Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
April, 2004
Regional Report

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The richly fragrant, classic, urn-shaped buds of the beloved red rose 'Mister Lincoln' open to reveal huge, luscious petals.

A Red, Red Rose

After coming home from plant shopping this spring, proudly toting an assortment of dormant rose plants and excitedly telling my mother about my finds, her succinct question was, "Did you get any red hybrid teas?" So much for sleuthing out various, hard-to-find antique and shrub roses.

The point was well taken, however. Most people think of red, fragrant hybrid tea roses when the subject of roses is mentioned. What a great idea to have a garden bed devoted solely to these favorites -- and what wonderful bouquets are foretold. So I looked through rose books and catalogs and went shopping again. The results have been mixed and interesting, and hopefully will be rewarding by summer's end.

The core problem is that, due to breeding heritage, most red hybrid tea roses, especially fragrant ones, are highly susceptible to diseases. Being the eternal optimist, I went ahead and first searched for roses locally. The obvious finds included 'Chrysler Imperial', 'Christian Dior', 'Mirandy', 'Oklahoma', 'Mr. Lincoln', and 'Olympiad'. I brought home dormant plants of each of these and potted them up, rather than immediately planting them into a bed. The foliage on 'Mirandy' and 'Oklahoma' had barely emerged before it was covered in powdery mildew. Reality had quickly set in.

When All Else Fails
When growing any but the most disease-resistant rose varieties, gardeners are advised to begin a spray program monthly (or on an as-needed basis) from March until October. If you don't want to use chemical pesticides, consider the natural plant fungicide formula developed by Cornell University based on baking soda and horticultural oil.

Writer and rosarian Field Roebuck has modified this formula. He suggests mixing into 1 gallon of water: 1 tablespoon mild dish soap, such as Palmolive Green; 2 tablespoons ultrafine horticultural oil, such as Sunspray; 1 heaping tablespoon baking soda; 1 tablespoon fish/seaweed emulsion; and 3 to 5 drops of Superthrive (a liquid micronutrient fertilizer).

The Options
So here's the dilemma: with some noted exceptions, many (but not all) of the fragrant, red hybrid tea rose varieties that are easily found at local retail outlets tend toward the higher end of the disease-susceptibility scale. With lots of tender loving care, these can still produce an abundance of flowers. An alternative option is to seek out more disease-resistant varieties, which usually means finding mail-order sources.

For those continually searching out specific rose varieties, consider investing in the Combined Rose List, compiled and edited by Beverly R. Dobson and Peter Schneider, available for $20 from Peter Schneider, P. O. Box 677, Mantua, OH 44255.

The Choices
Here are some of the best choices for red hybrid tea roses with both mild-to-strong fragrance as well as moderate-to-excellent disease resistance.

'Alec's Red' -- Introduced in 1970; crimson to cherry red; damask fragrance; 45 petals; bushy growth to 4 feet.

'Crimson Glory' -- Introduced in 1935; velvety, deep crimson; damask fragrance; 30 petals; bushy growth to 4 feet.

'Deep Secret' -- Introduced in 1977; very deep crimson; very fragrant; 40 petals; upright growth to 4 feet.

'Excellence' -- Introduced in 2004; medium red; good fragrance; 40 petals; upright growth to 5 feet.

'Firefighter' -- Introduced in 2003; strong, rich red; strong, sweet scent; 40-45 petals; holds up in summer heat; upright growth to 6 feet.

'Ingrid Bergman' -- Introduced in 1984; velvety, deep crimson; 35 petals; moderate fragrance; free-branching growth to 5 feet.

'Ink Spots' -- Introduced in 1985; very dark red; light fragrance; 30-35 petals; bushy, upright growth to 4 feet.

'Lady Mitchell' -- Introduced in 1991; cherry red; moderate fragrance; 50 petals; 3-4 feet.

'Mister Lincoln' -- Introduced in 1964; dark red; strong fragrance; 35 petals; upright growth to 6 feet.

'Proud Land' -- Introduced in 1969; deep red; strong fragrance; 60 petals; upright growth to 5 feet.

'Royal William' -- Introduced in 1984; crimson; moderate fragrance; 35 petals; upright growth to 6 feet.

'Velvet Fragrance' -- Introduced in 1988; velvety, dark, crimson-red; strong fragrance; 40 petals; upright to 5 feet.

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