top of page

Ask a Master Gardener: Heirloom Roses for Your Southern Garden

Photo courtesy of Petals From the Past, used with permission of owner Jason Powell.

By: MaryJo Broussard, Mobile County Master Gardener


I often hear that roses are just too much trouble to care for with the pruning, spraying and high maintenance.  Well, that’s just not true for all roses, especially the ones listed below. 

Easy-to-care-for roses are available and are called Heirloom, Old Garden, Found or Hardy. Many have been around for nearly 200 years or have been found in an old cemetery, left unattended for years. All these varieties are fragrant, disease resistant, repeat blooming, and tolerant of our wacky weather.

Here are some varieties that will be available at the upcoming Mobile Botanical Gardens Plant Sale on March 15th and 16th.

Peggy Martin/Katrina rose was found alive after spending 3 weeks underwater in New Orleans. She’s a climber to 15 feet, with dark pink blooms and as hardy as they come.

Crepuscule, from 1904, is quite a beauty, growing 6-12 feet tall with fragrant blooms of a gorgeous apricot blend.

Dortmund is a red-blend rose, climbing to 12 feet and very nicely shaped with unusual, ruffled blooms.

Farmer’s Dream, yet another climber, is a sport of Belinda’s Dream and can reach 14 feet, with fragrant medium-pink blooms. It is so pretty and will not disappoint.

Spice, found in a cemetery, is almost thornless with light pink, strongly fragrant blooms on a 3-5-foot shrub.

Natchitoches Noisette is another found rose, smaller at 3-5 feet tall. It is so pretty and healthy with pink blend blooms that offer a strong myrrh fragrance.

Maggie, a favorite of mine, dated from 1900, 4-5 feet tall. Its red-blend blooms have a strong, old garden rose fragrance, smelling like a rose should.

The Fairy shrub, from 1932, can actually be grown in a container due to her petite size, 2-4 feet tall, and offers small pink cluster blooms.

Mrs. B. R. Cant, from 1901, is a large shrub, from 6-10 feet, has true cup-shaped pink-blend blooms with quite the fragrance: an amazing plant.

Cramoisi Superieur is one I have had for over 30 years. A China rose from 1832, hardy, beautiful, fragrant red-blend blooms, growing to 3-6 feet tall. Even with our recent freezing weather, it still has buds on it.

Buff Beauty, is from 1939. Don’t let the name put you off. It grows to 5 feet tall with a light yellow to apricot bloom exuding a musk fragrance, and often repeating bloom .  It just needs a good home.

Lafter, from 1948, is a very healthy shrub growing to 6 feet tall, with yellow-blend repeating blooms and a great fragrance.

Lavender Lassie sports gorgeous, very fragrant, lavender pink blooms on a shrub 5-10 feet tall. Its fragrance is of musk; simply wonderful.

Lady Banks in either white or yellow is once-blooming with little fragrance but nearly thornless, so it is good for pathways, but can get large.

As you can see, these all have the perennial qualities that we want in a plant for our gardens: hardiness, blooms, fragrance, sizes to suit any garden, no fuss, and no muss.

Rose requirements are in line with other plants: they need good nutritious soil, regular fertilizer, space to grow with enough air circulation, full sunlight, water of at least 1-inch per week, and an appreciation for the beauties they are.  If you want it to be 4-feet instead of 5, then prune, but otherwise, purchase according to its stated ultimate size.

All the above come with my recommendations. I have been growing these kinds of roses for over 40 years and I don’t believe in a lot of pruning or pampering. If it gets to my garden, it must bring something wonderful and stand up to my standards.  These do.  Happy Rose Gardening!

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in these heirloom roses, 3 of each have been ordered for MBG’s Plantasia.  For best selection, you may consider attending the ticketed Preview on Thursday, March 14. 

Photo courtesy of Petals From the Past, used with permission of owner Jason Powell.

Photo courtesy of Petals From the Past, used with permission of owner Jason Powell.

Photo courtesy of Petals From the Past, used with permission of owner Jason Powell.

321 views0 comments


bottom of page