Roses – for beauty and bees

Roses – for beauty and bees

For decades I’ve envied my sister’s ability to grow stunning roses. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where hot and dry aptly describe most months. A recent online search, however, revealed that well over a thousand varieties of roses grow well in Albuquerque. So I ask myself: Where’s the challenge in that?

Our climate, on the other hand, is so wet and cool that it virtually invites black spot and other rose diseases into the garden. We can’t plant just any rose and expect it to thrive. We have significant challenges to overcome if we want truly happy, healthy roses in our gardens.

So why bother?

We bother because roses, which have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, conjure so many associations, from the historic and traditional to the personal and nostalgic. As well, they are beautiful, often fragrant, and available in an array of shapes, sizes and colours.

Today more than 30,000 varieties of roses exist, so choosing wisely is important. Fortunately, the ongoing development of disease-resistant and easy-care varieties is expanding the menu of viable options for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest.

Roses, some more than others, also excel in attracting bees. Bees are particularly fond of varieties with single or semi-double flowers (four to 25 petals), which offer easy access to pollen-laden stamens. The more bees, of course, the better the pollination of everything in the garden. And the better the pollination, the bigger and healthier the plant or crop, whatever it may be.

Rosarian Dion Latavniks (The Rose Lady), is this month’s featured speaker at the Sooke Garden Club. She will talk about choosing the best roses for your garden (including those that attract bees), locating and fertilizing them, preventing/controlling rose diseases, and, most importantly, proper pruning.

A professional horticulturist for nearly 25 years, Latavniks served on the board of Friends of Government House in the mid-1990s, doing integrated pest management in the rose gardens and redesigning the sunken rose garden. She has belonged to many garden clubs, was an accredited rose judge, has written articles for various publications, and taught at Malaspina College and the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific.

She also grows roses. Her garden is currently home to around 80, down from nearly 200! Now retired, she concedes: “My favorite type of gardening now is lawn chair gardening, with a glass of wine in my hand and smelling the roses!”

Please join us on March 28, 7 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Church on Townsend Road. Also on the agenda: parlour show, plant sale, and sale of contest potatoes. New members are always welcome. Questions? Visit our website at or email us at


Loretta Fritz writes for the Sooke Garden Club.