Rose varieties understood to be cold hardy were field tested -- some even with bud grafts exposed -- for three years at the University of Vermont, with surprising results. Certain modern roses developed to survive severe, extensive periods of cold barely lasted a few Vermont winters. Yet certain "old garden roses," those widely grown before modern rose breeding began in 1867, proved quite hardy and vigorous, able to survive almost anything. Increase the survival odds of marginally hardy rose cultivars by providing winter protection, and by growing them in warmer microclimates such as in front of a south-facing wall.
Of the modern rose cultivars tested at the University of Vermont, those in the Canada-developed Explorer Series performed well most consistently. Top-rated rugosa-type Explorer roses, which usually have thorny stems, included pink Charles Albanel; deep-pink, double-flowered and intensely fragrant David Thompson; and clove-scented, white-flowered Henry Hudson. Another rugosa Explorer that performed well was Jens Munk. Of the series' climbing roses, fragrant, 10-foot-tall William Baffin was a standout in the Vermont trials. Other climbers that performed well included fragrant, red-toned, double-flowered Alex MacKenzie; vigorous, orchid-red John Cabot; spice-scented, pink John Davis, which also features red canes; and pillar-type, fuchsia-pink Captain Samuel Holland. Among the Explorer cultivars, only Champlain died, though Adelaide Hoodless and J.P. Connell didn't thrive.
Rugosa & Shrub Roses
The University of Vermont field trials identified a number of hardy roses among species roses and "old garden roses." Top-performing rugosas -- very rugged, surviving even salt spray from winter roads -- included lilac-pink Delicata, red Gootendorst Supreme, red-purple Hansa, white Mont Blanc, pink Monte Casino and Monte Rosa, white Schneekoope and Sir Thomas Lipton, and pink Therese Bugnet. Many shrub roses that were tested died, but three that not only survived but thrived were yellow-flowered Canary Bird, pink-to-red Magnifica and the pink ground-cover rose Seven Sisters.
Other Old Roses
Of other "old" roses tested by the University of Vermont, the best species of roses were pink-flowered Rosa acicularis, also known as wild prickly rose, and yellow-flowered R. zanthina and R. primula. Five R. alba proved hardy, including white-flowered R. alba maxima, pale-pink Felicite Parmentier, pink Koenigen von Daenemark and Maiden's Blush, and white Pompon Blanc Parfait. The hardiest gallica roses among those tested were purple-red Conditorum, pink and red Rosa Mundi, and dark-red Tuscany. White Madame Hardy and white and red York and Lancaster proved to be the hardiest damask roses.
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