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story.lead_photo.caption This May 21, 2010 photo shows a variety of shrub roses in their third year growing on a mountain property near New Market, Va. While some rose varieties have earned a reputation for being fussy or difficult to grow, most of the newer shrub rose hybrids are disease resistant, carefree and repeat blooming. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Roses are among the oldest flowers in cultivation, although many have earned a reputation as fussy or difficult to grow. Some of the newer shrub rose hybrids, however, are disease-resistant, carefree and repeat-blooming—just the qualities novice gardeners love.

"They are generally much healthier, more free-flowering, easier to prune and more winter-hardy" than some earlier generations of roses, said Michael Marriott, technical manager and senior rosarian for David Austin Limited of Albrighton, England, about the many emerging shrub rose varieties.

Shrub roses, also labeled landscaping or groundcover roses, blend a diverse mix of old-rose varieties with modern roses to capture the best qualities of each, including fragrance, flowering styles, colors and growth habits.

They're bred for garden performance rather than plant perfection, converting many rose contrarians into vocal rosarians, Marriott said.

"There are certainly plenty of hesitant gardeners who mistakenly think all roses will be finicky and hard to grow—but I'd say they're decreasing in number," Marriott said.

Early landscape designers frequently recommended that roses be concentrated only in rose gardens, in the process creating a monoculture conducive to pests and diseases. Now they're integrating roses into mixed borders where companion plants surround roses to the benefit of all, Marriott said.

Despite longstanding perceptions, rose growing isn't a specialty particular to older or more affluent gardeners, said Chris VanCleave, a banker and rose advocate from Helena, Ala., who has a wide following on the garden lecture circuit and his "Redneck Rosarian" website.

Regardless of where you are or who you are, there's a rose just for you, he said.

"Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennial generations don't care so much about a perfect bloom. Instead they want garden color and low maintenance, and they're also averse to using harmful chemicals in the garden," VanCleave said.

"Some want flowering power, while others grow them for sentimental reasons," VanCleave said. "My rose garden began with one rose to honor my mother after she passed away. I now have around 185."

Along with beauty, roses offer a great deal of utility around the landscape, including erosion control, salt endurance and appeal to pollinators—especially varieties whose blooms open fully to expose their stamens.

"Most roses are more drought-hardy than people think and can tolerate drier conditions, although during these times your flowering and plant size are diminished," said Anthony Tesselaar, president and co-founder of Anthony Tesselaar Plants in Silvan, Australia, which markets Flower Carpet roses.

Surveys continue to identify roses as everyone's favorite flower—even people who don't have gardens, Marriott said.

"As I say to many people, what other plant can have a beautiful individual flower, a wonderful fragrance, flower for six or more months of the year, and be easy to look after?

"It's easy to argue that they are the most garden-worthy of all plants," he said.

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