"Earthkind" Roses - The Brightest Star on the Horizon
by Gaye Hammond

Finally! Roses that thrive with almost no care. Texas A&M horticulturists have been conducting field research for over three years on more than 117 rose varieties in search of the most beautiful care-free roses ever developed. Out of the 117 varieties studied, 11 gave spectacular performance despite adverse growing conditions and very little maintenance.

To receive the "Earthkind" designation, each cultivator was grown in highly alkaline clay soil with a pH rating between 8.0 and 8.4. Each had to exhibit outstanding disease and insect tolerance/resistance, as well as produce spectacular blooms. According to the researchers, ‘Earthkind’ roses represent (1) the best flowering varieties for horticultural uses; (2) the best varieties for organic management methods; and (3) reduce the need for applications of pesticides by 95%. In the field research program, test varieties were never fertilized, never sprayed and never pruned (except to remove dead wood).

While none of the varieties tested proved impervious to blackspot, the emerging 11 varieties are either tolerant or highly tolerant to the disease. The research showed that these 11 varieties dropped 25% or less of their leaves once a year. None of the 11 varieties had significant insect problems. A few of the bushes attracted aphids in the spring, however within 3 weeks the aphid population was eradicated by naturally occurring beneficial insects.

All 11 varieties are grown on their own roots and exhibited good heat and drought tolerance, maintaining their blooms production even through the 108-degree Dallas summers. The only noticeable affect was a reduction in the diameter of the blooms.

The 11 varieties receiving the ‘Earthkind’ designation are:
1. Sea Foam - a creamy white groundcover shrub rose that has double blooms with a cascading growth habit. This variety blooms April through November on 3 ft. tall by 6 ft. wide bushes.
2. Marie Daly - a pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose that has semi-double fragrant blooms growing on an almost thornless bush. This variety is perfect for growing in containers and proved to be tolerant to spider mites. The variety blooms April through November on 3 ft. tall by 3 ft. wide bushes.
3. The Fairy - a light pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose that has double blooms on bushes that are 3 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide. The bush blooms from April through November, but does not do well in East Texas due to the severity of Cercospora leaf spot in that area of the state.
4. Caldwell Pink (must be exhibited as Pink Pet) - a lilac pink carnation-style found rose that grows as a small shrub on bushes 4 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide.
5. Knock Out - a cherry red semi-double shrub rose that blooms April through November on bushes that are 4 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide.
6. Perle d’Or - a peach polyantha that blooms with fragrant pompom blooms between April and November. This small shrub rose (4 ft. by 4 ft.) out performed Cecile Brunner in the field tests by 40% and seemed to thrive on adversity.
7. Belinda’s Dream - a medium-size shrub rose that has pink fragrant blooms between April and November. The blooms resemble hybrid teas with petal a count of about 114 on bushes loaded with blue-green foliage. The mature bush size is 5 ft. by 5 ft. This rose was the first one to receive the ‘Earthkind’ designation.
8. Elsie Poulson - a pink floribunda rose that blooms with semi-double flowers between April and November. It has been described that this bush’s growth resembles a cyclamen and is best suited for use in background plantings. The mature bush size is 5 ft by 5 ft.
9. Katy Road Pink (not identified as Carefree Beauty) - a fragrant pink found rose that blooms with double flowers between April and November on mature bushes that are 5 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide.
10. Mutabilis (the ‘Butterfly’ Rose) - a China rose that has single blooms which change color during their life cycle from yellow to pink to crimson. This rose blooms between April and November on large bushes that are approximately 6 ft by 6 ft.
11. Climbing Pinkie - This pink semi-double polyantha has very fragrant blooms between April and November. When cultivated as a climbing rose, the canes can reach 10 ft. long. If cultivated as a shrub, the bush size will be 5 ft. tall by 7 ft. wide. This variety blooms once a year in the spring. During the bloom season it is not uncommon for a mature bush to display 800 blooms each day.

While these roses were purposely subjected to the most adverse conditions possible, they will be even more spectacular if they receive regular applications of fertilizer in March, June and a light feeding in late August.

"Earthkind" Roses are available by mail order at the following:
Antique Rose Emporium
9300 Lueckemeyer Rd.
Brenham, Texas 77833-6453
web site: www.weAREroses.com

Chamblees Rose Nursery
Attn: John Wilbanks
10926 US Hwy. 69 North
Tyler, Texas 75706
web site: www.chambleeroses.com

As with any rose, "Earthkind" varieties should be planted where they will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight each day in a location with good air circulation. Texas A&M also recommends that roses not be irrigated at night and that gardeners utilize thick applications of mulch (3 - 4 inches thick) to insulate the root zone and guard against moisture loss.

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