Suppose a Rose – Roses Ideal for Aurora, Newmarket and Oak Ridges

“By any other name would still smell as sweet”
by Becky Dumais & Charlotte Ottaway

Is there a flower that’s been romanticized and revered as much as the rose? Not likely; this particular bloom has been the subject of many stories and poems and is a staple of many avid gardeners. Of course, like any of life’s most appreciated pleasantries, growing a rose garden takes some work.

Ontario gardeners face three key challenges when producing the beautiful blooms at home: black spot, winter damage, and nasty pests. According to Gloria Broks, Canadian Rose Judge, member of the Canadian Rose Society, Greater Toronto Rose Society, and District 5 Ontario Horticultural Association board of directors, the government ban on pesticides and fungicides has forced many rose growers in Ontario out of business. Roses such as the popular Hybrid Tea – known as the backbone to rose gardens since it was introduced to the market in 1867—are especially susceptible to black spot and other diseases. And yet there’s nothing more frustrating to Hybrid Tea growers than the Japanese beetle, a garden bully known for devouring the flower whole.

Still, Broks continues to grow Hybrid Tees, also known as the “queen of roses”, in her own garden, which is home to 45 different types of roses (some of which have won Best in Show at the Canadian National Exhibition). Every morning, Broks will walk around her garden, knocking the brilliant green beetles into a bowl of soapy water.

York Roses

Fortunately, not all roses require such high-maintenance. There are thousands of varieties of roses but they can be divided into three main categories: species, old garden and modern shrub. While the modern shrub roses don’t have quite the same quality as the Hybrid Teas, they’re winter hardy, they’re not as susceptible to disease, and they repeat bloom year after year. 

Other hardy roses include the Explorer series, with roses named after the likes of “Henry Hudson”, “John Cabot” and many others, as well as Kordes Floribunda “Out of Rosenhelm” and “Poseidon”, Polyantha Rose “The Fairy”, and of course, the new “Canadian Shield” shrub rose that marks Canada’s 150th anniversary. Part of the rose stock transferred from Morden, Manitoba to the Vineland Research Station in 2011, the “Canadian Shield” rose was developed to be disease resistant and it doesn’t need winter protection. Plus, it’s a repeat bloomer of reds with glossy green foliage, so it’s meant to stay stunning throughout garden season.

York Roses

If you’re just in the planning stages, the most important aspect of creating a rose garden is preparation and research. Ask yourself how much time you want to invest in care and maintenance, and consider what colour and type of roses you want to grow. Be sure to also find out how big the plant will grow and where the root stalk came from, whether Canada or the deep south. 


“Roses need a minimum of six hours of sunlight, and lots of water,” says Broks, “at least a couple of litres once a week.” She advises choosing an area where they have room to spread out, with good drainage and high quality soil – preferably amended with triple mix and compost. You should also dig a large enough hole to accommodate the root system. Grafted roses should be at least two inches below the soil level to prevent winterkill.

In order to avoid your rose garden becoming a real thorn in your side, you can become more informed by visiting local society and horticultural group shows. Experts will be on hand to educate and enlighten you about their passion for roses. And with enough research and preparation, perhaps your garden will come to host award-winning roses one day, too.

Local Links

Aurora Garden & Horticulture Society

Ontario Horticulture Association

Canadian Rose Society

York Roses

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