful: should be a link to the blush and winnepeg

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:00PM
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Thanks for yet more interesting rose varieties to consider! I'm always open to yet more suggestions if others want to add any.

I'd forgotten about Harrison's Yellow. It's a single flower and once-flowering, but a very nice rose nonetheless. The others are new to me, though I've grown rugosas before in a somewhat different climate. I love rugosas and definitely want to get at least one. The polstjarnan seems like it would be a similar kind of rose to the Harrison's Yellow, except more of a climber and in white. Since both are vigorous and pretty, I'll definitely consider them. (Anyone have some suckers to share in the spring?)

Rugosas are worth considering for a zone 4 Wyoming climate. They are vigorous, cold hardy, fragrant, and are happy with sandy soils. Many will sucker (if you think that's a good thing, which I do). They don't need pruning or mulching. They are disease resistant. Most repeat fairly well. They come in a variety of sizes, from groundcover proportions to eight feet high and wide. The flowers vary from single to very double. I like the varieties that have plenty of big rose hips in the fall. They don't work well as long-stem cut roses, but that's not one of my requirements.

I'll keep my eye out at Wally World, Lowe's, and other mass-market garden stores, especially for the Buck and Canadian roses. I may well put in a mail order for some specific things. I need to plan out what I want to plant where, and how I'll protect things from deer, rabbits, and other beasties. I'm getting so many good ideas that I might try to grow several different kinds of roses instead of just one.

Next time I'm near Boulder, I'll see if I can get to Harlequin Gardens. Are there other good places further south? I assume the comprehensive large nurseries will have a pretty good selection.

Thanks again, and please do keep the recommendations coming!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 12:44PM
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jclepine, What is that animal in your pictures? Is that a prairie coyote? I like the morden blush and will keep my eyes open for one this spring. poly t. I have clay for soil here but I forgot about hansa, it does well and is rugosa as well as t.bugnet. I prefer a rose bush that suckers, they always just seem more determined. If you want to trade rugosa suckers for harison yellow suckers this spring that would be fine. I say harison yellow but they could be persian yellow. They are just known as wild yellow roses here and I just got the information I need to determine for sure what they are but need some blooms to do so. I don't have any polstjarnan suckers yet but high country roses should have it this spring and they have been one of the best mail order companies I bought from.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 9:05PM
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Generator, now you have to tell me what a prairie coyote is! I looked on google only to find lovely pictures of coyotes.

I had at that time:
some kind of volunteer silvery "things"
some other silvery "thing" with yellow blossoms that looked like a daisy
and I think that was all...

If I come up with new suggestions, I'll post them. There are not that many roses up here but a couple of neighbors have them...I've been meaning to ask What they have!


    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 12:24AM
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Jennifer, I'm sorry, I was just kidding with you about the nice whiskered looking dog in the pictures. I was just asking if it was a coyote.
I do have the yellow daisy's as they come highly recommended for this area and did well last summer.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 9:43AM
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generator wrote: "I forgot about hansa, it does well and is rugosa as well as t.bugnet. I prefer a rose bush that suckers, they always just seem more determined. If you want to trade rugosa suckers for harison yellow suckers this spring that would be fine. I say harison yellow but they could be persian yellow. They are just known as wild yellow roses here and I just got the information I need to determine for sure what they are but need some blooms to do so. I don't have any polstjarnan suckers yet but high country roses should have it this spring and they have been one of the best mail order companies I bought from."

Alas, I no longer have that rugosa bush. It was something very similar to Hansa, an old un-named heirloom that someone kicked out of an old heirloom garden for not being an early-mid 19th century rose. The plant was several decades old, maybe even a century old. Some friends and I dug it up to save it and shared suckers among ourselves. I left it behind when I moved, something I still regret. But at the time, I didn't have enough time or space to take part of the plant with me. Someday I'll look up the other people who took part of the plant and see if they can share some new suckers with me.

I agree about the determination of roses that like to pop up suckers. It's also a good way to share a plant among friends. I like to keep the old heirlooms and worthy newer varieties going.

Everyone has said such good things about High Country Roses. I'll probably order some nice roses from them. But in spring, if it's not too inconvenient and we can work out a reasonable trade, I would love to get some suckers from your tough Wyoming roses.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 1:52PM
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Sure just email me this spring.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 7:21PM
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barb422(z6 UT)

I have a couple of rose suggestions for you, though I am in a warmer zone,

John Davis, one of the explorers, grows into a nice cascading shrub, very vigorous. Admittedly it doesn't have fragrance but it's other attributes well make up for the loss. Double blooms in profusion, great repeat even without deadheading. In fall the foliage turns orangey red and it will get small hips if you leave some blooms to mature. In the winter the canes are lovely red. Mine deserves a more prominent spot than where it is planted. None of the roses I grow have as long a season of interest as this one.

Darlow's Enigma is a found rose, vigorous, massive clusters of single blooms. Though the blooms are single, the fragrance is the thing. This one wafts. Now I know nothing about whether it's hardy at your elevation but helpmefind and High Country Roses list it as zone 4, so it may work for you.

A couple more Canadians that I don't grow but want are Isabella Skinner/Victorian Memory(said to waft according to the link I will provide), and also Quadra (a very double red) but I don't think it's supposed to be fragrant.

Check all of these roses out at Help me find. Also there are many roses societies in Co, you might find even more suggestions by contacting them

Oh, and I have roses that came from Heirloom and High Country Roses. Heirlooms are bands and High Country's are a little larger with more branching. My Darlow's and and John Davis were Heirloom bands and did just fine. The folks at High Country are very nice and could probably suggest more roses if you called them and explained your criteria.

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful: Isabella Skinner/ Victorian Memory

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 9:17AM
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More hardy roses that don't fit the criteria....:0)

Betty Prior
Theresa Bugnet
Jeannie La Joi (more of a tall bush, it won't hang over a wall)

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 10:45AM
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Thanks for the new suggestions! I'm making a list, so I can keep my eyes open if and when we visit nurseries in the spring. I'm pleased to find so many good roses for our area even if they don't meet all of my criteria.

It's a bummer that some very fine roses don't have much fragrance, and that some very fragrant roses have other issues. I guess I'll have to do some planning about what to put where. If I'm going to plant more than one, which seems likely, I have to work out which sites would be best for which roses, and then figure out how to protect them from the critters without making our place look like a demented plant jail.

Thanks for the link to local rose societies and for the mini-reviews of High Country Roses and Heirloom Roses! I probably will do an order, just to see how well specialty mail-order roses do versus locally-purchased roses.

Feel free to keep the suggestions coming! I'm having a wonderful time checking out all the variety names people are providing, and then wandering through the links and websites I find.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 10:33AM
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Also, don't forget that you can "clip" a posting so you can find it later. Just look to the right of the post and it should say "clip this post".

I always forget to do that!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 8:39PM
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