Bartlett on Gardening: The Expanding Universe of No-Spray Roses

(Photo: Carmella Fairytale)

For decades, rose hybridizers were unconcerned with disease resistance. They assumed that everyone growing roses followed a spray program. Then along came Knockout. The incredible popularity of this bulletproof rose opened their eyes to the commercial potential of low-maintenance roses.

Homeowners in Germany have not been permitted to use pesticides for over 20 years. Kordes, a well established rose hybridizer there, entered the North American market a few years ago. Their roses are bred for disease and pest resistance as well as a long season of flower production. The roses are grouped into classifications sharing particular qualities.

The Fairytale series have flowers similar to old garden roses but produce more flowers in a wonderful array of colors. I have Carmella Fairytale, one of our favorites. It blooms in clusters of very full flowers that change from peachy apricot to gold as they open. The vigorous shrub has a red cast to the foliage. It had very little black spot this past season. I will say that it did not flower well until its third year in the garden. I have heard similar comments about Kordes roses from other folks, but it is well worth the wait.

The Veranda and Vigorosa series are landscape roses, some of which are small enough to be carpet or ground covers. I have two Veranda roses, Roxanne and Brilliant, in my little test garden. By late July they both had a lot of black spot. Roxanne made a better recovery by the end of the season than Brilliant.

I added Solero Vigorosa to the garden August 1. It remained disease free the rest of the season. At the same time, I planted Summer Romance from the Parfuma series. It also demonstrated excellent disease resistance.

The United States has far more climate variation than Germany. I am very excited about the Sunbelt collection from Kordes. These roses were developed to thrive in hot, humid situations without pesticide use. They are members of four different classes of roses, so there is quite a variety to choose among.

Plum Perfect is a lavender florabunda which is extremely popular with visitors to the Biltmore House rose trial garden in Asheville. Polar Express is a tall white-flowered shrub. It was disease free for me this past summer. (Unfortunately the flowers are among Bambi’s favorites!) Savannah is a fragrant, warm pink hybrid tea. I know several folks who are growing this beauty.

​​South Africa (above) is a grandiflora. The color is quite striking. I spotted it in the rose trial area in the Huntington Botanical Garden in Pasadena, California several years ago and managed to acquire one last spring. I took a bloom to the rose club meeting where it was a big hit. The color reminds me of orange sherbet, a really happy color.

Sunny Sky (right) is another hybrid tea rose. It is a popular award winner in Europe and should

do well here. On top of being disease free and fragrant, the large, long-lasting flowers are a stunning lemon yellow. It has captured my heart .

The great news about roses from Kordes is that they will be available at Lowe’s. I know I want to try more of them and hope you will try them too.

Ann Bartlett is a master gardener who also writes for rose newsletters.

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