Tour the Krasberg Rose Garden

Demystifying Roses

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Distance: .3 miles  Time: 35-45 mins

Stop 1: Terrace Overlook

It's one of the most popular destinations at the Chicago Botanic Garden for good reason: three acres (one of the largest public rose display gardens in the United States) show off 150+ varieties of "The Queen of Flowers," all considered well-suited for the Midwest and Chicagoland's climate. 

This is the terrace, stand here in June—and again in September—and just take it all in: the heady scents, the play of water in the Rose Fountain, the visual of thousands of roses in bloom. 

The layout of the garden invites you to stroll the perimeter and get up close to smell the roses, which are arranged by color—darker roses near the terrace, light and white roses near the arbor—to enhance the sense of distance.

Stop 2: Rose Types

Roses are categorized by class, which corresponds to overall plant size. Largest to smallest:

Climbers and Ramblers
Shrub – 5-6 feet 
Grandiflora – 8-10 feet
Hybrid Tea – 3-5 feet
Floribunda – 2-4 feet
Miniature – Less than 12 inches

Stop 3: Companion Plants

Because different roses bloom from May through frost, companion plants are a necessity to provide structure and interest during off-bloom times. Aside from the Linden Allée to the south and the arborvitae wall to the north, exceptional companions among the 5,000 total plants in this garden include:

  • Peony
  • Northern Bayberry
  • 'Wintergreen' Boxwood
  • 'Munstead' English Lavender
  • Catmint
  • Copper beech

Stop 4: Rose Garden: Arbor

One of the "secret spaces" at the Chicago Botanic Garden: Have a seat surrounded by roses ahead, behind, and above you. Take a break in the shade, enjoy the view from inside the arbor toward the fountain (framed by geometric windows), and get out your camera.

Got an empty wall in your garden? The arbor is an excellent spot to examine climbing roses and other flowering vines up close.

Stop 5: Species Roses

Species roses are the wild roses that nature created. They're hardy, indestructible, disease-resistant, carefree, generally five-petaled, and often offer up large, juicy rose hips in the fall. Rosa alba (the White Rose of York) adds a hint of history to the bed.

Why aren't species roses more popular with gardeners? For one simple reason: they usually bloom just once per year.

Stop 6: Old Garden Roses

Old Garden is the name given to classes of roses in existence before 1867 (versus Modern roses, or classes created after 1867).

The ancestors of today's modern hybrids, Old Garden roses are planted all along this walkway. Often deeply fragrant, these old-fashioned roses are prized for their simple flower shapes and showy, berry-like rose hips. Because they bloom heavily just once per spring/summer, they are increasingly difficult to find commercially.

Stop 7: Fragrance

Feel free to stop and smell the roses:

  • It's the oils in the petals (sometimes in the foliage, too) that give each rose its distinctive fragrance.
  • A rose will release its most intense fragrance on a warm, still, slightly humid day when the flower is partially open.
  • Many Old Garden roses are more powerfully fragrant than Modern roses.
  • Like wine, rose fragrances can be discussed with descriptors. To think about as you smell: myrhh, apple, citrus, musk, tea, honey, moss, vanilla.

Stop 8: David Austin Roses

Why are modern David Austin roses interspersed with the old-fashioned roses along the walkway? Because Mr. Austin has successfully bred Old Garden roses with hybrid tea and floribunda roses to create the lush, fragrant English roses particularly beloved by the British (and particularly well-suited to England's not-as-extreme-as-Chicago climate). These are a few of the varieties that are hardy here.

Stop 9: Knock Out® Roses

You can identify the breeder behind a new rose hybrid by its trade name, which begins with the first three letters of the breeder's name. For example, RadRazz™ is a 2000 introduction by William Radler, who is both our rosarian advisor and the breeder behind the Knock Out® rose series - the disease-resistant and maintenance-free line of roses so popular today.

Stop 10: Peace' rose

Although originally named for its French breeder's mother, this rose was introduced in America in 1945, just as World War II ended, and thus was christened 'Peace.' The hybrid tea's name and lovely colors - creamy yellow, edged in pink - captured the American public's imagination then and now: 'Peace' continues to be one of the top-selling roses of all time.

Stop 11: The Rose Fountain

Even the fountain is rose-inspired: its shape recalls the five-petaled flower of a species rose.

A central spray is surrounded by 50 jets of recirculated water, timed to stay "tight" like a rosebud in the morning, then gradually "open" like a rose in full bloom throughoutthe day. The sprayers represent the stigma and stamens at the center of a rose.

Stop 12: When Roses Bloom

All roses do not flower at the same time. A general calendar:

Old Garden/Heirloom Roses: Early May- late June
Hybrid tea, Floribunda, Grandiflora : From early June – July and from September- October
Modern Shrub:From late May – Early October

Stop 13: How to Use Roses

While "The Queen of Flowers" is treasured for cut flowers, rose plants can be used in lots of different ways in your home garden. Look around for examples of:

  • Groundcover
  • Hedge
  • Arbor/pergola
  • Containers
  • Masses
  • Single specimen

Stop 14: Rose Garden Viewing Terrace

Another of the "secret spaces" at the Chicago Botanic Garden: tables, benches, chairs, and containers of interesting roses...with a photo-worthy view across the Rose Garden lawn.