Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, March 24, 2007
“Beautiful but Tough”
There are many old-fashioned roses that fit in a modern San Antonio
landscape because they are attractive, pest-tolerant, and drought-tolerant.
Quite often, however, the flowers they produce are not specimen
quality, in that we would not think of them for cut flowers. Modern
hybrid tea roses, however, produce specimen quality flowers, but
require more tender loving care than most of us are willing to
provide. How about roses that have both characteristics? Here
is my list.
Katy Road is my favorite rose in the “tough plant, pretty
flower” category. It is an antique rose that turned out
to be a modern rose after DNA testing. The modern name is Carefree
Beauty. It can be found under both names on the retail market.
The rose is a shrub that grows to about six feet tall, and nearly
as wide. The pink flowers begin as beautiful buds that open to
a flat flower to four inches across with four layers of petals.
Katy Road is unusual in that it forms a hip after the flowers
Another tough modern rose in the same league as Katy Road is
Belinda’s Dream. Belinda’s Dream bloom is lighter
pink than Katy Road, but it is the most complex flower of all
the tough roses. The buds are florist quality. Belinda’s
Dream has a pleasant light fragrance and makes a good cut flower.
It blooms for seven or eights months of the year. The plant reaches
six feet tall, and is equally wide.
Mrs. Dudley Cross rose is an upright shrub that reaches five
feet tall, and 3.5 feet in diameter. Its flower is peach yellow
and is hybrid tea like in its compound layered structure. They
make good cut flowers. Mrs. Dudley Cross blooms in the spring
and fall for a total of about seven months every year. The plant
This year, Dr. Jerry Parsons, and his Garden Volunteer helpers
have introduced a yellow hybrid tea rose that has proven to be
nearly as tough as the other roses in this article over several
years of testing. The blooms are true yellow with florist quality
buds. It is unique for a hybrid tea rose, in that, it is grown
on its own rootstock. What it sacrifices in vigor through this
feature, it makes up in survivability. The rose is Granny’s
Yellow Rose. There are not a large number on the market yet, but
like the other roses on the list, Granny’s can tolerate
drought and live through fungus and insect attacks. It is the
only “tough” rose with a cut flower quality yellow
There are other tough roses blooming now. Lady Banks rose has
a small (half-dollar size) flower in white or pale yellow. Lady
Banks rose only blooms for two to three weeks every spring, but
if it is grown in full sun, the eight feet tall, 12 feet wide
plant is completely covered by blooms during that period. Most
plants are thornless. Use Lady Banks to provide an attractive
large weeping shrub that has a brief but spectacular period of
The butterfly rose plant is almost as large as Lady Banks, but
it is more upright and blooms almost year around if the winter
is mild. Also called “mutabilis” this shrub rose carries
three colors of flowers at any one time. The flat silver dollar
size blooms start out peach become pink and finish as light crimson.
Butterfly rose has thorns, but they are not savage thorns.
Martha Gonzales rose also has relatively benign thorns. They
are enough to protect the plant from careless pets and children,
but not enough to cause serious damage. The thorns and its modest
size, three feet tall and three feet around make it ideal for
the beds between sidewalks at the entrance to high traffic buildings.
Martha Gonzales is as tough as they come and sports a large number
of blood red half-dollar size blooms nine months of the year.
If red is your favorite rose color, consider another modern
rose bred for toughness, the “Knockout.” Its silver
dollar size, four petal layered blooms are carmen red. The plant
reaches the same size as Belinda’s Dream, but seems to be
a more open less dense shrub. The plant produces blooms six to
seven months per year.
Consider these tough roses if you want roses without having
to spray and irrigate every week. Now is a good time to plant
them. They can be planted in native soil or raised beds. Mulch
them with oak leaves and water them every two weeks this first
summer and then every month in the summer after they are established.
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