Thursday, June 25, 2009

Delinquent Roses - Nurture or Nature?

The roses are absolutely stunning this year, with the notable exception of a few varieties that have always failed to thrive in my garden. These are my delinquents - the ones that bring shame on the rest of the garden and on me, their long-suffering plant mother. It brings up the age-old question, is nurture or nature to blame?

For years, I blamed myself and wondered, "Where did I go wrong?" That's what plant mothers do. It's not really fair, but we've been conditioned to believe that there is no such thing as a bad plant, thus, it must be our fault when it ends up looking like hell...or dies. It was a retired rosarian who debunked that myth for me. Some roses are just bummers. The flaws are in their genes and are just more or less a problem depending upon the climate, the gardener, or both.

In my Pacific Northwest (zone 7b) garden, for example, I have the Warriner rose, Neon Lights, that was advertised to do well in zone 6b and warmer gardens, is very disease resistant, and blooms in flushes throughout the season. I bought it for it's bright neon pink blooms. In my garden this rose languishes. Ditto for Brilliant Pink Iceberg (photo left). On both, new leaves show blackspot and drop quickly. Repeat bloom is iffy, with a decent flush of flowers in June and late August, but only one or two blooms on the bush the rest of the time. The canes are weak and spindly and show sun scald. (heavy sigh) Moving them from full sun to part shade only added mildew to the litany of problems, so I moved them back to full sun. I've composted, fertilized, sprayed, dusted and watered diligently and these are still the ugliest plants in my garden. I couldn't bring myself to shovel prune the wretches because I thought...this year I'll figure out how to make these roses happy.

Well, no more. This year Neon gets the axe - and so does that Brilliant Pink Iceberg. Now that I know that nurture cannot always overcome nature, I can rid my garden of these delinquents without feeling like a black thumb gardener. I have my eye on a bright pink hybrid tea, Manou Meilland, to replace the Neon. The hybrid tea, Tournament of Roses, will look nice in the Iceberg spot.

Today, I think I'll get out the shovel and do a little pruning.


Beth said...

I love flowers and the way you have shown them gardening is my biggest passion. Beth

lynn'sgarden said...

Hi Jean, congrats on your first post! I'm looking forward to seeing photos of your roses and learning tips from a Master gardener :) I garden in NJ. My favorite perennials are daylilies and roses go so nice with them!

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

I think you're going to find lots of subject matter to blog about! With your passion for roses, and your extensive knowledge and experience, I suppose you'll never run out of material! I have NO rose knowledge but always enjoy looking at them!

Helen said...

I have one very successful rose, 'New Dawn' -- and have had a succession of duds. Perhaps it'll turn out that I'm only a one-rose gal. But being ruthless is hard when you're a plant mother. You're always tempted to give them one more chance.