Yellow roses give you a warmth you do not get from any other color. I look forward to them the same way I long for the first daffodils every spring. Living in the north, it's a sign that the cold of winter is gone... at least for a while. It's that warm spot on the carpet when the first ray of sun comes through the window in the morning. You know. The one the cat always sits on.
In this article in my 'Roses of Color' series, I'm back to what I have in my garden... both those that I planted last year when the garden was new and those that I have ordered for this year. I would like to share the reasons for my choices. Of course, they may not work for your climate as well as I hope they will in my zone 6a garden. But it will give you an idea of the process I go through to choose my roses.
At the top of my list is 'Peace' [Meilland, 1946]. It's a hybrid tea, not the best choice for zone 6. It should have some extra winter protection, although it is listed as hardy to zone 4. Also more susceptible to blackspot and other rose diseases, it will require more work. So why did I choose this one? Just because I love it! In this case I'm willing to take on the extra effort. I bought it own-root instead of getting a grafted plant. This means that instead of the 'Peace' rose being grafted onto the rootstock of a different rose, it was grown on it's own roots. If the canes are killed by a harsh winter, the plant may still grow back from the roots. 'Peace' is a two-tone rose, yellow blushed with pink. How much pink it has is dependent on the weather. You can see the difference in the almost completely yellow bloom in the opening thumbnail and the nice pink glow on the one at left.
Similar in color to 'Peace' but more intense, 'Glowing Peace' [Meilland, 1999] is a grandiflora hardy to zone 6. After I decided to add 'Peace' to the rose garden, I realized how many roses there are related to the original 'Peace' or with peace in the name. So I have a small 'Peace Garden' and couldn't pass up this beauty when I found it own-root.
'Sunsprite' [Kordes, 1977] is the clearest, purest yellow in my rose garden. I looked around a lot for the best yellow floribunda. Botanica's Roses, the ultimate rose resource book says, "This rose is one of the best deep yellow cluster-flowered roses." That was good enough for me. Now that I have it in my garden I have to agree. The color is just as described in all the catalogs and it doesn't fade. There is good reason for it's popularity. It is hardy to zone 5.
I had heard so much, both good and bad, about the English roses of David Austin, that I had to try some. I am especially drawn to full, many-petalled blossoms, so Austins are my type of rose. My first selection was a yellow, 'Graham Thomas' [Austin, 1983]. It has only been in my garden for a year, but last season it grew to almost 5' and had some spectacular blooms. I didn't cut back the long canes for the winter and they came through just fine with very minimal die-back. Listed as hardy zone 5a-10a, I feared that the brutal winter winds we get in our open back yard would take a toll, but this is a tough plant. It was in bloom almost constantly and the large blossoms are consistently shaped and have a lovely tea fragrance. I wouldn't give it up now for anything.
'Topaz Jewel' [Moore, 1987] is a hybrid rugosa, about 5' tall at maturity and hardy to zone 4. I spent some time looking for hybrid rugosas, especially yellows. Yellow roses are more prone to disease than other colors and rugosas are more disease resistant than other roses. It's my hope that a yellow rugosa will be less disease prone. Also, this is one of the few repeat flowering yellows that will grow in colder climates.
For something a little different in a shrub rose, 'Well Being' [Harkness, 2005] is a nice choice. It has almost a carnation-like look to it. 'Well Being' is one of the English Legend Roses™ from Harkness , with a height of 4-5' by 39" wide. It is hardy in zones 6b-9b. The very edges are just singed with pink. It is supposed to be a wonderful rose for cutting. There weren't enough blossoms at one time last year to cut, but perhaps a bouquet will be possible this season.
'Ghislaine de Feligonde' [Turbat, 1916] is a hybrid multiflora that I bought kind of accidentally. The rose I intentionally bought arrived dead and was not available, so I was offered a refund or a substitute. I knew nothing of this rose, but it sounded intriguing as described by the nursery owner on the phone, so I agreed to accept it as a replacement. It was too late for it to bloom last season, but it came through the winter alive and is blooming profusely. It's a bit of a rambler...to 10', has a moderately sweet fragrance and bears it's 2" blooms in clusters of 10 to 20 blossoms. It should make quite a splash. Oh, and it's also disease resistant; always a big plus for me. It is listed as hardy to zone 5 and came to me from a nursery in Maine so it must be true. I borrowed the excellent photo at left from PlantFiles* , the huge plant database here at Dave's Garden, to illustrate the range of color from cream to apricot.
I wanted a yellow climber to share a pillar with a blue clematis and I chose 'Lemon Meringue' [Radler, 2003]. I read that it is one of the hardier yellows (zone 6b-9b). Actually, it is barely a climber at a height of 6' 7", but that is perfect for the location and to be grown on a pillar rather than a tall trellis or fence. Incidentally, the clematis is 'Elsa Spaeth', still tiny and yet to bloom.
My other yellow rugosa is 'Agnes' [Saunders, 1900]. A light yellow, it blooms only in spring, but what a fabulous show! This is it's first spring bloom for me and it was covered with blossoms and wonderfully fragrant. Best yet it bloomed early, so there was something spectacular in the rose garden while waiting for the rest to wake up. Mature size is about 5' by 5' and it is hardy to zone 4. I wish I had taken a photo of the entire bush in bloom to share, but a thunderstorm got it before I had a chance.
My very latest yellow rose acquisition is 'Halo Sunrise' [Moore, 1997]. It's a miniature and in the last group I bought before Ralph Moore closed his Sequoia Nursery. The 'Halo's' are a series of singles with a contrasting color ring in the center. This one is yellow with a red ring. I also have 'Halo Fire', which is red and so far shows no ring at all. The little bush reaches a height of only 12-18" and the blooms are about 1 ¼" across. Contrary to what many folks think, mini roses are just as hardy as their bigger cousins, this one zone 6b-10b.
Well, these are my favorite yellows, or at least the ones that will grow in my zone. Feel free to post your favs in the comments section below. I'd love to hear them. They might just show up in my garden next year.
All photos are taken by the author and from the author's garden with the exception of 'Ghislaine de Feligonde'
 Links to other articles in the 'Roses of Color' series
 Botanica's Roses, The Encyclopedia of Roses, publisher Gordon Cheers, 1998, pg 576
 For more information about David Austin's English Roses, here is a link to the web site
 For more information about the English Legend RosesTM from Harkness, here some links to try
 For more information about Ralph Moore and the closing of the Sequoia Nursery, read my article