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Mail Ordering Roses

Rose Colthilde SoupertWhile I could never be accused of being a techno-geek, one characteristic of the modern age that I do appreciate is being able to purchase plants through mail-order catalogs and over the Internet that I might not be able to find locally.

Now, catalog ordering is nothing new, we've been doing it since the first mailbox was nailed to a post, but advances in shipping have made it possible to order a wider variety of plants with faster delivery times.

I'm not the only one who appreciates having plants delivered to my doorstep. According to the Mail-order Garden Association, Americans will spend $3.07 billion on mail-order plants, bulbs, seeds, garden tools and garden supplies in 2005. The popularity of mail-ordering is due in part to convenience and selection of unusual plants that have not yet made it to local markets.

Buying mail-order roses is certainly a good example of this. I am an old hand at ordering roses through the mail because I've placed hundreds of orders for retail sale when I was in the nursery business. In the process I learned a few tips from my favorite suppliers about what to look for when making selections.

Know Your Growing Conditions
Roses can be grown in a variety of conditions, but for the best results know your hardiness zone before you place your order, the amount of sun your garden receives (most roses require 6 hours of sunlight per day), the amount of space available for the rose to grow and how much time you will have to care for the plant. For instance, 'Alchymist' is cold tolerant to zone 4, making it great for Northern gardens, but it matures into a 10' – 12' shrub so it wouldn't be such a good choice for someone with limited space. Or 'Old Blush' is an excellent selection for those who would like a carefree rose because it doesn't require a lot of maintenance time.

Bare Root versus Container
Roses are sold either bare root or in containers. Bare root plants are dug while dormant and shipped without soil, while containerized roses arrive potted up. Bare root roses are less expensive than containerized roses, but are only available in winter and early spring. Some would argue that container roses are easier to get established than bare root, but I have not found this to be the case unless the roses are container grown. This means that they have been grown in a container rather than dug from the field and planted in a container for shipping.

Grafted versus Own Root Stock
Rose Bud UnionSome roses are grafted while others are grown on their own root stock. A grafted rose is created by attaching a bud of the desired variety onto to a more vigorous root stock. The graft is easily identified by a swollen area on the plant called the bud union. I have tree roses growing in my garden that are grafted and I once had a 'White Dawn' that started blooming red because the root stock proved to be stronger than the 'White Dawn' bud. Roses grown on their own root stock are more freeze tolerant than grafted roses. Most hybrid teas are grafted, but look for old-fashioned roses that are grown on their own roots.

Ship Dates and Planting Times
If you have your heart set on a particular rose, get your order in early because most mail-order nurseries have a set inventory. However, early ordering may not coincide with the best time to plant roses in your area, so companies will hold your order and ship it when the time is right. For my zone 7 garden and further south, February is an excellent time to plant roses so I can expect my order to arrive that month. Gardeners in zone 6 are most likely to receive their roses in March and in zones 5 and 4 roses will be shipped in April or May.

Guarantees
Most mail-order plant sources offer exceptional guarantees on their products. Be sure to check these out before you place an order.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask
A good mail-order company will be staffed with people who can help you make a selection that is best for you. So, even if you are using the Internet it is a wise idea to call if you are unsure what roses to select or if you have any questions. After all, any rosarian worth their salt knows that if a gardener is successful growing one rose they will be back for at least 20 more, so it is worth their time it to make your experience a good one.

Mail-order Source:
Antique Rose Emporium