Roses in the South

A lot of the gardening advice out there seems to be written for the northern states. Gardening in the South is a little different.

Take roses for example. While the All-America selections are supposed to do well in all parts of the country, (that’s the All-America part) they often suffer from mildew and black spot in the South. It may be because of the heat and humidity down here.

Just because a rose is prominently featured in a plant catalog or is an All-America selection doesn’t mean it will do well for you, in your yard and your climate. I’ve seen plants that were straggly or had poor leaf coverage, but absolutely beautiful blooms. That may be alright if you’re growing them for cut flowers, but it isn’t very attractive in the yard.

If you want good advice, the American Rose Society (ars.org) has recommendations based on member’s ratings over many years of the plants they’ve grown; the higher the score, the better the rose. This is a good start, but it still does not address the problems of growing roses in my climate. Here are a few tidbits I’ve picked up.

In the early 1980’s, a group that came to call themselves the Rose Rustlers were collecting cuttings of roses that they found growing along back roads in Texas. These plants were often growing on the sites of abandoned homesteads or cemeteries and were flourishing with no care. No one to feed, prune, water, or spray them! The rustlers would take cuttings and pictures and attempt to identify what they had found. Many of the plants were what would be considered ‘antique’ roses, some had not been commercially available since 1900!

If you are trying to grow roses in the south, you could do a lot worse than researching these antique roses. One source is the Antique Rose Emporium (www.antiqueroseemporium.com) in Texas, but there are many others.

Note: While researching this topic, I came across the Earth-Kind program from Texas A&M. They are identifying landscape plants that grow well in southern gardens with little care or watering. Here is a link to their rose recommendations: http://earthkindroses.tamu.edu/EKroses.html.

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