‘Carefree Beauty’ rose

Icy lamb's ear
Icy lamb’s ear

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, and my ‘Carefree Beauty’ rose was at her peak.


Through the arbor gate
Through the arbor gate

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' rose.
Rosa ‘Carefree Beauty’  Pay no attention to the red hoe on the left.

‘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.

'Carefree Beauty' rose blooming in October.
‘Carefree Beauty’ blooming in October.

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.

An open bloom of 'Carefree Beauty' rose.
An open bloom of ‘Carefree Beauty’ rose.

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 my ‘Carefree Beauty’ rose who stole my heart long ago.

Here’s why.

  • 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.
'Carefree Beauty' rose dappled with rain.
‘Carefree Beauty’ rose dappled with rain.

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.
What more can I say?
What more can I say?

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.

Knockout rose; can you see the similarity to its parent's blooms
Knockout rose; can you see the similarity to its parent’s blooms?

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.


  1. Oh Dee, what a lovely, lovely post! You had me right there with you walking out with the screen door slapping at your heels and the dragonflies and heat! Beautiful writing! Your garden is lush and beautiful … gorgeous rose bush!! Stunning photography. Thanks for all the links … I would have to check hardiness but could pass these tips along to my sister in Georgia if I cannot grow them. What a gift to have found your blog! Carol

  2. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Dee, I’m way behind in reading blogs and just now got to this post. Thanks for the link love! When I bought Carefree Beauty about 10 years ago, she was still known as Katy Road Pink in nurseries around Houston, even the Antique Rose Emporium. I remember Dr. Welch commenting that he’d been given some grief by folks from other areas who wanted to know why we were calling Carefree Beauty by another name! In my garden, she’s been moved 2 or 3 times and even divided during one of those moves. (There may have been 2 in the original pot.) She has indeed been relatively carefree and a definite beauty. She’s even bloomed in partial shade for me!

  3. hi Dee, As much as I hate how long winters are in Michigan (let’s all it 5.5 months in terms of non-gardening time!), I do like snow. It’s just so drab and gray without it. Your summer garden does look lovely. I’m planting my first rose this year, ‘Golden Wings.’ 🙂

  4. Frances says:

    Hi Dee, I hope your holidays were wonderful and refreshing, if cold. This rose is great, and good to know it is the same as Katy Road Pink, used so extensively at the Brenham gardens of ARE. We added Carefree Sunshine last year and hope it has the same vigor as the other carefree roses. Your descriptions of the heat of Oklahoma have me longing for it, and humming a little tune too, something about wind and a plain. 🙂

    Frances, I love Carefree Sunshine! Mine likes to throw long, wild canes, but I think it’s all the nitrogen in that newer bed. It had “rich mix” soil originally. Come on west to Oklahoma, and we’ll have some iced tea with mint from the garden.~~Dee

  5. Sweet Bay says:

    Very beautiful images! What is the purplish flower in the second photo — is that a rose? It looks wonderful with Carefree Beauty.

    In the second photo? That’s a shrub. Spirea x bumulda ‘Anthony Waterer’ which is one of my favorites. There is also a brighter variety called ‘Neon Flash.’~~Dee

  6. Shari says:

    Thanks for the warm-up, at least in imagination. I love pink roses. This might be a great one to try.

    Shari, it truly is a great rose. Easy care which is what I’m all about these days.~~Dee

  7. A good blog post to beat cabin fever. I grow a different Griffith Buck rose called ‘Wanderin’ Wind.’

    Kathy, WW is one I’ve never tried.~~Dee

  8. Bren says:

    oh no… it is way to early for a midwest girly to be tired of the snow and cold! WE WILL SURVIVE my friend. Every day I am blogging with hopes of keeping my ‘green sisters’ warm till the spring arrives in our neck of the woods. LOVELY photos of the rose! YOU always inspire me!

    Thank Bren. I think I’m a southern girl at heart, or at least my bones are southern.~~Dee

  9. CurtissAnn says:

    You make me want to run out and get one. And give me courage for really attacking that monster rosebush near the pool. I prefer roses with fragrance, but I’m finding so much with fragrance around here that maybe I don’t need to worry about that. 38 here, but sunny!

    Honey, you should run out and get one. It’s one of the best.~~Dee

  10. Rose says:

    It’s one degree here at the moment, Dee, so your visions of summer are just what I needed! I was just reading an article in a magazine yesterday about easy to care for roses, and the “Carefree” series was mentioned in it. I’ve always been afraid to try most roses–I don’t have the patience for fussy plants–but I may add some this year. This one is a beauty! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Hi Rose, one degree! Okay, I’ll quite complaining. I just wonder how many clothes one has to wear in order to stay warm at that temperature. It’s 20F here, and my feet are cold.~~Dee

  11. TC says:

    Thanks for the return to summer. What about slugs, do they bother Carefree Beauty? And did you know roses have prickles, not thorns? I’m sure you know the difference.

    Yes, TC, the actual appendages are prickles, but commonly are called thorns. Good point.~~Dee

  12. She is a real beauty! H.

    She says thank you.~~Dee

  13. Ilona says:

    Love your rose photos this cold winter’s day. Enjoyed reading your history on Dr. Buck, his roses are real friends of cold climate gardens!

    Hi Ilona, yes they are, and surpisingly, they don’t mind the heat either.~~Dee

  14. Either my ‘Carefree Beauty’ doesn’t get enough sun, or it’s still immature, because it stopped blooming in September. Then in October it grew new buds, just in time for the killing freeze. Or maybe it’s my fault, because I forgot to fertilize it again during the summer. It is a wonderful Rose, and I was surprised that the Japanese Beetles preferred to chomp on the Coneflowers, Clematis and Dahlia more than the Rose.

    MMD, I don’t know, all of those things could apply. Hmmm.~~Dee

  15. Kelly says:

    I enjoyed your roses today. Just the thing I needed as I sit in my house avoiding the cold outdoors. I shouldn’t wish my life away but I can hardly wait for spring!

    Hi Kelly, I think looking forward to spring gives us hope. We don’t wish our lives away, but we are looking forward and dreaming now.~~Dee

  16. Kclily says:

    My husband asked me what I was reading so I read him the first paragraph of your post. It was nice that we were both taken away from the cold and into the warmth of summer. Your roses are so beautiful. Happy New Year.

    That is one of the nicest things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much. You made my day.~~Dee

  17. Pam/Digging says:

    ‘Carefree Beauty’ grew well for me in my old garden, but it’s funny–I never thought of her as a lady but as a saucy tart! That hot pink, that flouncy yet open flower, the nonstop blooms… She was the ultimate party girl.

    I am sending warm thoughts your way, Dee. May 2010 bring an early spring, lots of roses, and a few happy agaves to your garden. Happy New Year!

    Thank you Pam. Happy New Year to you too. She probably is a saucy tart now that you mention it.~~Dee

  18. RobinL says:

    Oh, roses. I remember them! Can’t wait till they come back next year. I swear my roses were on steroids this year, still blooming up until December 3rd. Must have been the Starbucks coffee grounds I kept feeding them!

    Robin, they’ll be back. May your 2010 roses bloom even lustier than last year.~~Dee

  19. Jan says:

    Lovely roses, and they are so nice to look at during this bleak winter time. Have a Happy New Year.

    Always Growing

    Thank you Jan. You too.~~Dee

  20. Sounds like ‘Carefree Beauty’ is as carefree as the ‘Simplicity’ roses are simple to grow. I have a hedge of ‘Pink Simplicity’ that I routinely neglect, and the bushes chug along regardless. The flowers look like ‘Carefree Beauty’ except they’re lighter pink. Foliage is bright green, stems are nearly thornless and it’s one of the longest-lasting cut roses. How do you like ‘Carefree Beauty’ for cutting?

    Debra, ‘Carefree Beauty’ doesn’t last long in a vase, a day or two at best. It’s one of her few faults. The interesting thing to me is that I could never grow ‘Simplicity’ or any of her sister roses. They had terrible blackspot here. Just goes to show that one person’s rose doesn’t always work for another.~~Dee

  21. Phillip says:

    It is an outstanding rose and it looks so beautiful in your garden next to the wooden fence.

    Thank you Phillip.~~Dee

  22. I never tire of hearing of winter, especially after last summer. But a walk back through your summer garden is breathtaking. Yikes, I need to get to work. Wish I had room for more roses like Carefree. . .

    Linda, after the summer y’all had, no wonder. Ours was wonderful, but you just never know.~~Dee

  23. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Just the shot of color I needed on this grey winter day. Something to look forward to in the year 2010. I hope you and yours have a Happy Healthy New Year.

    Lisa, I hope the same for you and yours.~~Dee

  24. Robin says:

    Roses are much better to think about than cold and snow. I can’t wait to see flowers in the garden again! Right now I have to content myself with birds, my winter flowers!

  25. I spent a chunk of (gray, cold) yesterday looking through my year in garden photos, so I guess great minds think alike. The thing that scares me is that winter’s just begun…uh-oh.

    Your roses look so good as to (almost) tempt me to try some. Good thing the rose catalogs aren’t here yet! Happy, happy New Year, and thanks for your digital/horticultural friendship.

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