How to Grow Roses in the Pacific Northwest

Author and distinguished green thumb Nita-Jo Rountree gives us tips for rose gardening in Seattle.
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Nita-Jo Rountree believes we are all born loving roses. How else to explain their popularity for more than 5,000 years? Unfortunately, growing a healthy rose in the Pacific Northwest is no easy feat, says Rountree, a local gardening expert who formerly owned a landscape design company, and is involved with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society and Northwest Horticultural Society.

In her recently published book, Growing Roses in the Pacific Northwest (Sasquatch Books, $19.95), Rountree offers tips for growing this flower in the Northwest.

What are the unique challenges of growing roses in the Pacific Northwest?  

Our damp, drizzly, cloudy, rainy climate—the perfect conditions for some rose diseases like black spot and powdery mildew.

What is the first thing to consider when attempting to grow roses? 

Location, location, location! Roses need full sun—at least eight hours a day.   

What are some common mistakes you’ve observed gardeners making?

It’s easy to think that any plant—not just roses—has had plenty of water when we have day after day of drizzle. That type of precipitation doesn’t penetrate the ground to get to the roots, however, so watering is still necessary.

What’s one of your favorite varieties?

The Olivia Rose Austin, introduced last year from David Austin’s “disease free” line. The exceptionally fragrant, rosette-shaped, pure-pink flowers bloom almost nonstop all summer. 

What’s a surprising aspect of growing roses? 

Roses give you an excuse to go into the garden every day so that you can experience every phase of their beauty, from the first tiny leaves emerging from swelled buds to the promise of the flower buds that will open to exquisitely beautiful flowers, to breathing the perfume-like fragrances that fill the air.

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