In keeping with my criteria for plants (hardy to zone 4/5, drought tolerant and natives) I began looking for species or wild roses that produced lots of hips for the birds…. These were not easy to come by and you’ll never find them at your local nursery. But there are many and both the flowers, bushes and hips are very diverse in size and color Hips not only provide food for the birds, they add interest and color to the garden in the fall… Then I started planting Scotch roses, tough rugosa roses and a rose called Harison, a yellow, thicket rose that you see surviving on farmsteads after the farm is gone..But I also was blessed with this wonderful hardy climbing rose that came from my grandfather’s homestead in the mountains of northern Idaho…I had no idea of it’s name and it wasn’t available commercially. So I covered my tiny chicken house with plastic and began propagating and selling my grandfather’s rose on a very small scale by mail order. Then I discovered another category of roses…Albas, the smallest and oldest class of heirloom roses with documentation going back to the 1400s… Drought tolerant, they grow into large shrubs and thrive on a dormant period during the winter…perfect for my garden. Unfortunately they were very difficult to find. I searched sources in Canada and for cuttings from private gardens until I had about 25…. The largest single collection of Albas in this country were in my garden… Doesn’t that sound silly that 25 roses in one class could be considered a large collection? But it became very important later.
I knew I was pushing the limit on hardiness but I began adding other heirloom roses such as gallicas, centifolias, and damasks because I could propagate and sell them… At that time there were NO sources in this country for heirloom roses propagated on their own roots and interest in old-fashioned roses was just beginning to swell. Again my “garden good witch” had me in the right spot at the right point in time… After a few years the garden was looking like this:
All the while I was building trellises, arbors, etc. in addition to more mulching as I still had a limited supply of water. This sequence of one rose bower speaks for itself….
Then people began to show up to buy roses and see the garden for birds and a bigger decision had to be made.
And remember this area looked like this when I started......