High Country Roses’ humble little road sign can be deceiving. But make no mistake; it marks the entrance to one of the finest rose nurseries in the country.
Six years ago, this family-owned company relocated from Jensen, Utah to Arvada, Colorado. So now it’s within spitting distance of Denver, Longmont, Fort Collins and other communities along Colorado’s Front Range.
High Country Roses’ customers include the Denver Rose Society and Denver Botanic Gardens. That should tell you something about the quality of HCR’s plants.
As for the prices—they’re surprisingly reasonable. Most roses currently cost about $15 to $18 apiece, not including shipping. If you make an appointment to pick the roses up, you can skip shipping costs altogether. Compare that to $40 per rose (usually grafted) at other nurseries.
Granted, HCR roses come in one-quart pots, which are smaller than your typical $40 rose pots. But these babies are extremely healthy, and they grow quickly.
Better yet, HCR’s offerings are own root roses, not grafted roses. With own root roses, the flowering top of the plant is the same as the root. But with grafted roses, the flowering top of the plant is a different variety from the root stock, which is typically a hardier, but less desirable variety.
Why is this important in Colorado and other cold winter climates? A very hard freeze may cause the plant to die down to its roots. But if the plant is an own root rose and it regrows, it will return in its original form. For example, an own root Mr. Lincoln rose will grow back as a Mr. Lincoln.
With grafted roses, on the other hand, a very hard freeze may cause the plant to regrow from the less-desirable root stock rather than from the desired top stock. So, for example, if Mr. Lincoln is grafted onto Dr. Huey, you may end up with a Dr. Huey rose after the freeze. To reduce the chances of this happening, it’s advisable to plant grafted roses so that the bud union is one to three inches below ground in cold winter climates.
High Country Roses took root in the basement of Dr. Bill Campbell’s urology practice at 17th and Downing Street in Denver. A rosarian and surgeon, Dr. Bill founded the High Country Rosarium in 1970, after spending a decade collecting and testing varieties of old garden roses to see which ones would perform best in Colorado’s harsh climate.
In 1995, the company moved to Jensen, Utah, before returning to the Denver area in 2011.
Dr. Bill has since passed away, and other family members have helped keep the business going. Now Dr. Bill’s stepson, Matt Douglas, manages the business. Matt and employees Deb Lynch and Dare Trotter comprise HCR’s production crew, which handles the propagation and maintenance of 350 varieties of roses.
What are some of these folks’ favorite roses? Matt likes Golden Wings. Deb prefers Ebb Tide, Angel Face and Livin’ Easy. As for Dare, he likes Distant Drums and Cecile Brunner.
Me? I’m a huge fan of Linda Campbell, a gorgeous red repeat-blooming rugosa rose.
So if you’re in the market for roses, you might consider ordering some HCR roses and making an appointment to pick them up, if you live close by. Otherwise, you can have them shipped to you.