You, too, can join Rosaria, and it needn't cost a royal ransom

Want to have a rose garden in time for the city's Rose Festival in June?

Let us me, three experts and two friends show you how easy it is to start one.

Dave Thornton, the outdoor live-goods buyer for Fred Meyer Inc., suggests creating a rose garden by fragrance rather than trying to focus on particular colors. Or you might select miniature, shrub or tree roses.

Portland Nursery salesman Mike Wallace recommends getting rose selection ideas from the Portland Rose Society Web site ( or visiting the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden next month and making a list of the ones you like.

When starting a garden, you can plant bare-root roses or container plants. Bare-root roses can be planted any time between January and April. Container roses can be planted throughout the summer, says Portland Nursery specialist Greg Hulbert.

Since we wanted to keep the price down as much as possible, we chose bare-roots and planted in early spring. If you plant container roses, figure that plants will cost you between $10 and $20 apiece.

To keep costs down, we went with old-fashioned, inexpensive favorites ranging from the deep red 'Oklahoma' to the yellowish-pink 'Tiffany,' both hybrid tea roses.

Here's how we rose to the challenge, with a little help from the experts.

First we scanned the Sunday circulars for bargain-priced roses: $2.95 to $4.

Roses are graded 1, 1 1/2 and 2. A grade 1 rose typically has four to five healthy canes on the rosebush. A grade 1 1/2 might have three to four smaller canes. Grade 2 often has just two canes.

The week we looked, Fred Meyer offered the best deal, grade1 1/2 roses for $3.39. We bought seven bushes for a total of $23.73.

When choosing a rosebush, look at the number of stems and the diameter of the stems, Thornton says. You don't want tiny stems; the best stems are as fat as a big Crayola marker.

Next, look at the general vigor. You want bushes with leaf buds that are ready to bust out but not plants that are extremely leafy, Thornton says. The rose plants are dipped in wax to preserve moisture, so you want to make sure the wax over emerging leaf buds is not too thick.

The grade 1 1/2 roses that we bought each had three to four canes, or stems. Herein lies the difference between bushes that cost $16 and those that cost $3.39. Both are healthy and vigorous, and the size of the plants will equal out in about year and a half. However, the bargain roses, though slightly smaller, produce a beautiful show of flowers in the first summer, experts say.

A place to grow

For our rose garden, we used a plot of land that had been cultivated by a 4-H member. The property owner, Dorina Olivares of Beaverton, offered the land for our use because she wanted a rose garden but didn't know where to begin.

'My scary thing is it won't grow or I won't know what to do or when to water them,' she says. 'There's so much to know.'

Before getting a shovel and digging holes, you need to map out where to place certain colors and position them.

We situated our 6-foot-by-8-foot garden around a border of pre-existing rows of daffodils, a central pathway and a plastic birdbath we found at a garage sale for $2.

Location is important, Thornton says. You want to make sure the roses are in full sun, in well-drained soil and away from a fence.

Use scissors and pliers to undo the plastic package around the root of the rose. Shake off the sawdust, and spread the roots apart.

On the top left side of the garden, we dug three holes, equally spaced, twice as deep as the roots and twice as wide. Portland Nursery's Wallace advises 3 feet between each rose.

Planning a planting

After digging the holes, we made a 3-inch cone of soil in each to set the rose on and spread out the roots. Then we filled in the soil.

Our first planting was 'Oklahoma,' followed by 'Chicago Peace' and 'Charlotte Armstrong.' Two feet in front of them, we put 'Gold Glow' on the left and 'Confidence' on the right. To the right of the path, we planted 'Tiffany' and the white 'JFK' rose.

Once a rose is planted, wait until it grows 4 to 6 inches taller before treating it with fertilizer, manure or rose food, Thornton says.

Be sure to create an access path. In our rose garden, we dug out soil 1 1/2 feet wide by 6 feet long. Then we placed small pieces of landscape fabric (about $2 worth) on the path to prevent weed growth.

On top of that we layered a half bag of gravel ($10).

Come summer, if one of the roses doesn't thrive, Wallace says, don't worry. About 75 percent of rosebushes survive the first year of planting.

Try a new rose variety next year.

Contact Kristina Brenneman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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