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Roses with Syl

Martha Stewart Living Television

One of the world's oldest flowers, the rose is also one of Martha's favorite blooms. Its popularity has resulted in extensive hybridization -- making classification complex and ever changing. Today, expert Syl Arena helps explain some of the different types of roses and how to care for them.

According to Syl, there are three basic classes of roses: shrubs, ramblers, and climbers. The first category, shrub roses, is a large class and includes both old roses, such as species and hybrid musk roses, and modern ones. Generally, shrub roses have a graceful habit and bear single to double flowers close to their foliage. Large and vigorous, they tend to have prickly stems and are ideal for planting in borders, beds, and mixed garden landscapes.

Rambling roses are a diverse group but maintain a few basic traits throughout the class. They are characterized by very large clusters of small flowers that bloom once around midsummer, and they have flexible canes that can be easily trained over arches, pillars, and pergolas.

The last category comprises climbing roses, which are actually a vigorous version of shrub roses. They are usually covered with glossy, dark green foliage and bear clusters of three to seven large flowers held above the branches. Many climbers flower repeatedly.

To keep your roses healthy, Syl recommends planting them in a sunny spot with good air circulation and fertile, well-drained soil. Feed them regularly, and water them once a week, early in the day. A two-inch layer of manure, compost, or leaf mulch applied to the roses' roots will supply them with nutrients for a long period of time; it will also hold in moisture, prevent weeds from taking root, and keep roots cool. Always be sure to prune with sharp tools for clean cuts that heal quickly. For beginning gardeners, a good rose to start with is the 'Casino' cultivar, a climbing rose with yellow flowers that is hardy to Zone 5.