Guest Author - Charity Armstrong
Roses make colorful and fragrant landscape plants. Many repeat blooming varieties are hard to beat for providing summer color. However, when roses are done blooming or are in the middle of a bloom cycle, their section of the garden can be dull and spare looking. Why not try adding some companion plants in your rose garden for a fuller look and a healthier garden?
Anytime there is a monospecies planting the level of resistance to insects and disease drops. Plants do best when there is a variety of species theyíre sharing a flowerbed with. This is also true of roses. Bringing in companion plants can help lower fungal disease, and control unbeneficial insects while bringing in beneficial ones. Plants growing as a monospecies are rarely found in nature. Planting a mix of species will help to mimic nature and thus create healthier plants.
Choose perennials, annuals, shrubs and vines that have similar needs to your roses. You want full sun plants that either need or donít mind some supplemental ground water. Itís always best to choose plants that are generally pest and disease free as well. Roses require a decent amount of additional care. You donít want to add a perennial or shrub that needs as much work as your roses. If youíre going to do that you might as well plant more roses!
Stand back and look at your rose bed. What does it need? How much space is available in the bed for additional planting without crowding the roses? If your beds are fairly full, ground cover in front of your roses can add fullness and interest without decreasing air circulation. There are creeping varieties of Sedium that would make an excellent ground cover. Many herbs also make wonderful companion plants to your roses. Why not consider a creeping Thyme or creeping Rosemary? Lambs Ear is easy to care for and can add a different texture to your flowerbed.
Vines are another area where you can add to an already full rose bed. Clematis is a classic for a rose companion plant. This could be beautiful climbing up a fence, deck or arbor behind your rose. Yellow Carolina Jessamine is another excellent vine choice. If you can obtain seeds, the annual Hyacinth Bean vine can be a beautiful purple accent behind a yellow or red rose.
If you need additional fullness around your roses themselves, there are many options. Salvia is disease resistant and an excellent companion rose plant. Salvia grows from 18 inches to 5 feet so a variety is out there thatís just right for your flower bed. Black Eyed Susan and Coneflower can also be attractive disease resistant choices. Choosing plants that attract butterflies and birds can lower your aphid and beetle populations as well. If you do choose to spray your roses make sure you keep any spray off your new insect and bird attracting perennials.
If your bed lacks structure and you have a lot of empty space, consider some small to medium sized shrubs. Ensure they arenít going to shade your roses once theyíre fully grown, so you donít have to move the plants later. English Boxwood stays small, selecting ones that stay around two or three feet can add formal interest without crowding your garden. A choice that attracts butterflies would be Lantana. Lantana comes in many sizes and in a variety of colors as well. Lantana can be trimmed, but generally they give a free and natural look to the rose garden. Dwarf Yaupon Hollies are also attractive. They offer a finer textured leaf patterned than most hollies, which can work well with roses.
Supplementing your rose garden with companion plants offers endless opportunities for garden design. You can make your rose garden have an English garden feel or a modern edgy look just by adding different companion plants. Your rose garden will not only be a healthier place, it will be more eye catching as well.