For The Answer
Primetime NewspapersBy Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and HorticulturistWeek of July 25, 2005“Tough Roses for the Xeriscape”
Would you like roses in your landscape, but you do not want to have to use irrigation and pesticides every week? Consider Katy Road, Martha Gonzales, Belinda’s Dream, Knockout, and Mrs. Dudley Cross roses. They benefit by mulch, some fertilization, and an occasional watering, but will survive without it.
Katy Road has been my favorite old-fashioned rose since I discovered it three years ago. It turns out that it is not, in fact, an old-fashioned rose. Genetic analysis indicates that the Katy Road is actually not a long lost antique rose, but a modern rose (1970’s) Carefree Beauty that has exceptional toughness.
The blooms are pink and four inches across. The flowers are relatively flat with two or three layers of petals. The blooms appear on a rounded shrub about six feet tall and four feet around. The foliage is a medium green and arranged on the shrub in a relatively open shrub. One of the things I like best about Carefree Beauty is the rose hips. The hips are nickel size so are not as attractive as a bird food source as the smaller hips are, but they are still utilized. The hips appear all through the season. The bloom cycles would probably be speeded up by deadheading the spent flowers. As it is, the cycles include about six weeks of bloom followed by six weeks of bloom pause. The bloom cycles occur from early spring (February in 2006) until December in the autumn.
Use Carefree Beauty as a specimen shrub rose or in a bed of 7 or 9 shrubs. I also like the variety as a source of cut flowers. It has a light pleasant fragrance.
Do you have a planting bed at your church or business that has never fulfilled its potential because people always cut across it and stomp down the plants? Consider the Martha Gonzales old-fashioned rose. It is easily maintained at three feet tall and is an attractive groundcover that has enough thorns to protect itself, but it is not so savage that blood loss is a major problem. I have even seen it used on school campuses without aggravating the students’ mothers to the point that it must be removed.
The flowers on Martha Gonzales are quarter size and blood red. The petals are arranged in five or six layers so it is a relatively complex little bloom. Expect the Martha Gonzales to bloom from March or April through December without break. The blooms are relatively thick on the shrub (every 3 – 4 inches). A major part of the attraction of this rose is the foliage. New foliage is red and mature foliage is shiny with a very noticeable red tint.
Belinda’s Dream has similar characteristics and uses as Carefree Beauty rose. The flower is more complex with a lush arrangement of petals that resembles the hybrid tea roses that are sold as cut flowers at the florist. The flower is pink, a lighter pink than Carefree Beauty. It also has a light pleasant fragrance and makes a good cut flower. This year, Belinda’s Dream began its bloom cycle later than Carefree Beauty (March), but otherwise, the cycle of bloom is about the same – six weeks of bloom followed by six weeks without bloom. Belinda’s Dream blooms until early winter and makes a good specimen rose if you want a plant about five feet tall.
Knockout is a modern rose described as being as tough as an antique rose. My plant has grown to four feet tall with flat half dollar sized carmine colored flowers. The plant is not as compact as the other roses described in this article. I believe it will be most useful as a shrub border or background plant. The carmine colored blooms are not large, but they are visible from long distances.
Mrs. Dudley Cross rose has been described as the San Antonio rose. It is a widely planted antique rose that grows to about six feet tall with well-shaped light peach colored blooms that make excellent cut flowers, especially in the bud stage. The flowers do not have any fragrance and the stems are free of thorns. Use Mrs. Dudley Cross as a specimen plant and source of cut flowers. The bloom season is long, from March through November.
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