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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Q&A Weekly Article and Archives

Express-News Weekly Column Saturday, November 11, 2000 Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D.,
Director of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist


In my presentations about xeriscape I often claim that one of the best things about the landscape strategy is that you can have color throughout the year. Old-fashioned roses are plants that help make xeriscape landscapes colorful.

Old-fashioned roses are plants that have stood the test of time. They have survived on abandoned homesteads and gardens for generations without the benefit of irrigation, fertilization, pesticides or pruning.

There are hundreds of varieties from which to select, with a growth pattern and bloom to match every landscape need other than a tolerance for shade. Old-fashioned roses will survive in shade as they get over-grown by trees, but they will not bloom.

Old-fashioned roses are like other blooming plants, although they will survive without irrigation, one deep watering per month in the summer, some limited pruning every few years, and a shot of fertilizer from time to time will increase bloom. Mulch over the root system and organic material incorporated into the soil also enhances landscape performance.

Mutabilis or butterfly rose is blooming up a storm right now and will do so until a hard freeze occurs. This rose forms a rather undisciplined shrub about four or five feet tall and nearly as wide, but it is covered with blooms from late spring until early winter. The flat blooms begin as a yellow-gold color and evolve through pink and end up a light crimson color.

Martha Gonzales rose blooms just as long through the season as Mutabilis; it has a simple flat flower, but the resemblance ends there. Martha Gonzales is a compact rose, growing to three feet with blood-red flowers. It is my favorite rose for directing traffic. The thorns are significant enough to be noticed and protect the plant but not savage enough to scar rough-housing youngsters that are determined to cut through a planting area.

Mrs. Dudley Cross is an attractive rose that reaches three or four feet tall with an upright growth pattern. The blooms approximate the size and complexity of modern roses, but it is truly an old-fashioned rose with a tolerance for mildew, black spot and drought. The blooms are a creamy yellow with pink edging.

Do you have a lot of ground to cover and would like a fast-growing, weeping plant that will reach eight feet tall and 12 feet in diameter? The Lady Banks rose will fit the bill. Wrens love to work the branches for insects and ground birds seek insects around the perimeter of this invincible rose. Bloom comes in early spring (March) and only lasts two weeks, but it will cover the entire plant and is guaranteed to attract attention. Yellow and white-flowered versions exist. Some have almost no thorns and little fragrance while other specimens are thorny and provide great fragrance. Select the variety that meets your needs.

Lady Banks rose makes an impenetrable tall hedge, but it is a sissy plant when compared to the Red Cascade rose. Some gardeners use Red Cascade espalier fashion or as a fast-growing, climbing rose, but it is most effective when used as a groundcover 3 to 3.5 feet tall in an area through which you do not want anyone to pass. The thorns are savage and the small blood-red blooms give warning that anyone who tries to pass their way will surely leave blood behind.

You can see the Red Cascade rose used as a groundcover at the Jones-Maltsberger Turfgrass and Groundcover Management Site at the SAWS pumping station located on Jones-Maltsberger, two blocks north of NW Loop 410. If you visit on Mondays between 9 am and noon (only open to the public on Mondays) or on a scheduled field day, the Master Gardeners tending the site will let you take cuttings from the plant. Your favorite nursery that handles old-fashioned roses probably also has a Red Cascade-like rose if they do not have the Red Cascade itself.

Another rose available at the nurseries right now that fits into a xeriscape is the Belinda's Dream rose. Like the Mrs. Dudley Cross, the blooms are large and showy. Belinda's Dream has rich pink flowers that will attract attention as a specimen plant. It probably is not a true old-fashioned rose in terms of having been in existence for generations, but it is an old-fashioned rose in terms of toughness and suitability for the xeriscape.

For more information on old-fashioned roses, seek out one of Dr. Bill Welch's books, "Antique Roses" or "Perennial Garden Color."