For The Answer
Weekly Express-News ArticleSaturday, July 23, 2005By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director and Horticulturist, SAWS
“Tough Roses for the Xeriscape”
Old fashioned or tough modern roses are important parts of many xeriscape landscapes. The plants will survive without supplemental irrigation, pesticides or fertilization. They bloom better, however, if they receive a deep watering every month and some lawn fertilizer every autumn and early spring. Mulch over the root system contributes greatly to rose performance. Among my favorite tough roses are Carefree Beauty, Martha Gonzales, Belinda’s Dream, Mrs. Dudley Cross, and Knockout.
Carefree Beauty rose is a relatively modern rose (1970’s) that is as tough as any of the old-fashioned roses and is an outstanding performer in terms of bloom and landscape use. Some of us know this rose as Katy Road. For a while, Carefree Beauty was discovered and identified as an antique rose. Genetic analysis revealed, however, that the rose was not old-fashioned after all. Watch for it under both names.
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 form. One of the things I like best about Carefree Beauty is the rose hips. The hips are nickel size. The hips appear all through the season. The bloom cycles would probably be speeded up by deadheading the spent flowers, but then you would not have the hips. As it is, the cycles include about six weeks of bloom followed by six weeks without bloom. 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.
Martha Gonzales is an old-fashioned rose that has outstanding characteristics that make it useful in the landscape. The plant grows to four and sometimes five feet tall, but it is often maintained at three feet tall as a traffic directing groundcover. It is especially valuable in landscapes where foot traffic has an inclination to cut across the planting beds. In downtown San Antonio the Public TV headquarters on Broadway uses Martha Gonzales roses in that manner. They are attractive plants with enough thorns to protect themselves, but not so much as to cause lawsuit stimulating wounds.
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.
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.
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 because of the bright color they are visible from long distances.
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