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Roses for Extreme Weather

Salt, drought, heat and flooding pose no problems for today's easy-care shrub roses.
By Anthony Tesselaar


Low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, sustainable
landscape roses-also known as shrub or groundcover
roses-are a good choice for locations where heat
is trapped.

Low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, sustainable landscape roses-also known as shrub or groundcover roses-are a good choice for locations where heat is trapped.
Photos courtesy of Tesselaar Plants

Those newer shrub roses we've come to rely on for low-maintenance care and season-long blocks of color have something else to offer, too - tough-as-nails performance in all kinds of extreme weather.

And it looks like extraordinary temperatures, drought and storms are the new norm these days.

Intense heat and salt spray can challenge the
toughest of plants, but these Flower Carpet Pink roses
withstand the corrosive effects of spray and saltwater
flooding from coastal storms.

Intense heat and salt spray can challenge the toughest of plants, but these Flower Carpet Pink roses withstand the corrosive effects of spray and saltwater flooding from coastal storms.

Last summer was the warmest on record in the United States, according to a 2012 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was also the second most extreme, with several periods of prolonged wetness in addition to crushing droughts.

It looks like out-of-the-ordinary growing conditions will be the norm in 2013, too. March 2013 was the driest in 47 years and the fifth driest on record, according to an April 15 report by the National Climatic Data Center. The National Weather service also predicts persistent drought for most of the country this growing season, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts spring flooding in the Midwest and Southeast.

Carpet Red roses thrive in a median at Ladera
Ranch, Ca. They were chosen for this location because of
their ability to thrive in heat and drought.

Carpet Red roses thrive in a median at Ladera Ranch, Ca. They were chosen for this location because of their ability to thrive in heat and drought.

"Today's modern, no-spray, shrub roses - I call them 'garden roses' - all do well in all kinds of extreme weather," says Paul Zimmerman, author of the newly published book Everyday Roses.

That's because these roses are grown as flowering shrubs - not just for blooms - as was the case with hybrid teas, he says. With today's busy lifestyles, the fussiness of these showy roses is no longer accepted. So the newer shrub roses are being vigorously tested for conditions that can affect the health of the whole plant, such as natural drought and disease resistance. For the same reason, more of them are being offered as "own-root," not a weaker, prettier plant grafted onto a stronger, hardier rootstock, as used to be the norm. That way, if extreme weather kills off the plant down to its base, it will come back true as the rose you planted.

At Tesselaar Plants, we already knew the Flower Carpet® line was tough. After all, it had won so many All Deutschland Rose designations (the world's highest honor for natural disease resistance) and received such high marks in the Dallas Arboretum's famous plant "trials by fire." But it was last year's widespread record heat, drought and storms that really put it to the test in extreme weather, gardeners told us.

Chesapeake Bay, Va.-based garden writer Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom, for instance, told us it had performed very well in the saltwater flooding from coastal storms like Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Sandy in 2012 and numerous tidal-flooding northeasters (rugosa roses also did well). The Flower Carpet line also performed like a champ in her area's record heat and drought and - as usual - resisted the corrosive effects of salty sea spray.

Flower Carpet groundcover roses also got high marks for heat and drought tolerance from Tesselaar Plants' home testers this past summer:

"Even though we had temperatures of 113 degrees for several days, and no rain, all I did was water them very well once a week, and they performed beautifully," reported Carrie Glenn of Howe, Okla. (Zone 6b).

"They were very vigorous and drought-tolerant, way more than all my other roses," said Catie Anderson of McMinnville, Ore. (Zone 8a). www.tesselaar.com.