It's the Plants, Darling

Now roses are too hard

Climbercontest

"At some point, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. [Landscape] roses will be all you have; the beautiful, unique hybrid teas will be gone."
—Charlie Anderson, president of Weeks Roses

 This makes me sad. I’m no big fan of hybrid teas, but for me the romance of growing roses includes all the different types. An article in the Sacramento Bee discusses a decline in the use of hybrid teas, as homeowners plump for low-maintenance landscape roses (think Knock Out), which don’t need any special care (extra fertilizing, nurturing through diseases and infestations, etc.). If “special care” means using more chemicals, I’m all for not using hybrid teas. But I haven’t used chemicals on my roses for eight years. I have a few David Austins, climbers (above), and old roses (Louise Odier, Blush Noisette), and I would never consider giving them up in favor of any of the new easy-care series.

When I started planning a garden, the first flowers I thought of were roses and lilies. I pored through rose books, then catalogs, and ended up ordering mainly old roses from a couple vendors. Exactly two of them survived, and I think that’s pretty good, given the generally shady conditions and equally general ineptitude of the gardener.

The fragrance-free, nondescript flowers of the new easy-care shrubs wouldn’t be worth the space they’d take up in my small urban property, though I have seen them in action as large public plantings, and heartily approve for the most part. In fact, I’d agree with this telling quote from the Bee article—"People don't even see Knock Out as a rose any more; it's a landscape plant." Exactly.

Darby11

I think these big companies like Weeks should start pushing their heirloom and antique roses more. Many are just as sturdy as any of the new shrubs, and though they may not bloom as much, I would take one blowsy, deliciously-scented  Louise Odier or Abraham Darby—neither of which gets or requires any special care—over 100 Knock Outs.

Posted by on February 20, 2012 at 6:02 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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18 Responses to “Now roses are too hard”

  1. Susan says:

    Elizabeth, I couldn’t agree more! For years I’ve done a program on growing roses, and I stress that they aren’t really any more taxing than most perennials, and that you can do it without chemicals. Keep the black spot leaves cleaned up (black spot is a function of our humid summers, there’s no avoiding it), feed them 2 or 3 times during the season, cut them back for winter, put down clean mulch in early spring. People always express surprise that it’s that basic.

    I have no use for a rose with no fragrance, and you can’t use Knockouts as cut flowers; they just don’t hold up. If you want bedding plants, buy geraniums!

  2. Absolutely. There are some marvelous old time hybrid teas — think Gletscher, for instance (great photos at HelpMeFind) — that are falling out of trade altogether just because of their relative invisibility. That’s a great pity.

    At the same time, though, I do find the renaissance in old garden roses to be a hopeful sign. Souvenir de la Malmaison might not be available at Home Depot, but at least it seems to be on the radar of some growers. That’s all to the good.

  3. Michele Owens says:

    I so agree.

    There is not a more beautiful plant in my yard than the ‘Russelliana’ rose climbing my front porch. Dates back to 1830 at least and is perfection. Healthy, happy, romantic, gorgeous. People stop dead in their tracks when it blooms every year, for about 3 weeks in June.

    I have no idea why you would want to chose a modern rose with unshapely flowers over this. Just for a longer season of bloom? To me, the trade-off is not worth it.

  4. Chris U says:

    At some point somebody will realize the potential of the China roses. There are roses out there that aren’t patented, have fragrance, a long season of bloom, and aren’t susceptible to blackspot or powdery mildew. I like ‘Hume’s Blush’ and ‘Mutabilis’ but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. The bonus to growers would be that they’re not patented.

  5. trey says:

    Here you go, straight from The Sacramento Bee. The largest collection of antique roses in the country is going to try and hang on just one more year. No you won’t find them at Home Depot Patricia. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/18/4264351/seeds-sebastopol-vintage-rose.html
    I love the owners comment, “We certainly don’t want to close, but you can only take the losses so long. The nursery business probably has the worst profit margin of any business there is. There’s no wiggle room.”

  6. Eileen says:

    I agree completely. I’ll admit that I do have a Knockout rose. I felt like I just had to try it. I like it and it’s a great plant for its spot in my garden, but it pales in comparison to “Great Maiden’s Blush”, an equally easy rose with a fragrance you can smell from down the road, or “Alexandre Girault”, a once bloomer that is stunning to see in bloom.

    I think part of the problem is that a beginning gardener just doesn’t realize what’s available. I figured that I was limited to the stock at our local nursery. It was a whole new world learning about companies that ship the heirloom roses….although rather depressing to see that the shipping costs are often as much as the rose! But when you get one that you love, it’s worth every cent!

  7. Chris says:

    I am a rosarian and grow over 60 varieties of roses from Heirlooms to Hybrid teas and it just breaks my heart to see the industry retract as it has. Hybridizing of hybrid teas dates back to Josephine at LaMasion and its a shame to see it grind to a halt at this point. There is a place for landscape roses, but like many of those who have commented here, I would never give up my Heirloom roses nor my Hybrid tea collection for them. I grow roses for their fragrance, beauty, charm and as an opportunity to share them with those around me. Everybody knows somebody who needs a rose…..

  8. I don’t know if this is agreeing or not. I don’t find roses difficult to grow at all. I love my Love and Peace rose, a mildly fragrant bicolored hybrid tea, and the most I’ve ever done to it was pick Japanese Beetles off of it and slap a cone on it for the winter. It happily coexists with my three Canadian roses, which are closer to landscape roses, and doesn’t have any problem surviving the cold Minnesota winter.

  9. Tim Wood says:

    Weeks Roses and the few remaining rose breeding companies out there DO have many very good, disease resistant roses. Unfortunately not enough people know about them, ask for them or want to buy them.

    Knock Out, when it first came out, was so much better than the competition in terms or disease resistance and reblooming, that it killed the old rose model. People, including myself, were no longer willing to spray roses (or any other plant for that matter). A shift was taking place.

    It was a lot like when the Japanese started selling cars into the US. It was devastating to the established market – but in the long run we got better American made cars with better quality.

    The same is true in the rose world. Weeks, Proven Winners, Kordes, Star Roses and others are now offering some great roses that have been hybridized for improved disease resistance and improved garden performance. To me, many of these roses are preferable. These new roses offer a wide array of color, forms, styles and some also fragrant. Some of my favorites include Julia Child, Easy Does it, Home Run, Cinco de Mayo, The Romantica series, Brother Grimm, Sweet Vigorosa, the Oso Easy series of roses from Chris Werner and the outstanding polyantha roses from David Zlesak in Minnesota.

    There are many great roses out there. It’s just that it takes a lot more effort for growers and retailers to sell them. Consumers don’t ask for them, or if they do, they’re not asking loud enough.

    Whenever I give a gardening talk and I show slides of Oso Easy Paprika, people go crazy, but good luck finding it in a garden center. We live in a time where the consumer rules. They have the loudest voice and they dictate what retailers sell with the power of the purse. So as long as they keep voting for Knock Out, many excellent roses like Julia Child and Oso Easy Paprika will be relegated to the back of the store.

    If consumers want something other than Knock Out, they need to speak up and tell their garden center specifically what they want and then vote with their hard earned money.

  10. emily says:

    I only have a couple of Climbing New Dawn roses at my current house. They are a modern rose but at least they have fragrance, which is what I love most about roses. I used to grow old roses – I think I miss the damask roses the most. Thanks for reminding me. I need to find a place to sneak a few in, which isn’t easy when you have as much shade as I do.

  11. Elsa says:

    So True! The other problem with carrying a good selection of roses is that most roses don’t like being in pots during the summer, no matter how well they’re taken care of. Knock out’s have a high turnover, but by mid-summer, most of the other varieties are leggy, diseased, and look really sad. The IGC I worked at for years would have a pretty good selection, but it was pretty well picked through by mid-June, and they wanted them sold as early as possible. Bottom line, if you want to buy plants, go early in the season, and forget about waiting for sales.

  12. Jason says:

    I’ve started growing a mix of heirloom and wild roses over the last couple of years. So far they have not been demanding. Sally Holmes is doing very well in my Chicago yard, and I have high hopes for Westerland and the rambler Darlow’s Enigma. I’ve also planted the wild Carolina Rose and Illinois Rose, but the jury is still out on how they’ll perform.

  13. Fred says:

    Just seeing that photo of Abraham Darby knocked me right across the nose. Oh, Spring come soon!

    Jason, be of good hope: My Darlow’s Enigma, which gets only a couple hours of afternoon sun, is thriving after two winters in Denver.

  14. c says:

    many landscape roses have fragrance, your statement generalizing that incorrect fact is just as bad as generalizing and saying all old fashioned and heirloom roses are disease prone .

  15. commonweeder says:

    I am in agreement as well. I have a few knockouts on a bank, but my hardy, trouble and disease free collection of about 80 roses includes rugosas, albas, Griffith Buck hybrids, and other ancient roses, and farmhouses. You can see many of their names on my Virtual Rose Viewing http://www.commonweeder.com/a-virtual-rose-viewing/. These are tough, beautiful and mostly fragrant roses.

  16. Carol says:

    To truely experience the beautiful “queen” of flowers (the rose), the gardener should try different varieties from mini’s to climbing, and everything in between! (Fussing) with your roses is a matter of preference. Most varieties do just fine without all the hoopla, but if the gardener chooses to remain amoung the rose plants, spraying and coddling them, who’s to say it’s wrong, if that’s what they like to do?
    Because of my climate, I simply can’t grow the Hybrid Teas, but I would certainly LOVE to! Take a look at my gardens here: http://www.allaboutrosegardening.com

  17. A. Marina Fournier says:

    When I first moved over the hill from Santa Cruz, the only roses on this property were Yellow Lady Banks, from the neighbor’s yard, and groundcover roses, that with a privet hedge, lined the outside of our semi-circular driveway (popular in this neighborhood).

    I liked neither of the two in the front. Ladies Banksia white and yellow are great for covering em, banks along the freeway, but I’m not terribly interested in them for my small property, so it’s kept trimmed back to the fence.

    The driveway lining was taken out. I was told drip line had been put down–by a ESL speaker, but a soaker hose is NOT my idea of a drip system for a rosebed. Replacing the groundcover roses were named & scented roses–about a dozen then, up to about 18 now. Replacing the privet were several different cultivars of rosemary and of lavender: I didn’t want a mono-hedge, and I really couldn’t make up my mind between cultivars. It gives individuality to the display, and happiness to the neighborhood bees (honey or mason, I’m not sure). At least two dozen other roses are found around the property, fighting jealously with other favorites.

    With few exceptions (sentimental values), my roses all have scents and names. I admit to eliminating the terms “Knock Out”, “Easy”, and “Oso” in my shopping searches. However, I will look into Oso Paprika, Tim: I already have Julia Child, which I love. If I can find a spot for Darlow’s Enigma, I’ll see if it’ll flourish in my shady area.

    I will check out the Sebastopol folks: twist my arm and make me drive there (love the town in spite of a 3 hr one way drive). I know their NC is not open any more, which is too bad: the third weekend in May is TribalFest (belly dance style), and I *can* be yanked away from the site for roses.

    Monitoring water delivery can *help* eliminate mildew and rust, and the only “chemical” I would use is Neem Oil. I have been lucky to have escaped blackspot for the most part.

  18. Stacey says:

    I couldn’t agree with you all anymore. I have a yard full of OGR’s and a few Austins and they are gorgeous.

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