Gather ye rosebuds. . .

We all have our prejudices, I suppose. For my part, I've always felt a mild contempt for rose gardeners. A few years back, I confounded several of the rosarians in my neighborhood when, upon moving in, I ripped out and discarded every rose bush on my property. "How could she?" they'd wondered. . .

With a shovel and a good pair of gloves. And a smile on my face. It was easy. I'll even go so far as to say it was a pleasure. OK, sure, roses in general are lovely, but, soaking up gallons of water and artificial fertilizers and requiring regular applications of pesticides, they're needy, too. Those rose gardeners who are singularly devoted to coddling such fussy, exotic species no matter what the cost have their priorities out of whack. In other words? Roses are the stretch Hummers of the garden.

Fortunately, it looks as if the rose-obsessed can finally do their thing without wasting water and poisoning area honey bees and other beneficial insects. (And, now, maybe even I can come to respect these sweet-scented beauties!) See, during the last several years, Texas A&M University research scientists have tested hundreds of roses to determine which varieties can be grown in existing, unamended soil without extra watering and sans fertilization or spraying. From April Moon and Carefree Wonder to Louis Philippe and Mrs. Dudley Cross, there are scores of "Earth Kind" roses which demand little attention.

Many of them are antique varieties which may not be quite as prolific or showy as new-fangled hybrid roses, but at least they can hold their own without special treatment. Best of all, the research is ongoing, and, should you be interested in field testing some of these low-impact roses in your own back yard, the university welcomes your evaluations of any Earth Kind varieties you choose to grow. "Budding" scientists must agree to evaluate the performance of their Earth Kind roses at one, two, three, and four years after planting, and the use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides -- no, not even neem oil -- is prohibited.


Looking for roses that are more like the Prius than that stretch Hummer she mentioned? Search for "Earth-Kind" rose on google. Or the Easy Elegance selection from Bailey nurseries. And as always, organic gardening is the way to go, and there are PLENTY of articles on organic rose gardening.