Friday, December 24, 2010

December's Mystery Plant

Who am I?

  Hopefully someday I have prizes for the winners, but until then you just get to show off your superior plant geek knowledge!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Green Heuchera

Heuchera 'Sashay'
Who wants a green Heuchera?  Well, I do for one.  While Heucheras are great for adding color to gardens, they also add foliage texture and contrast.  They also make great filler around accent plants where you might be looking for green space so you don't detract from a specimen plant.  Or in some cases, they might be the specimen plant, or they might echo color of the specimen plant. 

H. 'Bressingham Hybrids'

Heuchera 'Bressingham Hybrids' is a seed strain from the 'Brizoides' group with lots of variability.  In theory.  Usually the ones I see are green with pink or red flowers.  Mine is green with bright pink flowers, and identical to all of its siblings in the group I bought it from.  It's been a great performer, maxing out at 10" tall x 30" wide. 

H. villosa 'Autumn Bride' is a great variety for foliage texture.  It has huge fuzzy light green leaves, and is a fairly large plant.  Mine hit 18" tall x 30" wide, white flowers were easily to 24" but I usually break them off.  They're a little unruly for me.  This one has also self seeded for me in the past, but isn't a pest. 

Heuchera 'Sashay'

H. 'Sashay' is a great variety for texture.  It's a dense mound of ruffled foliage that stays fairly compact.  Mine is about 8" tall x 10" wide right now.  I expect eventually it will be 10" x 15".  Foliage is green on the top and burgundy beneath.  The undersides show at the margins where the leaf curls up.  This one is pretty distinct.  H. villosa and H. micrantha are in the background.

H. 'Malachite' is a new variety for 2011 that has a nice mid-green color and ruffled foliage.  I saw this at a trade show this summer, and I think it's quite nice.  Lots of potential for use as a container plant!

H. 'Apple Crisp' is another new one that's hitting the scene in 2011.  This one is even more dissected and ruffled than 'Sashay' or 'Malachite'.  This one is a nice grass-green with silver overlay.  Not sure of the background of this one, I would guess H. micrantha and H. americana.

Heuchera 'Green Spice'
H. 'Mint Frost' is a nice minty green variety with silver overlay.  This one picks up nice plum tones for the winter as well.  White flowers on 15" stalks.  This one has been a little slow growing, but is worth the wait for its nice foliage color.  H. americana is in the background.

H. 'Green Spice' is one of my favorites.  This fantastic beauty has green leaves with a silver overlay and red veins.  Great fall and winter color as well, generally red to burgundy for me, but may have orange as well.  Dense mound to 10" x 18" over time.  White flowers.  This one is a selection of H. americana.
Another selection of H. americana, 'Marvelous Marble' is a seed strain that is similar to 'Green Spice' but has far more red and less silver. 
This is a new one for 2011.

Heuchera 'Green Spice'
There are a number of other fantastic selections with green foliage, many with beautiful flowers: 'Dale's Strain', 'Paris', 'Chatterbox', 'Strawberry Candy', 'Lipstick', 'Mint Julep', 'Paris', 'Peppermint Spice' and more.  Many of these can't be beat for flower effect. 

Next time you see some green Heuchera for sale, take a closer look.  I'm sure there's a spot in the garden for at least one of these!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple'

'Albury Purple' is a nice form of St. Johnswort that is generally grown for its purple-tinged summer foliage and yellow flowers.  It is much more purple on the new growth, turning more green as the summer progresses.  Seed pods start out a beautiful shiny black and change to gray.  One thing I hadn't read about before planting was the fantastic dark purple fall color.  It holds its color well into the fall, and still looks great in my garden.

While Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple'
is a woody shrub in zones 6 and above, it is root hardy to at least zone 5.  For me it dies back mostly to the ground in the winter, and returns in the spring.  It has been a little bit slower to establish than most of the other plants in my garden, but is growing fairly well now.  I have it growing in full sun for the best color, but H. androsaemum is reportedly quite shade tolerant.  Hypericum species in general appreciate well drained soils, but I haven't had any problems with growing a number of them in clay-loam.  As long as the soil isn't too wet in the winter, 'Albury Purple' seems fairly adaptable.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gentiana scabra 'Zuki Rindo'

Nobody even wants to GUESS at the mystery plant?  Well, it's an incredibly beautiful fall bloomer that everyone needs to go out and buy.  Gentiana scabra 'Zuki Rindo'.  There are many great gentians out there, also check out G. septemfida var. lagodechiana, G. 'True Blue', G. clausa, or G. 'Blue Cross'.  All make great garden plants for partial sun and orgainic rich soil with consistent moisture. 

Monday, October 11, 2010


RtoL: Panicum 'Shenandoah', Miscanthus 'Malepartus', Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha' and Calamagrostis 'Avalanche'

The incredible rise in popularity of ornamental grasses has been no surprise.  They offer forms and textures that are hard to accomplish when just using other herbaceous or woody plants.  Grasses provide interest during the fall and winter season as the rest of the garden is winding down. 

Most of the grasses we grow in our gardens are warm-season grasses.  They prefer warm temperatures, and often come up fairly late.  I've found the best time to plant them is early June.  Planting earlier is ok, but there isn't much advantage since they don't grow much when the temps are cooler.  Planting late in the fall can be even more problematic, the cooler temperatures in fall slows the grasses down and signals dormancy.  They don't have enough time to establish a root system before winter, and often frost-heave out of the ground or die altogether.  This is especially true for grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis, which often times when planted too late in the season can be pulled out with no effort in the spring after they've died. 

Some grasses are cool-season grasses and can be planted in early spring or fall.  The various Calamagrostis varieties fall under this group, and represent the most popular of the cool-season grasses.  Festuca, Chasmanthium, Koelaria, Molina, and some Carex (I know, they're sedges not grasses) species also fall under this group.

I don't have a favorite, but I do like some better than others.  Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha', Panicum 'Northwind', Chasmanthium latifolium, Hakonechloa macra (all varieties), Sporobolus heterolepis, Schizachyrium scoparium,  Koeleria glauca 'Blue Sprite', Miscanthus sinensis, and Andropogon gerardii.

Calamagrostis 'Brachytricha'

Panicum 'Northwind'

Miscanthus 'Silberfeder'

Chasmanthium 'River Mist'

Friday, October 1, 2010


Here's this month's mystery plant.  Any guesses?

Who am I?

What a beauty!(berry)

Beautyberry is an often overlooked plant at the garden center all season.  It's just a green bush most of the season.  You might notice some minuscule pink flowers in late July to August if you pay attention when you're standing or working next to it, but they certainly don't stand out.  As soon as mid-September hits, those flowers have turned to berries that quickly mature to a beautiful amethyst color.  There's nothing quite like it for fall fruit effect. 

There are a number of Callicarpa species (over 40) but only 4 are readily available.  The best species for us in the north is C. dichotoma, which is also becoming the most readily available.  The cultivars 'Issai' and 'Early Amethyst' are readily available to gardeners and have both performed well in zone 5.  In my gardens they reach 4' or less with a nice arching habit, and die back to the ground each winter.  There is also a white-fruiting form, 'Albofructa', and a selection which leafs out gold and changes green with the obvious name 'Spring Gold'; neither of which I have seen. 

C. japonica will also possibly grow in the north similarly to C. dichotoma.  There is a fantastic variegated selection that I will growing next season.  Similar size, habit, and hardiness to C. dichotoma.  C. japonica also dies back to the ground.

C. americana is the only US species I can find information on.  This one is less hardy, to zone 6, and I have not tried it.  I'm all for native plants though, and will give it a try some day.

C. bodnieri is represented in the trade by the variety 'Profusion'.  Though some attribute this variety to C. giraldii.  Either way it is also listed as zone 6 and I would like to give it a try some time.  This variety has larger leaves than the others, and great fruit set.  (another obvious name)

Give a beautyberry a spot in your garden, it's a great choice if you want to move beyone viburnums and crabapples for fall fruit effect.
C. dichotoma 'Issai' with Penstemon 'Dark Towers'

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Run for your lives!!! It's... a MINT!

Mints have a reputation for being weedy thugs that don't belong in any garden.  While I'll agree that many species of mint are horribly invasive, there are a number of them that are great garden plants.  However it's nearly impossible to convince many gardeners of this fact.  One of the best mints for the garden is Calamintha nepeta.  We've grown this plant in our display garden at the garden center for 10 years now, and it doesn't run and we haven't seen any stray seedlings from it.  It isn't a huge plant, growing about 15" tall and 24" wide in full sun.  It's a great butterfly and bee plant, and blooms non-stop June until frost.  It isn't horribly picky about soil as long as it isn't too wet and is hardy to zone 4.  The fragrant foliage is glossy and isn't susceptible to many pests or diseases.  I don't know what isn't to love about this plant, but the average person runs when they hear "Calamint".  I propose a name change to something more appropriate that can't be confused with mint.  Like Superawesomefreakishlylongbloomingcoolplant.

Calamintha nepeta 9-26-10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Has it really been almost a month?

I'm afraid it HAS been nearly a month since I've posted anything and summer is now 2 days away from being officially over.  It's been a busy month full of projects both personal and professional, with little time for taking pictures or even having a good idea of what to write about!

For customers of the Flower Source, a couple of quick news items.  Nearly all plants are marked down at least 50%, some as far as 80%.  Mums, Asters, and Pansies are ready and finally showing color.  Corn stalks, gourds, and firewood are in.  Pumpkins should be in by the end of the week.  We've been working on giving the place a facelift, with new paint all over.  We're not quite done yet, but our garage is now Geranium Red and is AWESOME looking!!!  Also lots of new bright colors in the garden center.  In somewhat sad news, my trusty sidekick Jess is leaving us this week to start as a horticulturist for Milwaukee County.

I've been working on a number of other projects outside of work.  The main one of interest here is that my wife and I are starting our own small mail-order nursery.  we'll be concentrating on plants for shaded and partially shaded gardens, and we should be ready for business Feb. 1st.  We've been busy clearing an area for a 13'x80' hoop house, which I should be putting up tomorrow if the weather cooperates.  It will be an adventure balancing 2 jobs in retail horticulture!

Enough late-night non-plant babble.  Regular plant posts will resume tomorrow!

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Aquisitions

Salvia Fuji Snow

Every year, I aquire a number of new and unusual plants that we don't carry at the garden center to try out in the gardens. It's what makes gardening fun. This year for a number of reasons (such as starting a small mail-order nursery, and the closure of 2 great nurseries: Asiatica and Seneca Hill) I've managed to get quite a few more than normal. I won't go into detail with this post, as I'm sure I'll write about a number of them at some point next year.

Amorphophallus atroviridis
Amsonia elliptica (both white and blue flowered forms)
Arum italicum Chameleon
Arum italicum Gold Rush
Arum italicum Ghost
Atractylodes japonica
Atractylodes ovata
Buxus koreana Sunburst
Chelonopsis yagiharana
Croton alabamensis
Deinanthe bifida
Deutzia Nikko Dawn
Disanthus cercidifolius Ena Nishiki
Eupatorium fortunei Pink Elegance
Eupatorium fortunei yellow margin
Hosta Appetizer
Hosta Dixie Cups
Kirengeshoma palmata Magic Touch
Leucosceptrum japonicum Gold Angel
Leucosceptrum japonicum Mountain Madness
Leucosceptrum japonicum Silver Angel
Leucosceptrum stellipilum October moon
Lycoris sanguinea
Mukdenia rossii Starstream
Orixa japonica Summer Sunshine
Rabdosia trichocarpa
Salvia glabrescens Momobana
Salvia glabrescens Shi Ho
Salvia nipponica Fuji Snow
Smilacina stellata Blue Dune
Solidago virga-aurea var. lelocarpa
Taxus baccata Amersfoort
Tofieldia nuda var. furusei
Tricyrtis hirta Golden Gleam
Uvularia sessilifolia Cobblewood gold

Taxus Amersfoort
Atractylodes japonica
Leucosceptrum Silver Angel
Leucosceptrum Gold Angel

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hummingbirds and butterflies love licorice.

At least they love plants from the genus Agastache, many of which have licorice-scented foliage. Many varieties have done very well in my garden. Nearly all of them need well drained soil to thrive and survive the winter. If you can provide the right soil conditions, they will reward you with masses of blooms, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
'Black Adder' is a tall, sturdy variety with dark purple calyces (the calyx holds the flower to the stalk) and lighter lavender flowers, the overall look is a dark purple. This year it is 4' in my garden. Last year it hit 5'. This variety seems to be a heavier feeder than the others, as it gets yellow in the garden without fertilizer. A slow release fertilizer would be a good idea. To much fertilizer and it could get leggy and floppy however, so don't over-do it. Tiger Swallowtail butterflies love this plant.

A. rupestris is a wonderful 30-36" mound of silvery foliage with coral flowers that blooms from the end of June through August. This is probably my favorite variety for the substantial fine textured clumps it makes in the garden. A hummingbird magnet.

'Raspberry Summer' is a rosey-pink flowered variety that gets 30"-36" tall on wiry stems that are pretty sturdy. They sway in the breeze, but aren't too horribly floppy. This year it was a little open and not very dense, so I recently cut it back and it is filling in nicely. This zone 6 variety has perfomed quite well overall, and this is its 3rd year. I do nothing special for winter, so I would say z5 with well drained soil.

'Summer Love' is a nice vivid purple that has a habit nearly identical to 'Raspberry Summer'. Hummingbirds love both varieties. This zone 6 variety has proven to be a stronger grower for me, and in year 2 has surpassed my clump of 'Raspberry Summer' for size and blooming power. Easily z5 with well drained soil.

'Purple Haze' has not yet been planted in my own garden, but had been perfoming ok up to this year in the trial garden at work. It was planted in a somewhat heavy soil and with the new layer of mulch and all the rain we've had it rotted out this year. Similar growing to 'Black Adder' but with a more vivid purple flower.
'Golden Jubilee' is a nice fairly adaptable variety with golden foliage and purple flowers. It is a prolific self-seeder however, and needs to be deadheaded to prevent taking over part of the garden. This one can take a slightly heavier soil. Hardy to at least z4, probably z3 with well drained soil.

'Blue Fortune' is similar to 'Golden Jubilee' but with green foliage. Also more soil adaptable than other varieties and also a self-seeder. Both are around 30" tall. Hardy to z4, z3 with well drained soil.

I look forward to trialing a good number of new Agastache next year, with hopes that they will be proven hardier than expected. There is an increasing number of new varieties hitting the market, and most have been acceptable in z5 with good drainage. Experiment away, and have fun!

Friday, August 6, 2010


It's early august, which means it's time for the leafless flower stalks of the Surprise Lily (Lycoris squamigera) to make their appearance. Also known as Resurrection Lily, the foliage appears in spring with the bulbs and goes dormant by mid-June. Flowers appear in early August without any foliage, usually (if you're like me) well after you've forgotten they existed in your garden. Lycoris squamigera is easily grown in partial sun from zones (4)5-9 as long as they have moderately well drained soil as they don't want to be too wet in winter. Mine have done beautifully, I add a few more every year as they're slow to spread for me.

There is a good number of other hardy Lycoris species, and for further reading I recommend Jim Waddick's article here:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


More and more people are living with zone denial. Typically, to most gardeners zone denial means growing plants outside of their recommended zones. Who hasn't grown (or at least tried) hybrid tea, grandiflora, or floribunda roses here in WI? Very few of them are hardy enough to be grown in zone 5, most teas really prefer zone 7. But gardeners do it anyway because they're beautiful.

There are a number of factors affecting a plant's hardiness. One is provenance. Where a plant is from generally affects where it will grow. A simplistic way of looking at it is that tropical plants need tropical climates and plants from the north don't do as well in heat. This gets a little messier when you consider other factors like elevation. A plant may be from a fairly warm area (say equivalent to zone 8) but may range to higher elevations (maybe 12,000' up a mountain) where it is much colder. Selections collected from these higher elevations may survive zone 6 or even 5.

Sometimes doing research into a family of plants that is commonly available as non-hardy will provide an obscure species that is hardy to our area. Everybody knows Croton (at least by sight if not by name) with its colorful foliage found for sale as a houseplant at every lowes, home depot, and walmart or grown as a landscape plant in Florida. Croton alabamensis is a species that is hardy to at least zone 6, possibly zone 5. Another case is Cyrtomium fortunei, which can be grown in zone 4 with ease even though other Cyrtomium species require warmer temperatures.

Another big factor affecting hardiness is growing conditions. This may seem obvious, but so very many gardeners miss it. Every plant has different needs. While we can make broad recommendations and put together a garden with plants that have similar needs, those needs still must be met. Woodland plants don't thrive in heavy clay or full sun, and no gardener should expect them to. Spending an extra $5 on a bag of compost, mulch, or fertilizer might mean the difference between success and failure.

Even placement in the garden can make a difference. Sometimes moving a plant as little as 2 feet from its original spot will show vast improvements in plant growth and hardiness. This can be due to many reasons. Soil might be a slighty different pH, there might be more or less soil moisture, light exposure might vary slighty, and the microclimate might be drastically different. Wind and light exposure plays a big role in affecting both winter and summer conditions. You can really capitalize on a spot that's cooler in summer and warmer in winter when it comes to stretching your zone.

Some plants can be potted up and overwintered in the garage if supplied with a little supplemental water in the winter. Other plants can be screened from the wind. Winter mulch can help tremendously protecting plants from freeze/thaw cycles, and you can try building a cage around the plant and filling it with compost to get non-hardy plants through the winter. Or you can try ugly white rose cones, but I find them the least effective method of winter protection. And they're ugly.

I live with zone denial for a number of reasons. I think most new plants are hardier than they are given credit for. There are some exceptions, Coreopsis 'Limerock Ruby' being sold as zone 5 without extensive trialing comes to mind. But I think for the most part most nurseries are responsible enough to err on the side of caution.

I've found a number of new plants to be hardier than previously thought. When I first got into the industry, Agastache rupestris was widely sold as being hardy only to zone 6. I can say with certainty that it is easily hardy to zone 5, and probably to zone 4 if provided the right conditions. Other Agastache varieties have followed suit, with 'Raspberry Summer', 'Summer Love', 'Purple Haze', and 'Black Adder' surviving in my (and many other) gardens beautifully.

I've also been growing Black Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon planiscapes 'Nigrescens' for a few years now and it is starting to spread. This is another zone 6 plant.

Helleborus 'Hot Flash' in its 4th season. Not big and vigorous, but starting to do well. Listed as zone 7 upon release, now listed as zone 6, 5 with protection. I do no protection other than not removing the maple leaves that fall on it.

Sometimes I like to push zone limits just because I think a plant looks cool. It might provide a texture or color not readily available to us in colder zones. Or it might just be my horrible plant addiction. Either way, I planted Cunninghamia lanceolata 'Glauca' in spring of 2008. This is a neat evergreen conifer with broad, wicked-looking but soft, blue needles that is zone 6/7 borderline hardy. I planted it in my south butterfly garden and other than some pretty good winter-burn it has survived pretty well. I have taken pity on it though and have moved it to a pot with some miniature hostas that will be overwintered in the garage.

There is also another form of zone denial that many of us in the industry have to deal with. The "this plant didn't do well for me, so it must not be hardy" denial. This usually comes about from improper cultural practices, and not providing the plants with the proper requirements. And some people just can't grow certain plants. I've killed ridiculously easy to grow species for no apparent reason. At the risk of my gardening reputation, I'll admit to killing Gooseneck Loosestrife. I'm also very good at killing ferns.

The most common reason most plants die in my experience is that their specific soil conditions are not met. Some plants resent being too wet in the winter and will simply rot away to nothing. The new Echinacea hybrids are a good example. Gaillardia is another example that needs good drainage. I've had Gaillardia 'Frenzy' for 3 years now, and it does very well in a fairly well drained clay-loam. Alpine/rock garden plants like Dianthus licinata or Delosperma species can't be too wet in spring or they will get crown rot. Rhododendrons are widely planted here, despite needing a moist but well-drained acidic soil. Most of them fail in our heavy alkaline pH clay. I've seen a number of huge beautiful Rhododendrons (primarily PJM, but others as well) in the north-central sand counties of WI. Some plants need organic soils that are consistently moist, like Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia siphilitica. Providing the right soil conditions can make all the difference in the world.

Don't be afraid to try new plants, or even new ways to use old plants. Don't be afraid to try a plant again just because it dies once. If you do some research, it's amazing what can be done in our gardens.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Allium Summer Beauty

The genus Allium is a hugely diverse group of plants, many of which make great garden subjects. Ufortunately, most gardeners are only familiar with the giant globe onions like 'Globemaster', or the weedy species like A. azureum or A. sphaerocephalon. (As a side note A. azureum pulls very easily and the beutiful blue flowers make it worth including in any sunny garden).

The last few years have seen a number of new introductions for Allium (I'll write about more of the in the next 2 months), and one of my favorites has been A. lusitanicum 'Summer Beauty'. This form has nice pink flowers starting in July and lasting into August. The foliage remains a beautiful emerald green all season, despite neglect, and is deer and rabbit resistant. It quickly forms a clump 24-30" wide, and flowers at 30". Summer Beauty seems to tolerate heavy soil fairly well, but I would still amend clay soils with compost. Use it in any sunny garden as a textural contrast with Echinacea, Monarda, Coreopsis, Roses, etc. It makes a great nectar plant for bees and butterflies.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shasta Daisies

I'm not a big fan of Shasta Daisies. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them. They have their place in the perennial garden as long blooming bee and butterfly magnets that provide a bright and cheery spot of white and yellow in many sizes and shapes. There have been some interesting introductions in the last few years in the way of light yellow flowers, and wildly formed double flowers. But for the most part they're just common and unexciting old fashioned perennials you see everyday. Aren't They?

Maybe not, with the introduction of Leucanthemum 'Paladin' this year it was once again proven that even a perennial that's been around as long as the old fashioned Shasta Daisy, selective breeding can take the plant to the next level.

'Paladin' is a nice mid-height daisy to 20" tall with large double white flowers that cover the plant so completely you almost can't see the foliage. The stems are very sturdy, and shouldn't require any staking unless the plant is overfed. Shastas don't need much in the way of fertilizer, so lay off for most of the season. My plant has been blooming for about 2 weeks now, and is showing no sign of slowing down. I've been deadheading to promote more blooms, but you can just as easily wait until the first bloom cycle is done and shear it back to promote a second flush of blooms. Most varieties of Leucanthemum have an unpleasant (horrid is the word I prefer) fragrance but 'Paladin' has no scent at all, which is a big bonus to me.

'Victorian Secret' is a new variety for 2011 which I had the pleasure to view in Ohio recently. It is similar to 'Paladin' in all respects except it has a shorter 14" habit and a nice citrus scent. I'm told there are more varieties in the pipeline, including some nice yellow varieties. All with pleasant or no fragrance. I'm happy to see daisies getting a makeover, it's a plant that deserves some excitement.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

I like tropical textures in the garden, especially when gardening in the shade. It's important to make an impression with textural contrast in the shade garden, since it's difficult to make a huge impact with flower color. Aralia 'Sun King' gives you that great huge-foliage tropical look, as well as bright color due to the yellow to chartreuse foliage. Individual leaves should get nearly 3' long x 2.5' wide. Big racemes of white flowers in mid-late summer are followed by purple berries. Other species of Aralia attract honeybees, and this one should be no different. Grown with some morning sun in a good organic rich soil, 'Sun King' will make an awesome accent plant. There isn't a lot of information out there on this plant, and a lot of it is conflicting. I've seen zone ratings anywhere from 3 to 6. Also, mature sizes range from 3-9' tall x 3-10' wide. So, what's the truth of the matter? I think hardiness will be at least zone 5, which is the rating Asiatica gave it in their catalog a few years ago. Aralia cordata is known to be hardy to zone 4, this selection could possibly be a little less hardy. Time will tell. Size? I think the 3' x 3' that Terra Nova is giving it is a bit on the small side. I would guess it will easily hit 6' tall and 7' wide, given that it's a selection of A. cordata which can grow to 9'. Be sure to give this baby some room in your shade garden!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hardy Roses

Nearly every gardener wants to grow roses. But most don't want the constant care and lack of hardiness of the hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda classes. With the vast number of shrub roses on the market, how do you pick varieties that will do well? I've picked some hardy shrub roses that have been doing fairly well for us.

The Knockout series:
Most people are familiar with this series, it's the number one asked for rose in garden centers with good reason. While no rose is completely disease free, it's hard to beat the disease resistance of the Knockouts. With the exception of Rainbow Knockout, they are also self-cleaning which means you don't need to dead-head. I still dead-head them anyway, since this will increase the amount of rebloom. They are not all that super-hardy though, and require some winter protection in zone 4, and it's not a bad idea to give some protection in zone 5 as well. Protecting them is relatively easy, I just mound 8-10" of mulch over the crown of the plant once the soil freezes for winter. This is usually enough to get them through the winter. Once the ground thaws, pull away the mulch and cut off any canes that have died over winter.

The Easy Elegance Series is much like the Knockout series, but there is far more variety in flower color, flower form, and fragrance. Hardiness varies by variety, but I have grown a number of them without winter protection. If in doubt, winter mulch as for Knockout. Disease resistance on almost all varieties is excellent. Some of my favorites include All the Rage, Grandma's Blessing, Macy's Pride, Kashmir, My Girl, Snowdrift, Sweet Fragrance, and Yellow Brick Road. Having said that, I don't dislike any of the varieties in the series.

Home Run is a great single red rose from Weeks Roses that has excellent disease resistance. The foliage always looks great. It is self cleaning, but just like Knockout I dead-head anyway. Winter hardiness is about the same as Knockout. Winter mulching is neccessary in zone 4, and not a bad idea in zone 5. There is a hot pink version coming in 2011 called Pink Home Run which looks promising. A better name would have been nice, maybe Grand Slam to continue the theme?

Midnight Blue and Rhapsody in Blue are both great dark purple roses from Weeks Roses that have proven to be fairly hardy and disease resistant for me. I didn't do any winter protection this past winter and both came through beautifully, only to be trampled by the dogs. Dead-heading is recommended for re-bloom.

Champlain is a great hardy red that is fairly disease resistant. I haven't had to spray mine yet,
but they do get a little mildew and blackspot. You have to look pretty hard to find it though.
Champlain is a larger variety, growing 4-5'. I don't do any winter protection, and get very little
dieback. This is a profuse early bloomer, and the first bloom for me lasts almost through July. You can dead-head to keep it looking it's cleanest, but I wait until it's done blooming and cut it back 12-18" to remove all of the flowering stems. More flowers follow in August. This is a fantastic, easy, variety. Great for anyone who hasn't grown roses before.

Hope For Humanity is another very hardy red that has done well for us. It is less disease resistant than the others, and may require spraying in a hot and humid summer. This one is hardy to zone 3.

Heart and Soul is a fairly hardy variety with beautiful rose and white bicolored blooms. Winter mulch is a good idea in zone 4, but probably not neccessary in zone 5. This one may require spraying as well, but blackspot and mildew haven't been too bad on it.

Watercolors is a single rose from Weeks Roses that is a little hard to describe. It starts out a blend of pink, yellow, and cream and changes to solid pink as the flowers age. Disease resistance has been very good, as has it's hardiness.

Winnipeg Parks is a great hardy magenta with large flowers that is very hardy and fairly disease resitant. This one overwinters in zone 4 without any problem. Another great one for beginning rose growers.

Carefree Spirit is a great red single that has shown excellent disease resistance and good hardiness. No winter mulch needed. I really like this one.

The Oso Easy series from Proven Winners shows a lot of promise. Paprika is my favorite, as it has the most unique color of the series so far. Cherry Pie is another red single. So far I like Carefree Spirit better. Strawberry Crush is an interesting rose-pink color, and Peachy Cream is a peach that fades to cream as the flower ages. Fragrant Spreader is a groundcover rose with small single pink flowers that are supposedly fragrant. I honestly haven't noticed. This one seems to take a long time to rebloom, and I'm not real impressed with it so far. They all seem very hardy so far, and show good disease resistance. They are self-cleaning, which is great since they are a dead-heading nightmare! They are incredibly profuse bloomers, and trying to deadhead is almost a losing battle. I may try shearing them back in the future.

There is vast number of other hardy shrub roses that will do well all the way to zone 3, these are just some of the newest or my favorites. Don't be afraid to grow roses, there's a rose for nearly every gardener.