I need to replace dead bushes with something else. Oso Easy Roses?

last month

The foundation bushes at the front (south end) of our house were looking pretty rough last year, but I wanted to wait and see if they would make a comeback this year. Instead they seem even more decidedly on their last leg. I am pretty sure they are barberry bushes. It would be easy enough to just replace them with the exact same thing (especially since they had such nice, clean lines and were low maintenance), but I can never just do things the easy way. Instead I always have to hunt for unicorns, seeking that which is both beautiful and self-sufficient.

I am here in Zone 5b, Chicagoland, so there are definitely some limitations to my selection. We get plenty of rain, but also blazing hot summers and sub-zero winters, plus ping-pong weather throughout. And did I mention the clay soil?

Here is my situation:

Right now I think I am leaning towards Oso Easy Cherry Pie roses. They seem relatively tidy in appearance, are SUPPOSED to be extra low maintenance, and really appeal to me because it SEEMS like they will add a nice pop of color for most of the warmer months, instead of just a few weeks in the springtime. However, I am also skeptical of these "oh so easy" roses - will they be so easy for ME, in my environment? I know some plants have a habit of dying back to the ground for the winter, which probably wouldn't give me the chance to enjoy one of those picture perfect plants I see online. Also, my mom used to have more traditional roses at her house, and she took them out completely because they always looked quite ratty after winter. Can anyone advise? Are these Oso Easy Roses really as "set it and forget it" as the plant-mongers say? And will they flourish in the Chicago suburbs, or merely persist?

If I go for the Cherry Pie roses, should I let them stand on their own as the barberry bushes have done, or should I add some kind of border in front? Like maybe alternate some kind of (short) lavender with some kind of other, more plain plant? Something else?

Wisteria plants are also one of my favorites, and a trellis with a climbing wisteria to the far left of the bay window would look so nice, but it's probably not a great plant to have so near my foundation, and low maintenance it is not... but I digress.

In lieu of the roses, I have also looked at weigela (especially "Fine Wine" and "Roses and Wine"), but I worry it won't be as tidy of a plant, or in bloom for as long. And it seems debatable whether the weigela or the roses would require less maintenance in order to look their best.

I am also aware of the many varieties of hydrangeas and azaleas/rhododendrons. For some reason I've never been a huge fan of hydrangeas. I guess they seem kind of old-fashioned, and they drop flowers in messy clumps, so need attentive grooming. But I'm sure there is at least one version out there I'd enjoy. The azaleas/rhododendrons look so nice in the springtime, but they don't keep their flowers for long and some of the azaleas in my neighborhood look a bit wiry. I also don't care for lilacs very much because of their short blooming season and often disheveled appearance. Finally, there is always the trusty boxwood with its clean, round composure, but of course, no colorful flowers. :(

So, are the Cherry Pie roses my perfect unicorn, or are they a dragon in disguise? I look forward to your thoughts (unless they're about how fussy I am ;) ), and appreciate your insight!

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