February 28, 2008

Beauty, Toughness Distinguish Newest EarthKind Roses

By: Mike Jackson, 972-952-9232  
Contact(s): Dr. Steve George, 972-952-9217, s-george3@tamu.edu  
DALLAS – They’re as beautiful as they are tough, and that has earned them the highest distinction roses can achieve, said Dr. Steve George, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in Dallas.

New Dawn and Madame Antoine Mari were recently named EarthKind Roses by a team of horticulturists with the AgriLife Extension. Only 17 roses hold the title.

Madame Antoine Mari, which was originally released in 1901, earned an additional honor by being named 2008 EarthKind Rose of the Year, George said.

“It’s gorgeous,” he said. “It’ll take your breath away.”

But there’s more to these roses than good looks, George said. EarthKind Roses are robust and thrive in tough conditions. Grown and evaluated over years, the roses aren’t fertilized or pruned. They’re not treated with pesticides, and they are watered far less than other roses.

The results are roses that are easy to grow and maintain, he said.

“Anybody can grow them if they follow our very simple instructions,” George said. “I tell people, ‘If you’ve never grown a rose you can grow these. Even if you can’t spell rose, you can grow these.’”

Madame Antoine Mari grows to about 6 feet tall and wide, George said. It is fragrant and pink with a double blossom. It blooms repeatedly throughout the growing season. It is “winter hardy” based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s cold hardiness zones 7 to 9.

“It goes about as far north as Lubbock,” George said. “It would not be appropriate for the upper half of the Texas Panhandle. It should do great everywhere else in Texas.

“Madame Antoine Mari has been one of our top roses,” he said. “It is gorgeous in Wichita Falls; it is gorgeous in Odessa. That’s saying a great deal.”

New Dawn, released in 1930, is a large climber, George said. It was the first plant ever to be patented in the United States. It grows up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

“It gets big,” George said. “It needs to be on a really stout structure. Some little flimsy trellis won’t do.”

It is white with a pink blush center and a double bloom, he said. It blooms primarily in the spring. It is fragrant and tolerates some light shade. But it does better in full sun.

“As a scientist, this makes me really happy: It’s winter hardy in zones 4 to 9. Zone 4 is way up into Minnesota. So it’s EarthKind in Texas, but it’s winter hardy way, way north.”

The rose, however, doesn’t do well in the southernmost parts of Texas, he said.

“When New Dawn is well established and in full bloom, it is spectacular,” George said.

An EarthKind Rose needs eight hours or more of full, direct sun and good air movement over the leaves, he said. When planting, till in three inches of compost, and don’t use fertilizer. Keep the base mulched year-round with shredded tree limbs or hardwood bark. A drip irrigation system is preferred.

The roses can easily be purchased through mail order or on the Internet, George said.