What is a ground cover rose?

One of the major rose growers has said elsewhere that they are always in the market for a new ground cover rose. I suspect ideas differ about just what the physical characteristics of a ground cover rose should be and I would like to hear your thoughts on it. For that matter, what purposes do ground cover roses serve, where are they used?

Realistically, a “ground cover rose” is any rose which covers the ground. It doesn’t matter if it’s a prostrate creeper all the way to a tall, bushy plant. If it efficiently shades the ground, obscuring the bare soil from view, controls erosion and (hopefully) grows sufficiently dense to inhibit weed growth, it can be termed “ground cover”. Unfortunately, most are horrendously prickly, likely because many are descended from The Fairy (hateful!), making maintenance and weeding a real “witch”. White Meilland should be considered a ground cover rose. Star’s Wholesale catalog had for years, advertised it a suitable for a “lawn replacement”. Planted on four foot centers, it could effectively replace turf as ground cover. Bedding roses, such as the traditional polyanthas, could be termed ground cover roses. That is what they were bred for, to substitute for colorful annuals to “cover the ground”.

What we experience today are pretty much polys and minis, with some, like the Drifts and Flower Carpets, resembling smaller, determinant repeat flowering ramblers. I think what will eventually happen is for sub sets of “ground cover” to be created, making it easier to determine if you want a rambler/scrambler like an ivy; something more mounding and spreading like the Drifts and Flower Carpets; or a taller, bushier plant like the early Meilland landscape shrubs. That is, presuming, there is a sufficiently lucrative market for them to warrant the effort and expense of creating the information and educational material required.

Groundcover roses are used for sure, here in Southern Ca., alot. Gated communities, where one does not do one’s own grounds keeping, you will find quite a few GCR’s. So what if they are prickled, in that case. I have seen some large scale banksias along a number of freeways here, used freely in large exit-on ramp situations. Like Kim says, anywhere they cover the ground, much like Ivy, iceplant, or potentilla and gazania does, it’s a GCR. The Drifts are also used quite a bit, as is Red Ribbons, White meideland, and The Fairy and Ballerina. The way Iceberg is used, it could qualify in some applications as a GCR. Some of Kordes’ classified as shrubs are used in GC fashion, just bigger and moundier. I think just as a matter of scale, homewowners’ use of GCR might be better defined as color spot perennials, just because they do not have so much ground to cover.

The definition in my head would be a rose that stays under two feet, gets wider than it is tall, and is full to the ground.

Meandering off topic…we made a display at the local county fair today, as we do every year, and as I was walking around it I noticed a wonderful smell. It turns out it was coming from Oso Easy Fragrant Spreader, a descendant of The Fairy. I decided to bring them into the building so that they could fill it with that smell. Now, we haven’t grown The Fairy around here very much due to borderline hardiness, so I hadn’t totally related to people’s comments about the nastiness of their thorns. Holy cow, though, I can still feel the wounds on my wrists just from moving those pots of Fragrant Spreader from one place to another.

In regards to Fragrant Spreader, Julie Overom mentioned that hers defoliated to the point of death. Mine survived last year and are fine so far, but I’m not overly impressed. Until tonight, when I was impressed by the fragrance. I really want to create a rose with masses of extremely fragrant blossoms. Not the musk fragrance, which smells like lipstick to me. Both of Fragrant Spreader’s parents are listed as mildly fragrant, so how did it end up smelling so good? Should I even bother crossing with it if it’s going to pass on those nasty thorns? Anyways, just late night, low blood sugar rambling off topic. Sorry.

Speaking of breeding for groundcovers. It looks like Grouse (or Immensee) is a parent or grandparent of basically all of the Flower Carpet roses, as well as Fragrant Spreader and many other roses.

The other day I decided to pollinate a Grouse blossom, but I could barely find any female parts and decided it must be best used for pollen. But I see it listed as a seed parent of some roses on HMF.

What could we cross it with to mitigate those darn thorns? Oso Happy Smoothie? Commander Gillette?

What could we cross it with to add hardiness and keep the fragrance? R. woodsii? What about a rugosa?

OK, please forgive my continued rambling.

What could we cross it with to add hardiness and keep the fragrance?

Can you describe the fragrance?

Don, I’m not good at articulating fragrances. I would call it “sweet and lovely.” When I say keep the fragrance, I’m not concerned about keeping the exact nature of the fragrance, just keeping a strong, pleasing fragrance.

Pleasing, to me, are the fragrances of rugosas, Dbl Delight, Morden Sunrise, Milwaukee’s Calatrava (great smell, btw), but perhaps especially R. woodsii. It might be that R. woodsii comes closest to the Fragrant Spreader aroma. Simple and sweet, without the fruity overtones of more modern fragrant roses.

Non-pleasing, to me, is the bubblegum/lipstick smell I get from the Ole/Lena/Sven series, and maybe Darlow’s Enigma. (I’m assuming that’s a musk smell, as I don’t have any other musks.) Also the baby powder smell of Stanwell Perpetual (well, non-pleasing is too negative a term, but it’s not a fragrance I’d intentionally seek out in breeding).

I find it interesting that neither of F.S.'s parents had a strong aroma, yet boom, there she got one. My breeding experience is that fragrance seems recessive. I haven’t yet had any pleasant surprises like that, just seedlings that have much weaker fragrance than the more fragrant parent.

So. Fragrant Spreader x R. woodsii? Sounds like something that could lure small children into it’s sweet but deadly embrace.

I have a ‘bunch’ of Basyes’ Blueberry OP, and they are mostly looking like spreading ground cover types. One of these has bloomed (most look like they will not bloom this yr) and it is the most heavenly, aromatic, old garden rose scent I have smelled. But I do not know what the OP part is . Good groundcover and has the scent however. I will see if I can mate it with another (two unbelievable scents in one year!) that has B.Streisand as a pollen great-grandparent, which I noticed because I walked by it when it first bloomed and what I noticed was the scent from across the table, but the flower is lovely also. Both are full, old fashioned pinks, but quite different shades. Sounds like it might be a good idea to get a Fragrant Spreader, or a Milwaukee Calatrava.

Several years ago J & P marketed a rose named ‘Spring Fever’ that is a vigorous ground cover for me. It roots where it touches the ground (perhaps another criteria for a ground cover) and is pretty much entirely BS resistant. If grown in a pot the stems cascade to some extent (another preferred characteristic?). Flowers - single and pale pink to white - about .5-.75" in diameter. I haven’t done any crosses with it, but have noticed it sets lots of hips.

Ground cover just says low and wide to me somehow. I like my Appleblossom Flower Carpet rose a lot because that’s exactly how it grows. Gets about 4 to 5 feet spread and never over 2 feet tall and usually less because the canes are so heavy with bloom sprays they lie on the ground. I’ve never had one take root that way though. It fills a niche where a rose with any real height wouldn’t work for me. It’s very disease resistant for me as well as hardy and it blooms it’s head off all summer too. Yeah, it’s a little thorny but nobody’s perfect, lol!