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Easy Roses

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on 15 June, 2001. Notes in brackets were not in the paper.

When I was in fourth grade, my family moved to a house that had a rose garden. My mother spent a lot of time and effort — and chemicals — keeping those plants looking good. As a result, for a long time I never considered growing roses. Then I learned that all roses aren’t like that.

In 1900, rose growers fell in love with ‘Soleil d'Or,’ the first yellow-toned modern rose. From it, a great number of elegant, warm-colored roses have been developed, in the category of hybrid teas — the most popular kind of rose. Unfortunately ‘Soleil d'Or’ and its progeny have also had many weaknesses, resulting in the impression I got (along with many gardeners) that all roses are finicky and susceptible to just about everything.

But in the past sixty years, growers have been breeding from other, tougher stocks. Now there are many easy roses to choose from. Nurseries often advertise David Austin’s English roses, and the Meidiland introductions, as hardy and resistant. However there are roses even tougher and just as beautiful.

Agriculture Canada has developed some of the best, especially their Explorer and Parkland series, which are disease- and pest-resistant, and hardy down to -31 F. In addition, many of the miniature roses you can find in grocery stores around Valentine’s Day are Canadian; if you plant them outdoors when the weather warms up, they’re likely to last through our winters.

Another group of top performers come from Iowa State University, where Dr. Griffith Buck developed many outstanding varieties characterized by a free-flowering habit, disease resistance, and winter hardiness. [Two good sites on the Buck roses are on the Iowa State U. Extension Service site, and on their Agriculture School site.]

In 1994, when I bought my first easy roses, I also gave a deep red ‘Alexander MacKenzie’ to the Ashby First Parish Church, the one at the top of the common. It was planted lovingly, with lots of soil amendment — but since it’s been pretty much on its own. You can see it growing behind the telephone pole on the right side of the building. Although it’s a continuous bloomer, the best show will be in June.

In my garden are three Explorers, ‘Champlain’ (dark red), ‘John Cabot ‘(deep orchid-pink, a huge bush) and ‘William Baffin’ (raspberry pink, a very aggressive grower)[; in addition ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ (pale pink with heavenly scent) and ‘Ballerina’ (deep pink and white) Finally, I have one of ‘The Fairy’ — a mid-height shrub which puts out huge clusters of precious little pink flowers, all summer long. This is a very easy rose to find, every big garden center has it!

[Note: That's William Baffin making magic on the arbor at the entrance to the central path of my back yard garden.]

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark