Drew and I were caught in Florida due to Winter Storm "Juno"... So... let's talk climate and "regionality": a new word in roses?

It depends…

Regionality and Climate –

key factors in determining rose

success for the home gardener


As Drew and I were visiting some friends in Delray Beach and watching the palm trees sway in the 70 degree sunny days, we were also watching the weather forecasts of the upcoming winter storm 'Juno' headed for the northeast!  needless to say, florida winters are a little different than those in Maine!

“Regionality” – a new word!  “Regionality” by (Peter’s) definition:  1.  Of a particular region; 2.  Characteristic of people of a region; 3.  Owned or controlled by regional government. 

Regionality and Climate are key factors in determining the success of roses for the home gardener.  This seems like a simple statement, but I think it is worth talking about here... particularly during our winter months when the "regionality" of things is a little more obvious.

Are roses regional or national?

Did you know that the rose is our national flower? 

“National” by book definition:  1.  Of nation; 2.  Characteristic of people of nation; 3.  Owned or controlled by central government. 

In the Presidential Document 5574, dated November 20th 1986, the great horticulturist/gardener/rosarian Ronald Reagan (insert laughter here), pronounced the Rose as our National Floral Emblem.   

Personally, I want to thank you President Reagan for this floral declaration.

I really love this document, even having it framed in my office.  (Can you say “rose geek?”)  But, I find it more of an emotional proclamation more than anything else.   

The document reads:

Proclamation 5574 -- Designation of the Rose as the National Floral Emblem of the United States of America 

November 20, 1986

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Americans have always loved the flowers with which God decorates our land. More often than any other flower, we hold the rose dear as the symbol of life and love and devotion, of beauty and eternity. For the love of man and woman, for the love of mankind and God, for the love of country, Americans who would speak the language of the heart do so with a rose.

We see proofs of this everywhere. The study of fossils reveals that the rose has existed in America for age upon age. We have always cultivated roses in our gardens. Our first President, George Washington, bred roses, and a variety he named after his mother is still grown today. The White House itself boasts a beautiful Rose Garden. We grow roses in all our fifty States. We find roses throughout our art, music, and literature. We decorate our celebrations and parades with roses. Most of all, we present roses to those we love, and we lavish them on our altars, our civil shrines, and the final resting places of our honored dead.

The American people have long held a special place in their hearts for roses. Let us continue to cherish them, to honor the love and devotion they represent, and to bestow them on all we love just as God has bestowed them on us.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 159, has designated the rose as the National Floral Emblem of the United States and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation declaring this fact.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the rose as the National Floral Emblem of the United States of America. 

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eleventh.

Ronald Reagan

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 11:02 a.m., November 21, 1986]


I love the statement “… We hold the rose dear as the symbol of life and love and devotion, or beauty and eternity.”   

However, this entire proclamation is one of emotion and symbolism, not necessarily practicality.

“National flower” is a broad statement.  Is the descriptive term “national” a little too big for roses?  Let me explain.

I would bet a lot of money that we could find people in every one of our 50 states that wants to grow roses.  Yet, it seems like an immediate challenge as the weather, temperature, and/or climate in each one of the 50 states can have fluctuations and extremes?

Are Vermont winters the same as Floridas?

We know that every state in our nation has different weather, temperatures, and/or climate.  We could look up The Weather Channel and find records (as long as there as been weather record keeping) to prove this.

This brings up a new word or phrase that I want to introduce a discussion about roses:  “regionality” or “the regionality of" roses.

Where do you live?  I ask this question because I think it is relevant to what roses you can grow with success and relevant to growing roses without chemicals.

To get to a point a little bit more here let me ask some questions…

Would you agree that pineapples probably grow better in Hawaii than Illinois? 

Taking this further…

Would you agree that Georgia peanuts and/or peaches would probably not grow the same or taste the same if they were grown in Arizona or Wyoming? 

Maine blueberries are famous because they are only grown in Maine?


What about…

New York apples

Washington cherries

Florida oranges

Kansas wheat

Idaho potatoes

Jersey tomatoes

Iowa corn

California nuts, olives and garlic

Kentucky Blue grass


Regionally, we have all heard of:

Southern Cotton

Great Plains Wheat

The Corn “belt”


Rice production in the United States is regional.  It is concentrated in four areas including the Arkansas Grand Prairie, the Mississippi Delta, the Gulf Coast, and the Sacramento Valley of California[1]

I want to open up a discussion about the regionality of things… and say that perhaps roses (although nationally/universally/globally loved,) are the same as the above mentioned crops in the regional sense.  They do not grow the same nationally, universally, nor globally.

If you look up climatic regions on the web, it is pretty clear that the United States is divided into 8 separate regions:


These regions are defined as:

Semiarid Steppe climate

Humid Subtropical climate

Marine West coast climate

Mediterranean climate

Humid Continental (warm summer) climate

Humid Continental (cool summer) climate

Highland (alpine) climate

Tropical Wet/Dry Season climate

Mid latitude Desert climate


From the web[2]:  (If you are into the details you can read it all, if not, just read the first couple of sentences in each and scroll on through):

The Climate of the United States varies due to its positioning of states in latitude, and range of geographic features. (Period!)  


West of the 100th meridian, much of the US is semi-arid to desert in the far southwestern US. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate is humid continental in the northern areas (locations above 40 north latitude), to humid temperate in the central and Atlantic coast regions, to humid subtropical in the Gulf and south Atlantic regions. The southern tip of Florida is tropical. Much of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Range are alpine. The climate along the coast of California is Mediterranean, while the upper West coast is areas in coastal Oregon and Washington are cool temperate oceanic. The state of Alaska—on the northwestern corner of the North American continent—is largely subarctic, with an oceanic climate in its southern edge and a polar climate in the north. The archipelago state of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is tropical.

Like most landmasses located in the middle and lower middle latitudes, the primary driver of weather in the contiguous United States is the seasonal change in the solar angle, the migration north/south of the subtropical highs, and the seasonal change in the position of the polar jet stream. In the northern hemisphere summer, the oceanic subtropical high pressure systems move north and much of the central and southern US see stable weather, and warm to hot temperatures. In the Northern Hemisphere winter, the subtropical highs retreat southward and the polar front jet stream moves further south into the United States - bringing much greater weather variation and much colder temperature. Areas in the extreme southern US (Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Desert Southwest, and southern California) however, often have more stable weather as the polar jet stream’s impact often does not reach that far south.

Mobile weather systems (cyclones/fronts/jets) are more active in the winter/colder months than in the summer/warmer months in the United States. In the winter months, storms come from the Pacific Ocean and enter the US through the Pacific Northwest, then move out across the Great Plains, then move eastward off the central and northern Atlantic seaboard. In the summer months, storms are much more localized (short duration thunderstorms are common in many areas east of the 100th meridian) and large scale storms are much less frequent and the duration is much shorter. In late summer and fall, tropical cyclones infrequently move toward the Gulf and south Atlantic states, bringing high winds, heavy rainfall, and tidal surges to the coastal plain.



The Southwest is a hot desert climate, cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Yuma, and Palm Springs have average highs over 100 °F (38 °C) during the summer months. In winter, daily temperatures in the southwest are much cooler with highs in the 60 °F (16 °C)’s and lows in the30 °F (−1 °C) and 40 °F (4 °C)s. Rainfall in the southwest is scanty all year, and many months average less than 0.7 inches (18 mm) of rain. The Southwest and the Great Basin are also affected by the monsoon from the Gulf of California from July–September, which brings localized thunderstorms to the region that can result in flash flooding, despite this, drought like conditions are frequent in the region, often lasting for periods of years or longer. Large Forest Fires across the Western United States (especially the southwest) occur annually.

The far southwest (California coast) has a mild Mediterranean climate. Like most Mediterranean climates, coastal California has a wet winter and dry summer. Early summers can often bring cooler and overcast weather (low stratus clouds) to coastal California; as such the warmest summer weather is delayed until August and September in many areas of the California coast. Upwelling of cold Pacific waters also contributes to the frequent chilly weather in coastal California, especially coastal areas in northern California. Daily high temperatures range from the mid and upper 70’s in the summer to the low to mid 60 °F (16 °C)’s in winter...with low temperatures from the 60 °F (16 °C)’s in summer to the 40 °F (4 °C)’s in winter.


The southeast has a warm to hot, humid, subtropical climate. Cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Charleston have average highs in the lower 90 °F (32 °C)s F, and combined with the moist tropical air, creates sultry summer weather conditions. In winter, daily temperatures in the southeast are much cooler with highs in the 50 °F (10 °C)’s and60 °F (16 °C)’s and lows in the 30 °F (−1 °C) and 40 °F (4 °C)’s. Rainfall is plentiful in the southeastern US, and summer is normally the wettest time, especially in areas along the Gulf and south Atlantic coast.

The far southeast (southern Florida) has a tropical climate, with all months having a mean temperature of higher than 65 °F (18 °C). Like most tropical climates, southern Florida has a wet summer and relatively dry and sunny winter. In cities like Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Naples, Palm Beach…etc. average daily highs range from the upper 70 °F (21 °C)’s in winter to the upper 80 °F (27 °C)’s and low 90 °F (32 °C)’s in summer. Overnight lows range from the 70 °F (21 °C)’s in summer to the upper 50 °F (10 °C)’s and low 60 °F (16 °C)’s in winter. The only area of the US mainland known to have never experience a freeze (32 °F (0 °C)) is the Florida Keys and some areas of coastal south Florida.

North-Central/Midwestern/New England

The Midwest, northern Plains, Great Lakes, and New England regions have a humid continental climate. Here there are four strong seasons with warm to hot summers, cold and snowy winters, and rain in all seasons. Temperatures can rise or drop rapidly; winds can be extreme; and the flow of dry or moist hot air from the subtropics clashing with incoming air from the subarctic can spawn powerful and life-threatening tornadic storms, particularly in the Spring and in the Midwest and Plains. In winter, snowstorms can bring heavy lake effect snows to the areas from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and New York, and noreasters can bring heavy snow/rain/and coastal flooding to the Boston/New England region. Temperatures can plunge to −20 °F (−29 °C) to −30 °F (−34 °C) in the winter at night in the far northern areas of the region. In summer, temperatures surpass 90 °F (32 °C)s on the hotter days and can reach 100 °F (38 °C) for a short time.

Southern Plains/Atlantic Coast (NYC to North Carolina)

The central plains and East Coast (NYC/Connecticut southward) has a temperate humid climate. Cities in this region like St. Louis, Cincinnati, and NYC, have long hot summers that are humid and moderately cold to cool winters with occasional snowfall. Rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year, though there is a reversal of wind between summer and winter along the East Coast. Most areas from NYC south to North Carolina have more rainfall in the six warmer months (May through October) when the winds are often from a southerly direction (onshore), than in the six cooler months (November through April), when winds are often from a northerly direction and offshore.

Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest has a temperate oceanic climate. The climate is wet and cool in fall, winter, and early spring, and cool and drier in the summer months. In winter rain, upwards of 100 inches (2,500 mm) annually in some areas, create an overcast and cool climate, but without severe cold like the northern and interior US. Cool summers along the immediate coastline are also common. The Great Basin and Columbia Plateau (the Intermontane Plateaus) are arid or semiarid regions, with annual precipitation averages less than 15 inches (380 mm) as a result of the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades.


Whew… the above is a lot to read and comprehend.  But even with all of this information, don’t we understand it?  Although the above seems technical and detailed, don’t we fundamentally comprehend all of this information?  We watch the news and the weather stations.  We have witnessed weather events all around our country.  We are informed of how weather is impacting any of the 50 states at any time… particularly when there is a serious weather threat.  We have “breaking weather” and “severe weather alerts” on the TV screens and mobile devices.  We know that Florida can be sunny for example, the same day that Wisconsin is getting snow!  Information is instantaneous these days.

As mentioned at the beginning, Drew and I were just in Delray Beach Florida... gorgeous, sunny days and days in the 70's.  Yet, we were forced (ha) to stay in Florida an extra day due to winter storm "juno" that dropped 20+ inches of snow where we live!

Here is the simple point:  This information provided by the web shows in detail how completely different the growing conditions are depending on where you live.

Is it possible that a collection of roses that grows really well in New York might not be the same collection of roses that grows well in Arizona?

I’d like to put forth the idea of “regionality” of roses.  I think that it is possible to trial and grow roses regionally and find which varieties do well within those particular climatic regions.  Then, this information can be given to growers/retailers within those climatic regions and sold locally. Every one wins.  The growers grow what they know they can sell to the retailers.  The retailers are stocking these plants because they know they can sell them to buyers.  Retailers have repetitive customers because the plants they are selling promote happy gardeners.  The customers are content because the plants they bought and planted in their yard are successful.

Here is a basic model of roses grown per region.  Each of the letters “a, b, c… etc.” represent winning roses for each of the 8 regions.  “Winning roses” are roses that have been planted and grown locally (within the 8 separate regions) and have proven themselves by being planted in the ground, the best roses for any particular year within that region.  In other words, they have been “trialed” by region. 

Oh… by the way, let’s make sure that the people who are trialing roses are not spraying chemicals on them to make them look good.  I ask that their protocol be one of zero tolerance for chemicals and sprays.  Let’s let the rose prove what is has naturally/genetically.  In my opinion, it is a false representation to declare a rose a “winner” when chemicals have been used in the trials to help keep it looking good.  No one wins here. 

Let’s take a simple look at trials per region:

Region 1:  a, b, c

Region 2:  d, e, f

Region 3:  g, h, i

Region 4:  j, k, l

Region 5:  m, n, o

Region 6:  p, q, r

Region 7:  s, t, u

Region 8:  v, w, x


Let’s say you have winning roses within each region.  Take the above example.  In region 1, roses a, b, and c have proven themselves to grow really well within that region.  In region 6:  roses p, q, and r do really well within that region.


It may even be possible to have some roses that do well across regions:


Region 1:  a, b, c

Region 2:  d, e, f

Region 3:  g, h, i

Region 4:  a, k, l

Region 5:  m, n, o

Region 6:  p, q, r

Region 7:  s, t, a

Region 8:  v, w, x


Take the above example:  you can see that in regions 1, 4, and 7, rose “a” has proven that it can grow well in 3 different climatic regions.


Maybe… just maybe… there is 1 (or 2) variety that will thrive in all regional climates of the U.S. 


Region 1:  a, b, c

Region 2:  d, a, f

Region 3:  g, h, a

Region 4:  a, k, l

Region 5:  m, a, o

Region 6:  a, q, r

Region 7:  s, t, a

Region 8:  v, a, x


In the above example:  rose “a” has proven to grow well in all regions.

Is expecting a rose to do well in all of the 8 regions of the United States a reasonable request?

To answer this question, let’s examine another illustration…  Let’s look at the Olympics for example.

Let’s say that an athlete goes to the Olympic games and wins a gold medal… or any color medal for arguments sake.  We would all agree that winning any medal is quite an accomplishment and obviously something we celebrate and recognize. 

Now, let’s say that an athlete goes to the Olympics and wins 8 gold medals!  These 8 gold medals are won in different events and/or races.  This scenario is arguably when a “legend” is born.  Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps have accomplished multiple medals in swimming… they are considered swimming legends in any sense of the word.

Going back to roses, if a rose gets planted, goes through trials in a region and gets awarded a medal for that region, that rose is in my opinion is something to be celebrated!  That rose should be grown, marketed, and sold within that region as a variety that should do well for the home gardeners of that region.  That rose has become a proven regional value and is a proven variety.  Let’s celebrate it, grow it, and plant it regionally.

It may very well be that a particular winning rose for one region is not a winning rose for another region.  But both regions could and should be growing the roses that do well for them respectively.   We can celebrate the diversity of roses that do well in different regions.  It would be interesting to go to a botanical garden in New York and get an understanding of what roses grow well in that area/region of hot humid summers.  Then, compare that list of roses with the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona for example with hot, arid summers.  Would the list be the same?  Should it be the same? 

If a rose trials well in multiple regions and wins awards across all 8 regional climates, in my opinion it is at that point that a legend “rose” is revealed.

Too often I have seen rose varieties being sold nationally or even globally.  The home gardener buying these roses in their local garden center makes the assumption that these are the roses for them!  My interpretation of this is that the selling/marketing of this rose in this way is saying that no matter what region you live, no matter what climate you live in, you will be able to grow this rose.  Maybe it is a true statement; but, my experiences of rose gardening and talking with people all over the country dictate that doesn’t work out to be the case. 

I have heard too many stories of people who have bought roses at the local garden center and the rose ends up failing in their own backyard.  What happens then?  The home gardener begins to believe that they can’t grow roses!  However, next spring comes and the garden centers are loaded up with beautifully blooming roses (that probably have been shipped in from somewhere else) and the home gardener once again takes their prize rose home, plants it, and again… by the end of the season it has gotten disease, or even dies.  Now even further the home gardener learns even more clearly that roses are “too hard or difficult” for them to grow.  The home gardener has had 2 years history of failure in this example.  They honestly begin to believe that they “cant grow roses!”  This pattern is unfortunate and one that I am advocating towards changing.

In preparing for this subject of regional roses in my book, out of curiosity I sent an email to about 50 people who grow roses across the United States and Europe and asked them simply:  “In your experience of growing roses, what is your list of top 10 roses that you have grown in your garden and would recommend to others as the toughest and most disease resistant?” 

In receiving replies to my question, to no surprise did one list look like another.  The point is that in this experiment alone, these 50 people in different regions of the world had 50 different experiences of the roses they thought were the best.  There were only a few roses that were duplicated on some lists, but zero roses made it on every list.  This told me in my very un-scientific method that there were no national rose legends… only regional ones.  And… I can possibly take this further and say that there only backyard ones.  Yet, with all of these lists, you can look at it like they are celebrations of what does well for that person in their particular region and backyard.

If you look at the garden center shelves, the big box store garden centers, etc. there is and has been a strong presence of the ‘Knock Out’ variety of roses.  ‘Knock Out’ is one of those roses I would consider a “rose legend.”  This one variety has literally gotten people to grow roses again – and across many regions.  I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me in the garden and say “they grow ‘Knock Out’ in their garden… and, with success.”  To them I say how excited I am for them!  What a great turn around from learning that they “can’t grow roses” or that “roses are too difficult!”  I am glad that they are growing roses again!  For this one reason, I am thankful to Will Radler for the ‘Knock Out’ rose!

And now… since home gardeners are gaining success and confidence in growing roses, with this book, I can hopefully steer them to some more roses that would be great ones to try as well.

Sometimes… well, maybe most times growing roses has been a trial and error process.  I get it.  With the multitude of choices in the garden center shelves and on the internet, it is difficult to know which ones to choose.  I also tell people that I have probably spent more money on pizza then on roses!  (my belly size can be proof of this!)  Pizza is relatively inexpesive, satisfying… and yet not very long lasting.  Roses are relatively inexpensive (about the price of some pizza’s out there) and can be very long lasting, bringing joy and satisfaction in the landscape for years to come.  If the industry can grow, retail, and sell roses that do well regionally, then a lot of this “trial and error” has already been done before they get to the garden center.  So try growing roses again!  You don’t have much to lose except the price of a pizza and you have everything to gain.

I also want to make a point of discussion with my book "Roses Without Chemicals".  These roses highlighted in this book are MY, Peter’s list of roses that I put out to anyone ever wanting to grow roses with the premise of disease resistance/not have to use fungicides.  This is a comprehensive list as of this date and time.  What is also exciting is the pipeline of roses of the future… those roses will have to be in my next book… “volumn 2!”  I have grown roses in many harsh climatic regions that have high humidity and are prime for fungal disease – especially the dreaded blackspot.  Downy Mildew has also been an issue.  At the same time of my trials with fungal issues, I have had rose growing friends in California that simply claim that they don’t have blackspot!  That statement makes me want to congratulate them on their growing conditions… feel happy for them that they have no fungal issues… and yet, throw tomatoes at them at the same time!  Yet, another example of the "regionality" of roses.

I would also say that a good source of knowing what grows well in your particular climatic region; i.e. state, city, or small town, is to look around and see what other people are growing successfully.  Ask your local rose society…  Give them a call and you will find plenty of people that will be glad to talk with you about what roses do well in their garden.  Go you a local park or Botanical Garden as see what they are growing with success.  With all of this information gathering, you should also ask everyone you talk to if they are “spraying their roses?”  I would suspect their success with spray will make a difference if you choose not to spray.

One of my favorite classes in horticulture school was Botany.  (can you say “plant geek”)  A factor of it being a favorite was because of the wonderful teacher.  I was so fascinated by the science of nature and the “how” and “why” and “the way” plants worked.  There were so many lessons to be learned and so many questions to be asked.  Everyone in the class would just riddle the teacher with questions. 

       “What is….?”

       He would reply “Well, it depends… on…such and such” 

       We would then ask… “Why is…?” 

       His reply would again be… “Well, it depends… on… such and such… and such and such.”

Another person would ask… “How does…? 

His reply would once again reaffirm… “the best way to answer any of these questions indeed depends… on such and such… and such and such.”

The answers to the questions we were asking (although it wasn’t exactly the answers we were wanting at the time) were brilliant.  I now have begun to understand completely the complexity of the simply stated answer of “it depends on…”

The answer to many questions in the landscape/botanical world is… It depends.  Some obvious variables include light, water, and temperature, etc.

The answer to a lot of success in rose growing is… It depends.

The point of this long rant is a simple one.  Although roses have been around for millions of years – which proves their inherent “toughness” in the landscape…

… the success of growing roses may depend on where you live – the regional climate of your own back yard.

… it depends on your choices of roses for your particular back yard where you live.

… it depends on the proven propensity towards chemical independence of the rose in the landscape for your region.

… it depends on the hybridization effort towards disease resistance within the particular choice of rose variety.


In summary… I would like to say “thank you.”  

Thank you Mr. President for creating your proclamation that declares the rose the National Floral Emblem!

Thank you to our Founding Fathers for the declaration that all men are created equal!  (I know this has nothing to do with roses buy why not thank them!?)

It’s good to learn however, that NOT ALL roses are created equal and with that…

… it depends.

[1] www.epa.gov/qgriculture/ag101/cropmajor.html

[2] Wikipedia.