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
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."