Indefatigable Iceberg Roses

'Iceburg' roses and their fruits (rose hips)

‘Iceburg’ roses and their fruits (rose hips)

Q: I’m curious about what to do about the “Iceberg” floribunda rose. The rose is so abundant in the San Fernando Valley – a beautiful bright display just about wherever you look. And they never stop blooming! I’ve noticed some neighbors just let them go untouched year after year, while others prune them back. What is your recommendation for this particular rose? I want to do the right thing for this rose that gives me such pleasure.
– Anne Schubert,
Woodland Hills
A: No matter what you do to your “Iceberg” rose, it should continue to give you uninterrupted pleasure in the garden. While many, if not most roses require detailed pruning on a regular basis, “Iceberg” pruning, like that of floribundas in general, is a minor concern. The frequency with which floribundas are pruned depends on the space between them and the effect that is sought.
The classic use for floribundas is that of an informal hedge. Space the plants at a distance 3 or 4 feet from each other and watch them grow together. Grown as a hedge, you can give them a lacing-out type of pruning, where they are trimmed to a certain height but not given a flat top, two or three times a year. Or just cut them back by one-half to two-thirds of their height once a year. You can also grow floribundas in widely spaced groupings and let each plant grow to full height and girth, pruning only to remove faded flowers. In the Valley, radical pruning of floribundas or any other roses should be postponed until after the first of the year. The reason for this is that our coldest nights usually occur from mid-December to mid-January. Cutting back too early exposes new growth (which usually follows pruning by two or three weeks) to the dangers of frost damage. In the Valley, to be extra careful about possible late frosts, you can wait to prune roses until February, since our spring begins by the end of that month.
To date, white “Iceberg” has proven to be the toughest, longest-blooming rose variety for Valley gardens. It is not only the flowers that satisfy with their nonstop abundance; “Iceberg” foliage also maintains its lush green color in all four seasons. “Iceberg” roses can even take some shade, although they may develop powdery mildew when overly sun-deprived.
“Brilliant Pink Iceberg,” however, has been a disappointment, at least to me. When I first heard about this variety, I was expecting to see a pure pink version of white “Iceberg,” but instead, it’s what can best be described as pink, irregularly interrupted with white.
Also, the pink is indeterminate in tone; it is not a blushing pink, a soft pink or a hot pink, but more of a tart pink, like a face made up with too much rouge. Also, it blooms less than white “Iceberg.”
Floribundas are my favorite class of roses. Maybe I’m just lazy. Floribundas require a minimum of care and bloom practically all year-round. Pest control is not an issue, and pruning is an afterthought. “Show Biz” is a wonderful fire-engine-red floribunda, and “Judy Garland” is an endlessly satisfying, delicately scented, orange and yellow variety.
Miniature roses are similarly rewarding. Try “Hot Tamale,” a miniature with flowers that appear in orange, yellow or pink, depending on how long they have been in bloom.

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