Tired of hearing about cold and snow? Me too.
Instead, let us speak of times past, particularly of summer, when the garden posed for one giant beauty shot.
You step outside, the screen door slapping at your heels, and a wall of heat hits you like a thunderclap. Stop for a moment, gather your thoughts, and gaze upon the garden in all its summer glory. Watch as dragonflies dance in the sky to a song only they can hear.
Suddenly, standing tall behind the split-rail fence, a pink rose catches your eye and in the early morning haze, it, like the summer heat, takes your breath away. Stately canes are covered in blossoms, the blooms a clear, pure pink un-muddied by blue undertones.
‘Carefree Beauty’, a/k/a Katy Road Pink, is one of Dr. Griffith Buck’s most famous roses. Although Dr. Buck’s name was nearly lost to us because he was way ahead of his time, his work led the way for today’s ever-blooming, disease resistant roses.
When outside deadheading, I often think of Dr. Buck looking down from heaven bemused. When he ran his rose program at Iowa State University, he had a very small budget, so his roses braved the elements alone, unlike the coddled Hybrd Teas so popular from 1950s through the 1970s. During his thirty-seven year career at the university, he registered ninety roses, many of which can still be grown by modern gardeners. Thank goodness this was done through the love of his friends and family, who kept the roses he gave them alive; and through rose nurseries like Chamblee’s Rose Nursery and the Antique Rose Emporium, who helped get them into commerce. In fact, ‘Carefree Beauty’ was originally known through ARE as ‘Katy Road Pink’ because it was found along the Katy Road in Houston, Texas, as I’m sure my friend Cindy From My Corner of Katy can attest.
I grow several of Dr. Buck’s roses, including ‘Serendipity’ (died last summer), ‘Country Dancer’ (going strong), ‘April Moon’ (new last summer), ‘Apple Jack’ (going strong) and ‘Frontier Twirl’ (beautiful, but has blackspot). However, it is ‘Carefree Beauty’ who stole my heart long ago.
- Whether summer is hot or cold, she always looks good.
- Other than tossing a handful of alfalfa pellets on her a couple of times a season, she asks for nothing more.
- She rarely has a speck of blackspot, and her light green foliage with its red edges is beautiful besides.
- Nearly constant bloom. If I forget to deadhead her, she just outgrows the unsightly bloomed-out flower and moves on to another perfect, pink bloom.
- Aphids don’t seem to like her.
- The simple blooms don’t ball up during humid years.
- She laughs at drought. A friend of mine had a hedge of these beauties at the side of her property. She rarely watered them, and they were in her poorest soil.
- Her blooms are lightly fragrant.
- She forms large rosehips in the fall.
Now, for the negatives:
- Large grower. Don’t plant her where she doesn’t have room. (Mine is crowded and does fine. I cut her back a lot some years.)
- Her semi-double blooms don’t last long in a vase. (Who cares?)
- Thorns. She has them as do most roses.
That’s it. She is a perfect lady, a homesteader in the world of roses. While wondering if she was a parent to some of this generation’s disease resistant roses, I found where a ‘Carefree Beauty’ seedling was the seed parent of ‘Radrazz’ or the original Knockout rose. She is also the seed parent of at least one other Buck rose ‘Buckaroo.’ The Southampton Rose Society reports that she is the parent of several new Bailey Nursery roses, one of which is ‘Grandma’s Blessing.’ I’m not at all surprised, and I’m glad she passed down some of her good genetic traits to this generation. If you have a place for her in your yard, please give her a try. She’s hardy throughout USDA Zones 5-9.
To learn more about Dr. Griffith Buck, please visit the website created in his honor at Iowa State University. You can also visit the most complete collection of his roses at the Reiman Gardens on the university grounds.