Sunday, March 4, 2012

Is the love for roses wilting? I think not!

Hybrid teas may need a bit of TLC, but I still sing the praises of The McCartney Rose.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Sacramento Bee published an article saying gardeners are losing interest in cultivating the Queen of Flowers.

 The piece talks about the economy, the collapse of the California rose industry and bankruptcy of former giants like Jackson & Perkins. It also talks about the perception that hybrid teas, once adored for their high-spiraling blooms, fragrance and long stems, are too prissy and high maintenance for today’s busy homeowner.

As an accredited horticultural judge for the American Rose Society (and a Consulting Rosarian) I feel compelled to comment.

If interest is truly lagging there is much blame to go around.

 For starters, many hyped hybrid teas (and other varieties as well) simply aren’t good plants. I went back and looked at the All-America Rose Selections for the past few decades. It’s true, Peace and Mr. Lincoln are still around, but what happened to Taffeta (1948), Matterhorn (1966), Apollo (1972), Mikado (1988) or Whisper (2003)? They are on the rubbish heap where they belong.

Over the years, gardeners have bought these roses only to have them fail. After that, they are reluctant to try again.

 Many of the large nurseries market their bushes for 3-4 years then drop them in order to promote newer varieties. Some really fine roses suddenly disappear from commerce.

 In addition, roses that grow splendidly well in California may sizzle in Alabama or sulk in South Dakota. Every rose does not fit every region of the country.

Then along came humble Knock Out. Anxious for an easy-care alternative, many gardeners trashed their traditional bushes and replaced them with the disease-resistant shrub that doesn’t look or smell like a rose.
Don’t get me wrong – Knock Out is a wonderful landscape innovation. You can pretty much plant it and forget it. But those who grow it exclusively are missing out on some of the greatest pleasures in gardening.

 The folks at David Austin English roses have gotten it right setting up trial gardens around the US to see which of their bushes are best suited to which region. And they don’t abandon old favorites for fresher faces. (The Heritage rose I planted 20 years ago is still as vibrant and available as ever.)

 Before we moved to the mountains, I had shrub roses, mini-floras and floribundas in my Maryland garden along with a few hybrid teas. The fragrance of The McCartney Rose and porcelain beauty of Pristine were worth the extra 15 minutes a week it took to treat them with an aerosol anti-disease spray.

 I don’t believe “fancy” roses are dead. I think those of us who are cheerleaders for the Queen of Flowers need to work harder to let gardeners know there are fabulous, disease-resistant, fragrant varieties out there. Varieties that don’t demand a great deal of time or effort.

But do deliver more bang for the buck than any other blooming plant.


Teresa said...

Enjoyed your very timely article!
Thru the past 25 years as a "serious" cottage gardener, I have found that my garden is most satisfying when it includes a combination of roses including OGR, David Austins, modern hybrids, even Knockouts and as many rose companions as possible!

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Roses are still one of the most loved flowers by human beings in the 21th century.The kind of smell,the beauty and the peace it provides are just unmatchable.Thus,the love for the roses can never fade.Rose is love.

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