For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
“Tough Plants for Valentine
Have your gardening hormones started flowing
yet? This is the time of year for
it. The easiest way to cope is to plant
something. Keep in mind, however, that
as pleasant as the weather is now, in four – five months the
One of my favorite family of plants are the “tough” roses. I call the group the “tough roses” instead of old-fashioned roses because I want to include the modern “tough roses” in addition to some of my favorite old-fashioned roses.
If you are looking for a rose that produces good buds and florist type blooms for cutting, but also is a good xeriscape plant, consider Belinda’s Dream. This “tough rose” reaches five – six feet tall and four feet wide. It has pale pink blooms that are available for cutting or admiring approximately eight months out of the year. Belinda’s Dream makes a good specimen shrub or can be planted in the shrub border if there is full sun.
As good as
Belinda’s Dream is, I like
Martha Gonzales rose is an old-fashioned rose with half-dollar sized blood red blooms that cover the three foot plant eight months of the year. This tough rose is my favorite plant for directing traffic in high pressure areas like bus stops or corners on the routes where children walk to school It also makes an attractive plant for those planting areas with sidewalks on both sides at churches, schools, clinics or office buildings. Martha Gonzales has enough thorns to protect itself and direct traffic onto appropriate paths without savaging youngsters or lazy adults that want to cut through the garden area.
Martha Gonzales is a disciplined compact grower so it is well suited to the role of traffic controller without taking over the path itself. In addition to red blooms on the plant eight months of the year, the foliage is reddish making an attractive addition to the garden nearly all year.
Lady Banks rose will be blooming soon. They do not bloom for a long period, but they make a great show for three weeks when they bloom. The flowers are quarter-size in yellow or white and completely cover the plant. Some of the older plants had thorns, but those now at area nurseries are thorn-less. Lady Banks is a rose that grows ten feet tall when they are in the open. They will be 12 – 14 feet around with weeping branches and small leaves. If a plant ends up in the shade it will send branches into the trees over it to seek the sun. Use Lady Banks to fill a large space in full sun where a plant with weeping branches will look good.
The tough roses are good xeriscape plants. They can survive in our area without supplemental irrigation or pesticide sprays. They do, however, perform better if they receive a deep watering every two weeks during droughty summer weather. A leaky hose works very well for a bed of “tough roses.” Prune the “tough roses” when it is convenient. It is easier to access the blooms for cutting if dead and scraggly branches are removed, but unlike modern roses they do not need to be pruned every year. The tough roses can be planted in raised beds or native soils. They require full sun to perform well.