Located in beautiful New England, Vermont’s topography is varied, with the Green Mountains covering much of central Vermont along with plains, lakes, and rivers in other regions. Vermont’s highest elevation is the peak of Mt. Mansfield at 4,393 feet, while the lowest elevation is 95 feet above sea level at Lake Champlain. That topography contributes significantly to the state’s climate.
Vermont features warm, humid summers followed by very cold, snowy winters. Typically, Vermont receives more snow than any other U.S. state each year.
Given the state’s small size (it is the sixth smallest state in the United States), Vermont features a wider range of plant hardiness zones than one might expect. Three zones can be found in the state, ranging from Zones 3-5. But, while that is the official range within the state’s borders, the vast majority of Vermonters live in Zones 4a-5a. There is a small pocket of Zone 3b in the northeast, including the town of Essex, while Zone 5b is limited to small areas in extreme southeast and southwest Vermont. The rest of the state lies within a more limited range of Zones 4a-5a.
Get to Know The Rose
Knowing the hardiness zone is important knowledge for gardeners, as it determines some best practices for growing healthy, vibrant plant displays each year. And for rose gardeners, an understanding of these zones is even more critical. Well over half of Vermont’s land area is in zones below what is typically recommended for roses (as you will see in the table below). But there have been some expert rosarians who made it their mission to change the rules. Through hybridization, they have created some hardy roses that can thrive in even the coldest zones of Vermont.
|Botanical Name||Rosa spp.|
|Hardiness Zones||Zones 5-8|
|Bloom Seasons||Spring, Summer, Fall|
Now let’s get to know some of the best rose hybrids for Vermont gardens. All are shrub roses, as they are far and away the best choice for colder growing zones.
Prairie Joy Rose (Rosa ‘Prairie Joy’)
This hybrid was developed in Canada specifically for the cold conditions experienced by Canadian gardeners. That makes this rose an ideal choice for gardens even in the coldest parts of the Green Mountain State.
Not only are Prairie Joy roses cold-hardy, but they are extraordinarily resistant to common rose diseases like black spot disease and powdery mildew.
Double pinkish-shell colored flowers bloom in clusters beginning in early summer. The blooms remain showy and strong throughout the growing season. This shrub rose grows to four feet tall and five feet wide at maturity. Another bonus is that the flowers and foliage reach to the ground, filling out the entire plant in a gorgeous display from top to bottom.
The Prairie Joy shrub rose has some pretty wicked thorns, though, so give careful thought to placement. Planting this rose in a highly-traveled area is probably not best, as the thorns can easily snag people and pets who venture too close.
Hansa Rose (Rosa ‘Hansa’)
This hybrid rugosa is super cold-hardy. Most experts recommend this rose for Zone 3 and up, although some claim it is cold-hardy down to Zone 2. Either way, every gardener in the state of Vermont lives in a zone where Hansa roses can thrive.
This shrub rose will grow to around six feet tall with an equal spread at maturity. It features flouncy, fragrant double blooms that are deep cerise pink. The dark green foliage is disease-resistant and will turn to a lovely orange in the fall. Also in the fall, the plant will feature large red rose hips that are favorites of birds and butterflies. And, while the plant attracts birds and pollinators, it is deer-resistant.
Rugosa roses are among the toughest you will find anywhere. Not only are they exceptionally cold-hardy, but they are also drought and even salt-tolerant. If your garden receives salt spray from the road during the winter, this plant can take it!
William Baffin Rose (Rosa ‘William Baffin’)
Another Canadian-born hybrid, the William Baffin rose is hardy to Zone 3. It is currently a lesser-known rose variety, but its hardiness and beauty are sure to increase the popularity of this kordesii hybrid.
The William Baffin is a climbing or pillar rose that typically reaches heights of 8-10 feet at maturity. Climbing roses require a trellis, fence, or some other support to reach their full height potential. This rose is the only recurrent climber that is commercially available to gardeners in Zones 3 and 4. If you want a climbing rose in your Vermont garden, this is the one!
If climbing support is not available, the William Baffin rose can also be grown as a 5-8 foot tall free-standing shrub.
This plant features glossy, dark green foliage and clusters of fragrant, semi-double, deep pink flowers that measure up to 2.5 inches across. The blooms are prominent from late spring until the first frost of fall.
Woods’ Rose (Rosa woodsii)
This rose has several common and interchangeable names, including Woods’ rose, Wood’s wild rose, western wild rose, mountain rose, pear-hip rose, and interior rose. Whatever name you prefer, this rose is cold-hardy to Zone 3 and can excel in Vermont flowerbeds and gardens.
This deciduous shrub rose can grow to a height and width of six feet at maturity. The plant features summer flowers that measure 2-2.5 inches across. The blooms range from pale to deep rose pink with five broad, rounded petals. The pink petals are offset with bright yellow centers.
The summer blooms are replaced by fleshy red-purple (sometimes nearly black ) rose hips. The hips usually persist throughout the winter months. Birds and mammals are drawn to the hips as a valuable winter food source.
The Lark Ascending Rose (Rosa ‘The Lark Ascending’)
This David Austin hybrid rose may not fare as well in Vermont’s coldest Zone 3b, but it is hardy to Zone 4, meaning the majority of gardeners in the Green Mountain State can grow it with great success.
This plant features semi-double flowers with a lovely apricot hue. The open cup-shaped blossoms are loosely packed with around 20 petals. The flowers boast a light tea-rose or myrrh fragrance. They make delightful additions to cut flower arrangements.
Introduced in 2012, this English shrub rose can grow a little over 5 feet tall with an equal spread at maturity. It is resistant to most diseases common to roses.
The plant is named after the beloved piece of classical music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The soft apricot hues of this rose seem to fit perfectly with the floating violin raptures in the iconic English musical piece.
Susan Williams-Ellis Rose (Rosa ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’)
It can be difficult to find a cold-hardy white rose, but we’ve got one for you! The Susan Williams-Ellis rose features stunning white flowers and is cold-hardy to Zone 4.
The pure white blooms open from pink buds early in the growing season. The flowers often appear 2-3 weeks earlier than other rose varieties, making for quite a lengthy flowering season. The rosette blooms are made up of 130+ petals and feature a strong fragrance that is quite reminiscent of classic Old World Roses.
The plant is highly-resistant (almost immune) to common rose diseases. It remains a bit more compact than some of the other shrub roses we’ve explored, maxing out at four feet tall with a three-foot spread at maturity.
Conventional wisdom may say that Vermont is not suited to grow roses, but these hybrid roses are turning conventional wisdom on its head. Now that you have an idea of some rose varieties that might be right for you, let’s talk about some best practices to help those roses thrive.
When To Plant
In Vermont, shrub roses need to be planted in early spring. When the ground thaws enough to be workable, that’s rose-planting time for the Green Mountain State. It’s best to plant the roses while they are still dormant so a late-spring frost won’t hinder that season’s growth.
Where to plant
Choose a sun-splashed planting spot for your roses. At least six hours of sunlight per day is needed for roses to thrive. Also, make sure the spot drains well. Roses require a lot of moisture, but standing water can invite disease and root rot.
For best results, prepare the soil in the fall or early in the spring (at least a month prior to planting) with organic material such as peat moss, leaf mold, compost, or dehydrated manure.
At planting, prepare the site by working up a two-foot area of soil, mixing in additional organic matter. Dig a hole that can accommodate the root ball, and add bone meal to provide slow-release nutrients. Spread the roots out and place the plant in the ground, tamping down the soil and watering afterward.
While roses don’t thrive in waterlogged areas, they do need consistent moisture. The rule of thumb is to water roses every 2-3 days, adjusting as needed for current weather conditions. Provide enough water to saturate the soil up to 16 inches deep. Continue watering through the entire growing season.
Feeding the plants once or twice a month with organic rose fertilizer will also encourage peak growth and bloom production.
Not only are roses non-toxic, but they are also actually edible. All parts of the rose plant, including leaves, buds, petals, and hips, have varied culinary uses.
One essential word of caution, though: if you plan to consume any part of the plant, never use chemicals such as synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Use only organic treatments. Otherwise, the plants can no longer be considered non-toxic.
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