If I Were To Plant A New Rose Garden. . .

I probably wouldn’t grow any David Austin roses. My fingers hate typing these words, but it’s true. My six or seven David Austins are more trouble than they’re worth. If they get disease protection and lots of food, they bloom heavily in the spring and then, nothing . . . until fall. It’s a little like exercise after forty. You have to do it, but there’s not much to show for your effort.

If I built a new bed, I would fill it with nutrient rich soil and hardy (USDA Zone 6 or colder) disease resistant roses; the kind I don’t have to hover over like an anxious mother nursing her child through a bout of Scarlet Fever. Think of The Velveteen Rabbit.

Instead, I would choose plants that thrive on baby bird care. You feed them in the spring and then shove them out of the nest after a few flying lessons. Can you tell I’m the parent of teenagers right now?

These are the roses which have a special place in my heart for their ease of care.

‘Carefree Beauty‘ (USDA Zone 5-9) I’ve already written about this wonderful rose, underutilized in the gardening world. Pointed buds open to free-formed flowers which flutter in the breeze like butterfly wings. Every garden with the space should have at least one. The cuttings also root easily, and since this isn’t a patented plant, you can reproduce it. I had a friend who grew a row of ‘Carefree Beauty’ under high shade. You could see them from the street, and they led you visually into her garden. This is the same rose sometimes listed as ‘Katy Road Pink’ because it was “found” along a road in Katy, Texas.

Double Knockout® (USDA Zone 4-10) Instead of the original single, overused by landscapers throughout central Oklahoma (I can’t speak of anywhere else,) I would plant its cousin, the double. It also blooms cherry red, but with 18-24 petals, it has more of a classic rose shape. Easily established, it needs no spraying and blooms all summer. New foliage is an attractive deep purple.

Pink Knockout® (USDA Zone 7-11) (USDA Zone 4-9) or Double Pink Knockout® (USDA Zone 4-10) With blooms a brighter shade of lipstick pink than ‘Carefree Beauty,’ these roses are beacons of pink light. I have six of the single form. I don’t have the double, but it appears from the company website to be hardier than the single.  It appears I made a mistake on the hardiness of the single form.  The company website doesn’t list hardiness zones for Pink Knockout®, but I found zones 4-9 on the Sooner Plant Farm website.

Carefree Sunshine® (USDA Zone 4-9) This yellow was also hybridized by William Radler of Knockout Fame. You’ve got to love a hybridizer who gathers diseased rose leaves, lets them dry, crushes them and then spreads the powder around his baby roses while their leaves are wet to discover which ones are most disease resistant. Why didn’t someone think of that before? Carefree Sunshine® is very disease resistant. In my garden, she is so hugged up to AARS winner ‘About Face’ that if there was going to be blackspot, it would be rampant between these two.

Old Blush’ or Cl. ‘Old Blush’ Although these are chinas and are listed to be hardy to only USDA Zone 7, they are grown to Zone 6. My shrubs are in my most difficult garden space in the middle of a pasture with no protection from cold, sun, heat, or wind. I don’t water this garden very much either.

You’ve seen the photos of ‘Cl. Old Blush.’ She is wonderful, and the shrub form is just as nice. The blooms themselves aren’t anything to write home about, but they appear once a month. The climbing form blooms heavily in the spring, intermittently throughout the summer, and then has a good bloom once the weather cools a little in the fall.

‘Country Dancer’ (USDA Zone 5-9,) hybridized by Dr. Griffith Buck, is very pretty. It has a rambling habit, and is small in stature (three feet by four feet.) The blooms last for a long time, are slightly fragrant, and the bush shrugs off blackspot.

‘Basye’s Blueberry’ (USDA Zone 5-9) isn’t planted in Oklahoma very often, and I don’t understand why. First, it’s thornless, making it ideal in a landscape where children play. Next, it is disease resistant; it has good heat and cold tolerance; and it blooms in some shade. The bush is urn shaped with a pleasing look, and it holds its blossoms up high on its stems. It was hybridized by Dr. Robert Basye, a mathematics professor at Texas A&M and rose hybrizer.

Belinda’s Dream’ Antique Rose Emporium lists this rose as hardy between USDA Zones 5-9. ‘Belinda’s Dream’ was also hybridized by Dr. Basye, who named it after a friend’s daughter. It’s a Shrub Rose with blooms shaped like a Hybrid Tea’s. It must be the’Tiffany’ in its parentage. BTW, ‘Tiffany’ was always a terrible rose for me, but it appears she passed on her beauty and not her diva tendencies.

‘The Fairy’ (USDA Zone 4-9.) The blooms are a very light pink which fade to white in the sun. They are formed in clusters at the ends of strong stems. Although this Polyantha is listed as a small shrub, mine is five feet tall and four feet wide. It easily holds its ground with ‘Carefree Delight’ a thorny monster. I would plant ‘The Fairy’ again because of its tolerance to heat, cold and blackspot. I don’t ever fertilize it, and it never misses a beat once it starts blooming. In fact, it is such a structure of the garden that I forget it’s there.

After I wrote the piece about the Austins, I worried because so many people wrote in about trying them after seeing my pictures. I wouldn’t. This is going to make the Austin rep upset with me at the Garden Writers Symposium, but they are not roses for first time growers. They take experience, money and time to grow in Oklahoma and probably elsewhere. All of the roses listed here are easy to grow and look fabulous everyday. You can buy many of them locally now, or you can order them online from Chamblee’s Rose Nursery or The Antique Rose Emporium.


  1. Kathy Purdy says:

    I was going to get ‘Country Dancer’ at Der Rosenmeister in Ithaca. But ‘Wanderin’ Wind’ was in bloom and CD wasn’t, and I fell for it. It is still a skinny little thing, and while it doesn’t seem to get diseases, the bugs sure like it. Last summer the Japanese beetles devoured it. This year the leaves already look like Swiss cheese from aphids and this little wormy-catepillary thing crawling all over the leaves.

  2. Tony says:


    Your zones for the Pink knockout are incorrect. I think you mistakenly put in the petal count. The Pink Knockout is zone 4 to 10 I believe (you have 7 to 11)

    Tony, I finally had time to go back and research the zones. I made the corrections to the post. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.~~Dee

  3. eliz says:

    I love my two David Austins, but I certainly agree about the ones you have cited as alternatives. Carefree Beauty is a wonderful rose. I am looking for a Carefree Sunshine to plant this spring.

    I hope you find one. Mine is going great guns.~~Dee

  4. Much depends on climate I expect.

    Dorset is clearly different from Oklahoma (!).

    But my David Austin Rambling Rector has opened its first flowers in the last few days – and the scent is already tremendous. When all its flowers (thousands, I would guess) open, I wonder if we will be able to breathe!

    I have done nothing to its advantage but restrain it.

    I have had it for several years but have fed it only twice.

    It’s leaves and flowers are almost perfection.

    Of course, it may succomb to something horrible – but so far, so good.

    As long as you can brave its thorns and are prepared to let it run rampant (it will take the tiles off your roof if you let it) (if you’ve got tiles) – it’s wonderful.

    It may be David Austin – but I love it!


    Esther, since they came from England originally, I bet they are beautiful in your garden. Why don’t you draw a sketch of them for us? I, for one, would love to see it.~~Dee

  5. Kathleen says:

    Informative post Dee. When my shrub rose blooms, I’m going to e-mail you a picture and see if you know what it is!
    (a former owner planted it)
    I received ‘The Fairy’ for Mother’s Day one year but left it behind when we moved. I had no idea it got that big, I was under the impression it stayed small?
    I would love to try ‘Belinda’s Dream’ ~ she looks gorgeous. I’m a sucker for anything pink and bodicious (like her blooms)!

    Kathleen, ‘The Fairy’ is supposed to stay small. Mine just grew and grew. I use her as the centerpiece of a garden, so I’m glad. Email me the photo. I’ll try to i.d.~~Dee

  6. David Perry says:

    Gotta respectfully disagree with you on this topic, Dee. But then again, I am writing from a Seattle perspective. I have several David Austin roses and several others, and though they do not all perform equally, there are those like Golden Celebration, Gertrude Jekyll and Heritage that do just stunningly here and cut well.

    I adore Jude the Obscure for its incredible shape, color and fragrance, though its blooms are short-lived for the vase. And Evelyn, though a bit finicky here is absolutely heavenly both to the eye and the nose. Maybe it’s just the climate here.

    Michael at David Austin recommended Queen of Sweden to me last year at the Garden Writer’s Symposium as another rose with wonderful vase life that is very disease resistant and whose blooms hold up well to rain. I’ve got one in the ground now, and am excited to see how she does.

    And for those intimidated by roses, but desirous as well, I’d recommend a little reading. ‘In Search of Lost Roses’ by Thomas Christoper. (University of Chicago Press) This is a fascinating book about those who travel the backroads seeking out roses that have survived untended for decades in old graveyards, ghost towns and abandoned homesteads. Such roses are tough and time tested. Seriously, roses are not for the faint of heart. Its just a matter of right rose, right place.

    David, I read “In search of Lost Roses.” The history it presented was very good. I’d also suggest “The Rose Bible.” It’s good too and has lots of photos. I think our weather is so different and that’s why the DAs do well for you (or perhaps you’re a better rose gardener.)~~Dee

  7. Layanee says:


    I did just buy two David Austin roses simply for their fragrance. I should get a couple of years out of them…stay tuned on that! I do have ‘The Fairy’ and ‘Ballerina’ which are pretty low care but then I find that all plants can be low care if you just don’t care! LOL I have a couple of ‘Knock Out’ roses but they haven’t done too much for me. You might try Rosa hugonis or Fr. Hugo rose which is beautiful when it flowers as it is covered with single, small yellow flowers but its’ true value is its’ foliage which is very small and textural.

    Layanee, I hope you get more years than that out of them. They are too expensive. I might try Fr. Hugo someday. Thanks for the tip.~~Dee

  8. Aiyana says:

    I think I’m going to stop at the three roses I planted this spring. I can see already they are not worth the effort for the few blooms I got before the weather got too hot. Maybe in the fall…
    We are in Zone 9b, so none of the ones you would have in your garden would work here, but I really like the Double Knockout. I sometimes wonder if there’s much difference in Zone 9 and 9b in summers.

    Aiyana, maybe in partial shade zone 9 and 9b are similar?~~Dee

  9. Diana says:

    Omigosh, Dee. I am printing and keeping your post forever! This is just what I need. I don’t have any roses right now — I used to have two here but a construction project forced us to remove them and I miss them. I have plans for a new bed next fall when we put in the greenhouse and want to fill it with roses. And you’ve just given me the perfect primer for strong plants that are tough enough to survive Austin, and me! Thanks for doing all that work — the information and choices of roses out there are, well, frankly, overwhelming! So now I am armed and ready to go…

    Diana, feel free to email me if you need more help.~~Dee

  10. Jeanne says:

    I agree with you regarding David Austin roses. I have two, and I am pretty
    bad about fertilizing and spraying, and they usually look pretty bad. Like
    right now, for example! I do love the blooms and the scent, but the leaves
    look horrid!


    They are very pretty in the spring.~~Dee

  11. kerri says:

    I certainly have learned a lot about roses here tonight. Thanks for these recommendations Dee. I’ll know where to come if I want to refresh my memory about rose care and which ones to plant.

    Kerri, glad to help.~~Dee

  12. Amy says:

    Basye’s Blueberry looks incredibly similar to our native roses.

    Are they thornless?~~Dee

  13. I could not name a rose if my life depended on it. Wait. I lie. I think I know what a Joseph’s Coat looks like. A rose is a rose is a, well, you know. A rose. Here’s my list of roses in my garden: Pepto Pink that grows into the Cat Window
    (lucky kitties and I tell them so); Orange Stripeys-who-the-hell-planted-these-things; pink and yellow Orphans from Walmart, who knew? I think I should do a counterpoint post to this one next week. LOL! Yes, I do. 🙂

    Kathryn, you make me laugh.~~Dee

  14. deb says:

    I hate to admit it Dee, but I wouldn’t plant the single David Austin I have now again. Too much blackspot and thrips just love the blooms.

    Mine are beautiful, but I have to work very hard to keep them that way.~~Dee

  15. Marie says:

    interesting and beautiful 🙂

    Thanks, Marie.~~Dee

  16. This is a very useful post, Dee, even if I don’t like the conclusions you reach! Carefree Sunshine looks good to me- yellow roses have been a special flower since I was in high school. I love the pearly apricot ones, too, and the pure white ones… and the dark, dark red ones.

    Unfortunately my least favorite color is pink, and the toughest, least troublesome roses are always that color. (Also, Belinda is not trouble free so far in my pink garden!)

    Try to enjoy being a mother of teenagers ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Annie, I have a new apricot one (last year) ‘About Face.’ It’s doing really well.~~Dee

  17. Today I found myself perusing the shrub Roses at a nursery. I can’t decide which to buy. Thanks for your list of recommended easy Roses. I have to have scent, perpetual blooming & disease resistance, plus I want it on its own roots. Is that too much ask?

    Probably, darn it, but keep asking. Maybe the hybridizers will be able to someday combine scent, beauty and disease resistance.~~Dee

  18. CurtissAnn says:

    Oh, honey, did you give this list just for me? LOL! I am taking notes.

    I don’t find my Austin Graham Thomas roses too hard– I have a number of years just not tended them and let all of their leaves fall off to grow back. ha,ha. All of my rose bushes look great this year, but the blossoms have gotten too much rain. I am disappointed with my grandmother’s rosebush, but hopeful with the sunshine and breeze, they are really coming on pretty.

    Love you,

    It helped give me the idea. I just didn’t want to mislead anyone about the maintenance.~~Dee

  19. walk2write says:

    I think roses like the Austin ones should come with a warning label: “May cause headache, heartache, and high blood pressure.” I tried to grow several of the Austin roses in Paducah, Kentucky. They did well for several weeks after settling in, and then the summer heat and humidity did a number on them. I felt cheated. Now when I want to buy a rose, I visit a botanical garden at the height of summer and see which ones still look great (which aren’t many, sad to say).

    W2W, I think your idea about visiting a place in your area at the hardest time of the year is a good one. We have the rose garden at Will Rogers Park in Oklahoma City.~~Dee

  20. Helen says:

    It’s funny I heard someone else the other day saying that David Austin roses are labour intensive. They look lovely when they flower but as you say have all sorts of problems.

    In Oklahoma, they do. ~~Dee

  21. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yep, I am with you on this rose declaration. I have to have the easy ones. I only have one and that is the one that was in the pink bucket. I think it was called carpet rose. It is great. No trouble. I found it after I killed hundreds of dollars of roses. The ones I dream of that are fragrant and disease free. I have just let go of that dream. I don’t have enough sun anyway.

    Hi Lisa, isn’t the pink bucket the carpet rose? I’ve heard good things about them. You do have to let go of some fragrance for the ease of care. Maybe, someday, the hybridizers will solve that one too.~~Dee

  22. Cinj says:

    I don’t have a real green thumb when it comes to roses either. I do appreciate easy care when it comes to plants. Roses are worth some extra effort, but I can’t spend all of my time hovering around a plant when I have so many other issues to deal with.

    No kidding, Cinj, you don’t need another difficult thing. I hope you grow some of these at your new place.~~Dee

  23. Pam/Digging says:

    I’m growing quite a few of these easy-care roses too, and you’re right—they’re beautiful and very forgiving of neglect. Though I do find a good pruning a couple of times of year to be essential to keeping them nice looking in my small garden.

    I am going to have to try that yellow rose. Living in Texas, one needs a yellow rose, I think. How big does that one get, Dee, and does it keep its color in full sun?

    Hi Pam, This is only its second season in my garden, but it is now three feet by three feet. I think it will get bigger. Yes, I should have mentioned that I shear off the Knockouts a couple of times a season. Sometimes, I just go along and pull off the blossoms because the bushes have such staggering bloom and regrowth that I can’t hurt them. As to keeping its color in the full sun, the blooms start out the lovely yellow, but will fade to white after a day or two, so you get a kind of multicolor effect.~~Dee

  24. Margaret says:

    I am always impressed with the kind of gardener who grows roses well, not being one of them. Of course I’m sure you know it, but the Texas A&M rose-evaluation program called Earth Kind Roses includes some of your newer picks (and others that are content without heroics that are hard on the gardener, and the earth). The link.

    Hi Margaret, yes, several of them are Earth Kind roses. Thanks for visiting and for the link.~~Dee

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