The first thing to look for is the plant’s grade.
Nearly all bare root roses sold today are grown in the field and are approximately two years old. They are sold in three main grades.
Grade 1 is the best and most expensive grade. In order to obtain this grade the plants are required to have at least three strong cains, two of which must be at least 18 inches in length for hybrid teas anf grandifloras. The canes should be at least 1/8 inch in diameter.
Grade 1 1/2 is the most popular grade due to it’s lesser price. In order to obtain this grade the plants are required to have at least two strong canes which must be at least 15 inches long for hybrid teas and grandifloras. The canes should be at least 1/8 inch in diameter.
Grade 2 is the least expensive grade. These plants are only required to have two canes 12 inches or longer. These plants can be a gamble as they may be stunted.
Note: Measurements are for plants when dug from the fields. Sometimes the plant sellers will shorten the length of the canes for easier handling. The number of canes remain the same and usually the thicker the diameter the better the plant.
There are three main sources for buying roses.
Nurseries are normally more expensive but are usually the best places to buy your plants. Plants are normally kept in sawdust thereby allowing you to inspect the roots. Plants with badly damaged roots are less likely to do well and may not make it at all. Additionally, a nursery usually carries a large variety of new and old standards. Finally, a good nurseryperson can provide advice as to which plants do best in your area and climate.
Mail order suppliers are normally less expensive and usually have a greater variety of plants than your local nursery, however you can not inspect the plants before buying and they sometimes arrive damaged. Furthermore, although most mail order suppliers are reputable a few are disreputable and ship very poor quality plants. Additionally, it is hard and can be expensive to return plants that you are unhappy with.
Supermarkets are inexpensive but usually carry a limited variety of plants. Additionally the plants usually come with their roots wrapped in plastic, therefore you are unable to inspect the roots for damage. Plants can be treated roughly in supermarkets, not only by the people that stock them, but also by customers. Therefore, there is a much greater potential for damage.
Should you buy newly developed varieties or the old standards?
Which variety of plant you purchase depends on your taste and what is available for your climate.
There are hundreds of varieties of roses, however I prefer the older time proven standards. They may not come in as many color variations but they are reliable, still come in a large variety of colors and are usually more heavily scented (I like to smell the roses). My two favorites are both red. The Chrysler Imperial is a full well shaped velvety dark crimson red flower with a rich delightful fragrance which grows on a heavily flowering medium height bush. Mister Lincoln has long buds with full open dark rich red fragrant flowers with long stems and grows on a tall bush with dark glossy leaves.
Roses, if properly cared for, can last years. Therefore, in order to obtain the most enjoyment from your plants it is a good idea to do your research. Spend some time looking at types, colors, shapes and sizes. Check catalogues, the internet, check out friend’s gardens and if possible go to an arboretum or nursery. Look at and smell the roses before buying.