Rose Cuttings – October, 2010

Left: ‘Bayse’s Blueberry’ is one of those great roses with “skinny legs.” Right: A luxurious border of annuals conceals the long legs of companion roses. Photos courtesy of Mike Shoup.

Skinny Legs

One of the most compelling qualities about the old garden roses that we grow [at the Antique Rose Emporium] is the unusual array of different shapes and forms of the individual plants. Many ramble, some are chunky shrubs, many are tall and large, and a few are miniatures. The significance of this is that they become tools for the garden artist — like paint strokes in a palette of many colors and textures. These plants beg to be used in the landscape, embellishing the architecture of a fence, adorning a trellis or arbor, or just being the backbone of a perennial border. Whatever the situation, a rose can fill the bill, never again to be confined, like so many hybrid teas, to the prison of the rectangular flowerbed.

A small group of roses have the characteristic of being very narrow and upright. I call these the “skinny leg roses” because their shape is best described as a bare-legged statue with a floral hat. The obvious challenge in using these roses is finding a way to display the beautiful flowers that are held atop the plants while concealing their bare canes below. The perfect answer is to blend annuals and perennials at their feet.

Unlike more common “fat” shrubs, like ‘Old Blush’, ‘Perle d’Or’ and “Caldwell Pink”, these roses, like  ‘F J Lindheimer’, ‘Marchessa Boccella’, ‘Paul Neyron’, ‘Basye’s Blueberry’ and ‘Basye’s Purple’, require underplantings to hide their exposed canes. In our gardens, we utilize dianthus, salvias, penstemons, verbenas, and herbs like parsley, oregano and thyme.

Regardless of a particular rose’s habit, harness it for best effect in your garden, and you will find yourself with an endless array of beauty and form.

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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