As I go about my spring chores in the garden, I’ve looked at my roses with much dismay. They aren’t well. The damage is so bad I pondered whether they have Rose Rosette Disease although I haven’t seen the characteristic foliage on any roses that remain in my garden. Remember, I shovel pruned those that were sick. So, let’s assume that all of my roses don’t have it. I don’t know if I could take that.
What has caused this damage then? I know my soil is fine because all of the other perennials in the garden that like the same soil as roses are performing beautifully.
Why do my roses look like hell? What do you think?
After pruning back so many to the ground, I think I know part of the reason. I grow most of my roses on their own roots. In such a cold and inhospitable garden like mine, this is a good thing. I also grow a lot of China roses which are more tender than any other class. These and the Polyanthas were the hardest hit, although the Pink Knockouts shown above are pretty sad too. All of the Chinas died down to the ground. I have cut them back and I hope this will revamp them. Some roses, like ‘The Fairy,’ also a Polyantha, didn’t show much damage though. Roses are funny things. ‘Carefree Beauty’ did have a lot of damage, but she is also fine. Still, she grows right next to ‘Cl. Souvenir de Malmaison‘ that died of Rose Rosette last summer. I hope the virus wasn’t passed on to ‘Carefree Beauty,’ but there isn’t much I can do about it anyway. Just wait and see.
Last winter was a one-two punch of disastrous events for much of the country. It was really, really cold. I haven’t seen statistics, but I think even Oklahoma had many more cold days than normal. It sure felt that way. I’ve noticed the rose canes look desiccated, and I think that’s due to the ever-present prairie wind and cold we had from November until March.
The other thing I’ve considered is … my garden is pretty old by modern garden standards. Parts of it are 24 years old, and many of the roses I outright lost were older ones planted when I first got here and began laying out the back garden. The other ones that died were newly planted last year like ‘Grandma’s Yellow’–‘Nacogdoches.’ It may be a Texas Superstar, but I just don’t think ‘Grandma’s Yellow’ could handle the cold that lingers in my garden. I am in Zone 7a after all.
So, what’s the lesson here? Tender roses perform better in the hot South, but Oklahoma is part of the central south, and as such, we may lose them sometimes. Especially, if you plant them in unprotected areas. If you do grow Chinas and other tender roses, either protect them by placing up next to the house, or grow those on their own root. Does that mean I’ll plant only cold-hardy Rugosas? No, definitely not. I like the Rugosa class, but I want diversity in the garden. Although I mourn the roses I lost to RRD and now, extreme cold, losing them opened up places in the garden for other shrubs and plants. You shouldn’t plant a rose in the same hole where a rose grew before. So, diversity in the garden is a good thing for many reasons. Mistakes I made in the design years ago can be rectified. That’s the thing about gardening. You can know a great deal, but not everything. It’s always changing, and it’s why I like it so.