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Roses and annuals together; here are five combinations that stretch the bloom season.

What's the perfect partner for a rose bush? Purists say plain mulch; they believe roses do best when they have no competition or root disturbance. But if you want perpetual bloom, the best choice is a plant that peaks in late winter and early spring, holding the spotlight while roses recover after annual pruning.

Below are five annuals that make suitable companions right into roses' early bloom. Plant them after the last frosts (in the Northwest or high desert, you may need to delay planting until March or April).

To minimize rose-root disturbance, start annuals from seeds or sixpacks. Since damp rose trunks are prone to disease, encourage air circulation by leaving a gap around each trunk. Trim annuals as needed to keep trunks exposed.

For repeat bloom on annuals, pinch back spent flowers until hot weather arrives, then pull plants out as heat withers them. By then, rose bushes may be 4 feet tall or more, with dense foliage to the ground and loads of bloom, leaving little space or need for underplanting.

Early bloomers to pair with roses

Linaria (L. maroccana). This blooms so fast from seeds that plants are almost never sold. Masses of tiny pastel pouches appear on 8- to 10-inch stems. Mainly pink, rose, and lavender, with a smattering of yellow and white, flowers go with all but orange roses; deep- or orange-red roses also might look better with another companion.

Lobelia (L. erinus). In mild-winter climates, this plant often blooms in February if you start with sixpacks. Pale to medium shades of 'Cambridge Blue' and 'Sapphire' are especially pleasing with most pastel roses.

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). It's speedy from seeds as well as sixpacks, spreading a cloud of billowy white that enhances roses of all colors. Purple and rose hues of alyssum are more difficult to combine well, but stunning when they work. Try pale lavender sweet alyssum with apricot or yellow roses.

Nemesia (N. strumosa). A favorite with almost all who see it, its festive mixture of gold to rose and red hues blends well with all roses except lavender ones.

Schizanthus (S. pinnatus). Fern-like foliage topped with multicolored flowers in pink, rose, yellow, and white works with all roses except orange and lavender ones. 'Dwarf Hit Parade' is preferable to taller kinds for underplanting roses.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1989
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