The EarthKind˜ Rose program at Texas A&M University is a recent and very exciting development for gardeners in Texas and throughout the nation. For nearly a century, if you wanted roses in your garden, you were expected to follow a rigid time-consuming program of applying pesticides and fungicides, pruning, and fertilizing on a regular basis. The results of this high-maintenance approach to growing roses were as predictable as they were disappointing to many gardeners, who simply "gave up on roses" and decided to grow something else.

But there was also an unintended consequence of this high-maintenance approach because fertilizer, pesticides, and fungicides accumulated in the soil and in the fragile environment, making it ever more toxic and less productive. The EarthKind˜ Rose program addresses these unintended consequences and permits the average gardener to obtain spectacular results with little investment of energy.

Premise Of The EarthKind˜ Rose Program

Use of research-proven gardening and landscaping techniques to provide a maximum of plant enjoyment while protecting our fragile environment.

Goal Of The EarthKind˜ Rose Program

Combine the best of organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles to create a new horticultural system for the 21st Century, a research-proven system based on real-world effectiveness and environmental responsibility.

Guiding Principles Of The EarthKind˜ Rose Program

Base your horticultural decisions on:
  1. A deep, abiding respect for the environment

  2. The latest scientifically-sound, research-based information

  3. Employ EarthKind techniques of plant selection and culture to avoid pest problems before they occur

  4. Use pesticides only as a last resort. If a pesticide becomes absolutely necessary, then select the most EarthKind or environmentally responsible product available

Benefits Of The EarthKind˜ Rose Program

Putting EarthKind techniques into everyday practice will help your family, your business, your community and your environment.

Remember,

"EarthKind to benefit humankind."

Initial EarthKind˜ Field Tests

The Texas A&M horticulturists began the EarthKind™ Roses with a five year field research study of more than 117 rose varieties. The intent was to identify the most beautiful care-free roses ever developed.

At the end of the five year study, 11 of the 117 varieties studied had spectacular performance despite very adverse growing conditions and a nearly complete lack of maintenance:

  1. Each cultivator was grown in highly alkaline clay soil with a pH rating between 8.0 and 8.4

  2. Each cultivator had to exhibit outstanding disease and insect tolerance/resistance, as well as produce spectacular blooms.

  3. Each cultivator had to be among the best flowering varieties for horticultural uses

  4. Each cultivator had to be among the best varieties for organic management methods

  5. Each cultivator had to reduce the need for applications of pesticides by 95%.

In the initial Texas A&M EarthKind˜ field research program, the roses were treated to uniform cultural practices that could be characterized as "rose abuse". The roses were -

  • Never fertilized

  • Never sprayed

  • Never pruned other than to remove dead wood

  • And never watered after the first year

The results for the 11 selected EarthKind˜ Rose varieties were very dramatic:
  • None of the varieties tested proved impervious to blackspot, but the 11 selected EarthKind˜ Rose varieties are tolerant or highly tolerant to this disease. The research showed that they dropped 25% or less of their leaves once a year.

  • None of the 11 EarthKind˜ Rose varieties had significant insect problems. A few of the bushes attracted aphids in the spring, however within 3 weeks the aphid population was eradicated by naturally occurring beneficial insects.

  • All of the 11 EarthKind˜ Rose varieties were grown on their own roots and exhibited good heat and drought tolerance.

  • All of the 11 EarthKind˜ Rose varieties maintained their bloom production even through the extreme heat of Dallas summers. The only noticeable effect was a reduction in the diameter of the blooms.

"After years of extensive field research, during which no pesticides of any kind were applied, only a few very special roses have received the prestigious EarthKind˜ designation from horticultural experts at Texas A&M University. These beautiful roses are proven to deliver outstanding landscape performance under widely varying soil conditions, with minimal care, and provide maximum protection for the environment. While certainly not immune to pest problems, their tolerance to pests is so great that, as long as you do not mind a few leaflets dropping occasionally, almost never will you need to apply any harsh pesticides to these roses! I think that you will be very impressed with the tremendous performance of these easy-care roses - we certainly are."


Steven W. George, Ph.D.
Professor and Extension Landscape Specialist
Texas A&M University

AND THE WINNERS ARE . . . .

The 11 varieties receiving the EarthKind˜ designation are:

  1. 'Sea Foam' - a creamy white groundcover shrub rose that has double blooms with a cascading growth habit. This variety blooms April through November on 3 ft. tall by 6 ft. wide bushes.

  2. "Marie Daly" - a pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose that has semi-double fragrant blooms growing on an almost thornless bush. This variety is perfect for growing in containers and proved to be tolerant to spider mites. It blooms April through November on 3 ft. tall by 3 ft. wide bushes.

  3. 'The Fairy' - a light pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose that has double blooms on bushes that are 3 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide. The bush blooms from April through November, but does not do well in East Texas due to the severity of Cercospora leaf spot in that area of the state.

  4. "Caldwell Pink" - a lilac pink carnation-style found rose that grows as a small shrub on bushes 4 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide.

  5. 'Knock Out'™ - a cherry red semi-double shrub rose that blooms April through November on bushes that are 4 ft. tall by 4 ft. wide.

  6. 'Perle d'Or' - a peach polyantha that blooms with fragrant pompom blooms between April and November. This small shrub rose (4 ft. by 4 ft.) out performed Cecile Brunner in the field tests by 40% and seemed to thrive on adversity.

  7. 'Belinda's Dream' - a medium-size shrub rose that has pink fragrant blooms between April and November. The blooms resemble hybrid teas with petal a count of about 114 on bushes loaded with blue-green foliage. The mature bush size is 5 ft. by 5 ft. This rose was the first one to receive the 'Earthkind' designation.

  8. 'Else Poulson' - a pink floribunda rose that blooms with semi-double flowers between April and November. It has been described that this bush's growth resembles a cyclamen and is best suited for use in background plantings. The mature bush size is 5 ft by 5 ft.

  9. "Katy Road Pink" - a fragrant pink found rose that blooms with double flowers between April and November on mature bushes that are 5 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide.

  10. 'Mutabilis' - (the 'Butterfly' Rose) - a China rose that has single blooms which change color during their life cycle from yellow to pink to crimson. This rose blooms between April and November on large bushes that are approximately 6 ft by 6 ft.

  11. 'Climbing Pinkie' - This pink semi-double polyantha rose has very fragrant blooms between April and November. When cultivated as a climbing rose, the canes can reach 10 ft. long. If cultivated as a shrub, the bush size will be 5 ft. tall by 7 ft. wide. This variety blooms once a year in the spring. During the bloom season it is not uncommon for a mature bush to display 800 blooms each day.

EarthKind˜ Practices At The Peaceful Habitations Rose Gardens

The Peaceful Habitations Rose Gardens are a virtual "Living Laboratory for EarthKind˜ and "soon to be" EarthKind˜ roses. The display garden includes more than 1,400 plants which represent over 650 varieties of low-maintenance roses, and all of the initially designated EarthKind˜ roses are included in our collection.

Our roses thrive not because of what WE do or do not do, but simply because of the kinds of roses that they are. Many of our roses are the "Old Garden" varieties that have stood the test of time. Others are "Found" roses that have survived alone in cemeteries, along country roads, in old neighborhoods, and at abandoned home sites. These roses are really tough and they thrive on neglect and abuse that would quickly kill most modern roses.

Long before learning of the Texas A&M EarthKind˜ rose program, we collected a wide variety of roses that were well adapted to our climate and cultural conditions. Then we planted the garden and proceeded to practice "rose abuse":

  • We generally did not amend or pamper the soil. We just dug a hole in the caliche and rock, planted the rose, and covered up the evidence. However, we did make one concession and formed raised beds where the underlying solid limestone causes seeps and springs to flow in wet weather.

  • We rarely fertilized

  • We never sprayed for insects or diseases

  • We never pruned other than to remove dead wood and make cuttings

  • And we watered deeply but infrequently once the plants were established

You may be wondering, with all these traditional "rose things" that we never do,

What do we do with all that free time?

Why, we just "smell the roses"!

REFERENCES

Gaye Hammond. "Earthkind" Roses - The Brightest Star on the Horizon

Dr. Steven George. General Overview Of The EarthKind™ Environmental Landscape Management Program

Last updated 02/16/2004