Don’t Have a Rose Garden; Have Roses in Your Garden

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Don’t Have a Rose Garden; Have Roses in Your Garden

Written by Jerry Parr

In 1867, Jean Baptiste Guillot created the first hybrid tea rose by crossing a China rose with a tea rose. Hundreds of new varieties followed. These roses with their great blooms, long stems and recurrent bloom quickly became favorites of the floral industry and soon replaced most other roses on the market.

However, this change came with a price. The hybrid teas are very susceptible to many diseases such as canker, black spot and powdery mildew and do not perform well in the typical homeowner landscape without frequent application of many chemicals, fertilizer and water. For this reason, roses fell out of

favor in most landscapes as being a plant that was just too hard to maintain.

But this began to change in the 1980’s, when a group in south east Texas, known as the “rose rustlers” began to notice magnificent roses growing in abandoned home sites, cemeteries, and black and German communities that have existed for over 100 years. These roses, which were never sprayed, fertilized or watered had incredible performance and this group realized others might be interested. As one of the members, Greg Grant has said, “If a dead person can grow it, surely you can.” This group named their roses based on where they were found, and you will see names such as Caldwell Pink, found in Caldwell, Texas, Highway 290 Pink Buttons, and Martha Gonzales, found at Martha’s house in Navasota.

In 1982, Greg Shoup from Brenham, Texas started Antique Rose Emporium, a nursery focused on bringing these “old garden roses” to the public. Since then, many other growers have taken a similar path, including Chamblee’s Rose Nursery in Tyler. Many of these roses are also now available at our local nurseries. As well, several modern rose breeders such as Griffith Buck, William Radler and David Austin are working to bring new varieties to the market that have the same characteristics as the antique roses. Whether old or new, these garden roses are drought-tolerant and disease resistant and are very well suited for the typical landscape. One example of this is the very popular Knock-Out© rose.

In 1996, the Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center in Dallas started a five-year study to evaluate roses. The roses were planted directly into the native clay soil, without the addition of soil amendments or fertilizers. The bushes were never treated for pesticides or diseases. The roses that survived this study are thought to be “the finest, most thoroughly tested, and most environmentally responsible plants for use in Texas landscapes and gardens.” This research continues, and so far 21 different roses have been designated as EarthKind© roses under this program. I have 5 of these in my landscape – The Fairy, Belinda’s Dream, Mutabilis, Climbing Pinkie and New Dawn. All of these are repeat bloomers. I also have two other antique roses, Lady Banks and Petite Pink Scotch that only bloom in the spring.

Notice I said “in my garden.” I do not have a rose garden. I have a landscape with a variety of bulbs, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and many other plants. The roses are strategically placed so that when they bloom, they become the most dominant plant in the landscape. Roses do not bloom continuously. Even with repeat bloomers, you will get a great show in early spring, then smaller repeat performances about every 6-8 weeks, and then a fairly nice bloom in the fall. The other plants in my landscape fill in when the roses are not blooming. For example, I have pink Crinum Lilies in front of my pink Climbing Pinkie with white Natchez Crape Myrtle on the left and purple Vitex off to the side. I have a Mutabilis rose close to my back door planted with Iris and a dwarf Lorapetalum These plants bloom in the heat of summer when the rose is not as active or provide winter interest.

While the EarthKind© and antique roses are very well adapted to our climate, there are a few simple rules to follow. Plant them where they get 6-8 hours of sun. Be sure and mulch well and make sure there is plenty of air around them. An application of a fertilizer in the spring will reward you with more blooms. And while these roses are very drought tolerant, they should get a little supplemental water in times of great drought, such as the summer of 2014. It is best to use drip irrigation. They almost never get fungal diseases such as black spot, even in very wet years like this one, and if they do, they will recover quickly without having to use fungicides.

Roses come in a variety of sizes, from dwarf to large shrubs to very large climbers and in almost any color you can imagine. There are hundreds of varieties that well do very well here. In addition to the ones mentioned above, the table below shows some other garden roses to try. You will not just pick a bouquet of long-stem roses for a vase or as a gift to a loved one, but instead you will have pick-up loads of blooms to enjoy in your landscape.

Ten Landscape Roses to Try in Parker County

Name Year Introduced Color Mature Size
Carefree Beauty (Katy Road Pink) 1977 Pink 5 ft x 4 ft
Cecile Brunner (Sweetheart Rose) 1881 Pink 4 ft x 3 ft
Cramoisi Superieur 1832 Red 3-6 ft x 3-4 ft
Ducher 1869 White 6 ft x 4 ft
Duchesse de Brabant 1857 Rose pink 6 ft x 4 ft
Maggie Unknown Red 6-8 ft x3-5 ft
Marie Daly Unknown Pink 3 ft x 3 ft
Marie Pavie 1888 White 3-4 ft x 3-4 ft
Monsieur Tillier 1891 Orange-pink 5-6 ft x 5-6 ft
Nearly Wild 1941 Pink 3-4 ft x 3-4 ft