We’re having a very rosy spring at Little Cedar Garden this year. In fact, as I walk down the pebbled paths in the back garden I’m struck by the scent and beauty. It’s enough to take your breath away.
A few years ago, if you lived in Oklahoma or Texas, I would have cautioned you not to plant roses. I had nearly sworn off new roses myself. Rose Rosette Disease was stomping all over my garden along with most of Oklahoma and Texas, and it made me sad. So very sad.
Honestly, my struggles with RRV remind me of what Covid-19 is doing as it stomps all over the human world this spring. Seeing my roses bloom so well only a few years after so many were wiped out makes me extremely grateful.
It is validation that pestilence and even virulent viruses eventually wear themselves out, while we build upon what remains. Yes, Rose Rosette is still part of the rose growing experience, but we now know better what to do when we see it. Every day doctors and scientists learn more about Covid-19 too.
I know comparing Rose Rosette Virus to coronavirus might be a stretch, but the roses still kindle hope in my heart. After all, only a few years ago, we called Rose Rosette “aids for roses.” I kid you not.
Between 2011 and 2014, I removed at least eighty of my 100 roses and burned them or bagged and threw them in the garbage. I didn’t put diseased roses in the compost pile because I didn’t want the tiny eriophyid mite to keep replicating and spreading here or anywhere else. I became known as the blogger/garden writer with Rose Rosette, and people contacted me from all over the country with horror and sympathy. I felt a little like Typhoid Mary. Sound familiar?
I replaced my dead roses with other plants, and I resigned myself to losing all of my roses, but that’s not what happened. With a lot of due diligence, Rose Rosette left my garden as mysteriously as it first came. Bill, my son, Brennan, and I worked together to make a new daylily bed for the daylily regional, and I hesitantly planted a few roses because it was new soil and didn’t have the roots of any diseased roses. Two years later, I planted a few roses in new spots in the remaining garden.
If you’re still seeing RRV in your garden, here are some native shrubs to replace roses.
A friend visiting last year was disappointed because he didn’t see very many roses. I told him they were there, but were young and would take a while to get going.
When I decided to try again, the folks at David Austin Roses sent me several to start new garden beds. Special shoutout to Sally Ferguson of Ferguson Caras LLC and Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses, good garden friends who suggested disease-resistant varieties for my hot Oklahoma climate. With their help, I chose roses that are both beautiful, fragrant, and disease resistant. Most of these did really well, and I bought more this year.
This was in 2018. I planted several David Austin roses including: ‘Imogen,’ ‘The Generous Gardener,’ ‘Harlow Carr,’ ‘Thomas à Becket,’ ‘Windermere,’ ‘Desdemona, and ‘The Mayflower.’ ‘Thomas à Becket’ and ‘The Mayflower’ died. I replaced ‘Thomas à Becket’ because Pup Francis dug it up and chewed on its canes. Thomas deserved a second chance. ‘The Mayflower’ was down to half a cane this spring. I pulled it out and planted Rosa glauca in its place. I want that blue foliage. I think pollinators will like this one too.
It takes two to three years in the garden for roses to truly find their legs and really perform. ‘Desdemona’ and ‘Harlow Carr’ are splendid this spring as is ‘Olivia Rose Austin.’
Perhaps, because I took drastic measures–I hate to jinx myself–RRD is gone. Now, it may come in again on another rose, and if it does, I will burn that one too.
Today, I went out and planted two Molineaux shrub roses on either side of my kitchen door. I think I’m now out of room.
Bill would say let’s dig another bed, but he’s an eternal optimist that man. I’m trying to remain optimistic too, but no more gardens for me. Stay safe everyone, and people, in Oklahoma, enjoy the spring flowers. They’re here to give us hope and joy. At least I think so.