Bartlett on Gardening: The Last Rose Roundup

Apricot Drift not only blooms well and is disease resistant, it doesn't have to be deadheaded.

The biggest surprise of the very wet 2017 growing season was that many of my roses had the same amount of foliar disease they usually display. As a no-spray rosarian, I expected those that usually have a moderate amount of disease to look really terrible, but they performed well.

Super Hero and Home Run are very thorny, little red shrubs. They bloomed well and had no blackspot; none. If you want a scarlet landscape rose, these are truly carefree, although Bambi just loves to nibble on Super Hero.

Distant Drums (left) bloomed more than usual in spite of defoliating three times during the summer. I keep it because the flowers are a very unusual color of buff and mauve with showy yellow stamens. Smith’s Parish, a large Bermuda mystery rose, had a minimal amount of disease in midsummer and bloomed from April until November.

I had some very pleasant surprises in a few roses that typically have a moderate amount of disease midseason, but had very little last summer. Carefree Celebration is a four-by-four-foot rounded shrub that continuously produces clusters of coral-colored flowers. My two shrubs were minimally marred throughout the summer. Lafter, an older hybrid tea rose, grew and flowered more than usual and was disease free.

Among old garden roses, hybrid perpetuals represent an important step along the path to modern roses. They were bred to have large individual blooms. Most are intensely fragrant. So why do we see few of these roses around today? Well, “perpetual” was an aspiration rather than a reality. These roses flower profusely in the spring and rest until autumn when they may produce a few more blooms. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when Marchesa Boccella flowered throughout the summer with disease-free foliage.

Last spring I planted Thomas Affleck, an award-winning rose from a breeding program at The Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. The Pioneer Roses are crosses among vigorous antique roses, wild roses and modern shrubs. The goal of the program is to produce “carefree, repeat blooming garden plants.” Well, Thomas Affleck certainly blooms a lot and was disease free for me. Another member of our rose club had problems with foliar disease but found that it bloomed well.

In June, I bought the last two Apricot Drift roses Home Depot had in stock. I was delighted with them. Not only did they grow and bloom well, but they had minimal disease and are self-cleaning. That means one does not need to remove the spent flowers.

Photo: Marchessa Boccella

Last but never least, I want to mention My Girl. This is a shrub rose that had never had a disease problem and blooms continuously. The medium pink flowers are very full and showy but have no fragrance. By the end of last summer, the leaves were peppered with black spot, but it never lost foliage, nor did it slow flower production.

In this series, I have focused on the positive experiences I had with roses in 2017. There are roses that are undemanding garden shrubs, and I encourage my flower-loving readers to give them a try.

Master gardener Ann Bartlett gave up spraying her roses years ago and has had much success raising them without pesticides. Here she is pictured with "her My Girl."

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