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for Oklahoma Great roses By Allan Storjohann

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ou can always fi nd people who differ in their opinion of roses. There are those who love them with a passion and are willing to nurture them year after year. Then there are those who wish they had never planted them in the fi rst place and are just disgusted with their endless problems and poor performance.

I have to admit, I’ve not always been a big fan of roses. They seemed to be a bit tricky to grow and fraught with too many problems. Because of that, for quite a few years I gravi- tated away from roses to easier and less de- manding plants. The negative aspects of rose gardening sure took away from the fabulous annual fl oral show and the exhilarating fra- grances. The black spot, virus, yellows, mites and aphids can bring down one’s optimism about these plants!


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I’ll bet a lot of you have felt the same way; and even reading an article about roses is not particularly on your “to do” list. Well, I have some really good news for you, and also for myself! There are now dozens of rose selec- tions available to home gardeners that offer exciting blooms and exceptional toughness. For the past 20 years, Texas A&M research- ers have put more than 400 rose vari eties through some pretty extreme conditions. They were downright mean to those plants! They planted the roses in heavy clay and alka- line conditions then watched them closely to see how well they survived and performed. They never sprayed with insecticides or fun- gicides, never fertilized, and only watered during extreme drought conditions. As you might imagine, very few varieties survived, but those that did are now true stars in the world of roses.

The inspiration for all this came from a small group of rosarians who for the past 25 years have canvassed abandoned homesteads and cemeteries, identifying and propagating the most beautiful and healthy of the found neglected roses.

The Texas Rose Rustlers, as they call them- selves, worked closely with nurseries such as the Antique Rose Empori um. Since they began their work, many for gotten rose va- rieties have been re-released for use in pub- lic landscapes. The toughest of these roses, along with some new exceptional hybrid selections, are now on the list of Earth Kind Roses. Finally, there are roses that will not just survive but thrive—even when planted in poor soil and forgotten most of the year. Sound like your backyard?

Here are my favorites on the Earth Kind Roses list: Cecil Brunner, pink polyantha; Belinda’s Dream, pink shrub; Caldwell’s Pink, pink shrub; Carefree Beauty, pink shrub; New Dawn, pink climber; The Fairy, white pink shrub; La Marne, pink shrub; Lady Elsie May, pink shrub; and Knock Out, a red, double red, pink, double pink and yel- low shrub.

The most amazing plant on the list has to

be the new Knock Out rose. When intention- ally inoculated with three different strains of black-spot fungus, it consistently showed remark able resistance to the disease. Its dark-green leaves are a stunning background to the bright-red, pink and now yellow fl ow- ers on the Knock Out series of roses. So what is the secret to growing healthy, happy roses? Sure you can now fi nd varieties that seemingly grow without a fuss. But for all the other wonderful varieties, what is the best way to grow them? Here are my ten keys to successfully growing roses.

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