How and where to buy a rose is a seemingly easy question to answer. However, with the wide range of options - and qualities - available to the would be rose buyer, it is well worth considering some of the options available.
Your rose bush plant should be able to give you many years of satisfaction. Making the right choice in the first instance can have quite a bearing on the quality of your bush and rose flower.
Most roses are still produced by budding the desired rose variety on to a vigorous rootstock - and generally, this will be the best type of rose to buy. The reason being, that hybridized rose do better on the roots of a wild rose than they do on their own.
This is changing bit by bit, as the production of roses from cuttings is gaining momentum. There are certainly advantages with having a rose produced from cuttings - rather than budding - but these advantages are not universal across all varieties.
The image shows a typical rose nursery, where the roses are grown in the open ground, after being budded on to a wild rootstock in the season before. They are then either sold as field grown, or containerised rose bushes at nurseries, garden centres and of course by mail order.
Roses are normally grown in their thousands by the rose nurseries - sometimes tens of thousands with the most popular varieties.
How and where you buy your roses will depend largely on where you live. If you live in a rose growing area such as Cambridgeshire, then you will most certainly be able to pop along to the actual grower, where most of them will have a retail sales area.
For the rest of us, the options will be either buying roses at your local nursery, garden centre, plant market, or by one of the mail order or online sources.
The quality of your rose bush is largely determined by where and how you buy your plant. Generally, roses bought from the rose nursery or garden centre, will be of a better quality than those bought by mail order. Quite simply, the not-so-vigorous rose is more suited to selling by mail order than a good specimen. Cheaper to post etc. Roses sold at garden centres and other retail outlets, have to compete more on quality and general appearance of the plant in order to sell!
A new rose should have at least two stems branching out from the rootsock. Three would be better, but bear in mind that the stems or canes will have many dormant buds, so after planting and in the spring, the number of stems will soon multiply as new shoots appear and grow. In fact, the root system will also play an important part in the establishment of your rose bush. A rose with three stems - but a poor root system - may not do as well in the initial stages as a rose with two stems - but a better root system! The new canes or stems should look bright and healthy - not have a withered or wrinkled look to them. Plant your rose bush as soon as you can after purchase.
The standard time for buying roses is in the autumn. Nurseries generally start lifting their roses from the nursery fields during late September through October, ready to dispatch to garden centres or mail order outlet. Container grown Roses can also be bought right through the year, but planting is generally best carried out in the autumn or spring - rather than mid summer.
Open ground roses are purchased with either bare roots, or wrapped roots. If bare rooted, then they should have at least their root system plunged in a peat bead at the garden centre. The top (visible) part of the rose bush should have firm stems - with no sign of withering. Many roses are now sold at the retail outlets - and by mail order, with the roots wrapped in a polythene sleeve, into which, some compost is generally included in order to keep the root system from drying out.
Pre-packed roses - those in the box or card covering and usually including a large picture are the other option of open ground roses. They will either have bare roots or or some form of root wrapping. This type of rose is best bought in the autumn - just after lifting from the nursery - rather than in spring. Though early spring is generally ok. Beware of buying packaged roses later on in the spring period or even early summer. They will have been out of the ground for several months - and stored in all manner of places before reaching the garden centre shelves. Nevertheless, if they have been stored properly, and look healthy, then they should be ok to buy - but not too late! As with the mail order roses, the quality of this type of rose is generally not as good as the non-packaged roses. Check in the packaging to ensure no mildew or other damage. Be aware of any that have long shoots already appearing - and avoid buying these.
As with many shrubs - and a rose bush is a shrub - larger quantities are being sold as container grown or containerised roses. Container roses are more expensive to buy with the added work that is entailed, but at the same time it is a good way for the grower to 'add' value (and profit) to their product!
The same rules apply insofar as healthy stems are concerned. Be aware, that most potted roses are in fact field grow roses that have been potted right after lifting in the autumn, and then held over until the spring, ready for selling as higher value plants when in growth or even flowering. If you buy containerised roses in the Autumn, then generally you are simply buying a rose that has been plunged into compost and pot. The roots will not have started to establish at this point, so when being taken out of the pot for planting, the compost will fall away from the root system, and you end up with the original bare-root rose that you could have bought for much less cost!
Very few roses are actually container grown from inception, but rather containerised at some point in to the production process. However, the roses that are being produced from cuttings, are normally fully container grown. Rooted rose cutting into pot and grown for its production lifespan in the pot.
There are very few poor quality roses available today. So, as long as you pay attention to the few details outlined above, then there should be no problem. If you can actually see your rose bush before buying - rather than having to take what is delivered to your door - then so much the better. If buying your roses by mail order or online, then choose a reliable company that has been in business a long time.
Whichever method you decide upon for buying a rose, be aware that the most popular varieties will nearly always need to be pre-ordered - otherwise they will soon sell out. Such is the attraction of the rose in the English Garden.