(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 6, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Today's modern hybrid roses stem from complex breeding utilizing primarily species native to the old world. Traditionally, rose growers in colder regions (zone 3-5) had to select from grafted roses, which include the floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas. These hybrid roses are among the most troublesome roses for us northern rose growers due to their susceptibility to black spot disease and their general lack of hardiness. This is especially true for plants that are breed/grafted in warmer climates like the SE USA and California. To grow these roses you need to provide special care in winter to help them survive.
As it happens, there are now a number of hardy shrub roses that are tough enough to survive our northern climates with very little extra work and as a bonus, many of them are resistant to black spot. Many of these robust roses were actually bred in Canada, so you know they have to be tough! There are two hybrid series that are especially recommended; the Explorer roses and the Parkland roses.
The Explorer roses were developed by the Agriculture Canada research stations in Ottawa, Ontario and L'Assomption, Quebec. Alas, the breeding program is now at an end but thankfully they released a number of excellent roses during the life of the program. The Explorer roses range in size from under 3 feet to large shrubs over 6 feet to climbers up to 9 feet. Most of these hybrids have semi-double blooms and are commonly in shades of pink or red. Some, especially those that utilize Rosa rugosa in their breeding, are highly fragrant. However, others have no fragrance. Most are repeat bloomers and exhibit good disease-resistance.
Among the lower-growing hybrids are ‘Henry Hudson', ‘Champlain', ‘Frontenac', ‘George Vancouver', ‘John Franklin', ‘Lambert Close', ‘Nicolas', ‘Royal Albert', ‘Charles Albanel' and ‘Simon Fraser'. For those with adequate space try the larger ‘Alexander MacKenzie', ‘David Thompson', ‘De Montarville', ‘Jens Munk', ‘J. P. Connell', ‘Marie-Victorin' or ‘Martin Frobisher'. Among the climbing Explorers are ‘Captain Samuel Holland', ‘Henry Kelsey', ‘John Cabot, ‘John Davis', ‘Louise Jolliet', ‘William Baffin' and ‘William Booth'. If fragrance is your desire, then stick with ‘David Thompson', ‘Henry Kelsey', ‘Jens Munk', ‘John Cabot', ‘John Davis', ‘Louise Jolliet' and ‘Martin Frobisher'.
Examples of low growing Explorers include 'Champlain', and 'Henry Hudson' and 'Charles Albanel' (last picture courtesy of Bootandall)
Among climbing Explorers are 'John Davis', 'William Baffin' (courtesy of Northgrass) and 'Henry Kelsey' (courtesy of Kniphofia)
For large size and delicate colour, try 'Martin Frobisher' (courtesy of Bootandall) or 'J. P. Connell' (courtesy of Calif_Sue)
The Parkland Roses were developed at the Morden Research Station in Manitoba. Their goal was to develop roses that could survive the deep cold of the prairie Provinces and States where the standard floribunda, grandiflora and hybrid teas are grown essentially as annuals! The Parkland roses are generally of lower stature than the Explorers, available in a wider range of colours and are perhaps a little more refined in regards to flower shape. Many are resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. However, there are no climbers within this series and none are strongly fragrant.
Among those hybrids under 3 feet in height are ‘Hope for Humanity', ‘Morden Amorette', ‘Morden Belle', ‘Morden Blush', ‘Morden Cardinette', ‘Morden Fireglow' and ‘Winnipeg Parks'. The taller growers (but still mostly under 4.5 feet) are ‘Adelaide Hoodless', ‘Cuthbert Grant', ‘Morden Centennial', ‘Morden Ruby', ‘Morden Snowbeauty', ‘Morden Sunrise', ‘Prairie Dawn, ‘Prairie Joy and ‘Rheinaupark'. Those that exhibit a light fragrance are ‘Morden Cardinette', ‘Morden Fireglow', ‘Morden Centennial', ‘Morden Snowbeauty', ‘Winnipeg Parks' and the most fragrant of all these hybrids is ‘Cuthbert Grant'.
Examples of Parkland roses include 'Morden Centennial', 'Morden Fireglow' and 'Morden Sunrise' (photos courtesy of JoanJ), along with the headline photo of 'Winnipeg Parks'
The last group of Canadian-bred roses that should be mentioned are the up and coming ‘Canadian Artist' rose series. Now that the research stations in Ottawa and L'Assomption are closed and the Morden station has been seriously cut-back, it has been left to independent rose breeders in Canada to carry the torch. A group of breeders have started the Canadian Artist roses, named in honour of famous Canadian artists. So far only two have been released; ‘Emily Carr' and ‘Felix Leclerc'. So if you are a rose fancier in a cold zone why not try the Canadian-bred roses!
(Many thanks to Bootandall, Kniphofia, Northgrass, Calif_Sue and JoanJ for use of their photos. The article would be drab indeed without them!)