Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service

A rose is a rose....unless it's in my garden

OSU Extension Center

Ann Larson, Oklahoma County Extension Master Gardener

2500 NE 63rd Street

OKC, OK  73111




A rose is a rose…unless it’s in my garden

Roses present one of my biggest gardening challenges.  Over the years all my attempts have been thwarted by disease, ice storms, ignorance and frankly, laziness.

I’m not one to coddle plants, so is it any wonder that a rock has become my favorite rose? The Barite rose, Oklahoma’s state rock.  It can’t get Rose Rosette disease or black spot.  It doesn’t have thorns; it could care less about the weather or the soil or the sun.

A close second is my Sugar Tip™ Rose of Sharon, with clear pink double flowers and eye-catching variegated foliage. Like real roses, it prefers full sun, but it will survive in most soils.  It tolerates our heat and humidity and Oklahoma’s winds and occasional ice storms; and it doesn’t require any prickly pruning.

But as easy as my preferred “roses” are, the fact of the matter is that, after all my years of trying and failing (and quitting), real roses still beckon:  The kind my grandmother grew that filled her garden and her home with beautiful blossoms and a heavenly fragrance.

What other flower, simply by its color, connotes certain meanings? Just ask a florist: red for true love stronger than thorns; pink for elegance, femininity; white, the bridal rose, signifying young love; yellow for friendship, and lilac and purple roses send a message of love at first sight.  What is more movie-magical than receiving a box of long-stemmed roses?

Poets and presidents have written about this beloved flower through the ages.  Its juxtaposition of thorns and blossoms has prompted such proverbial wisdom as Abraham Lincoln’s: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” Shakespeare, in Romeo & Juliet, reminds, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Who doesn’t want to literally “stop and smell the roses?”  How easy it would be to do in my own backyard.

So I went to our resident rose expert Jamie Ashmore, OSU-OKC horticulturist and Oklahoma County MG vice president, and asked him what roses he would suggest for a beginner. He recommended Belinda’s Dream, a shrub rose with outstanding blossoms and fragrance, and New Dawn, a vigorous climber.


I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had tried “New Dawn.”  In 2012, Dr.

William Welch, Texas A&M horticulture professor and author of numerous gardening books, spoke to our Master Gardener group and challenged us by saying: “All the great gardens of the world have climbing roses.” 


Shortly after his speech, I met a Tulsa MG on a gardening trip in Italy, and she suggested “New Dawn” as we marveled at the beautiful climbing roses that crawled up ancient walls and over iron trellises and framed shuttered windows. I had lofty aspirations! 


I came home and gave it a try.  After five years of coaxing my plant up one side of an arbor, I finally got one precious sweet pink rosebud. And plenty of pests and thorn pricks along the way.  I realized I was out of my league and out of patience.  Who was I kidding anyway?  Having a “great (William Welch caliber) garden” is not in my DNA. 


But Jamie has convinced me to give roses another try, specifically Belinda’s Dream, even though my eyes glazed over when he told me it has the impact and beauty of a modern hybrid tea. 


Just hearing the terminology “hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora” and all the rest is dizzying.  I am more inclined to think like Gertrude Stein:  “A rose is a rose is a rose.”  But for those who want to learn the differences, they are defined in Oklahoma  Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet HLA-6403,”Roses in Oklahoma.”


When it comes to successfully growing roses, Jamie says the first rule is to plant roses in a well-drained, sunny location. All the other tips for success (on watering, mulching, pruning, etc., - tips that he can reel off in a matter of seconds) are described in that same fact sheet.


I’ll refer to the fact sheet as I give Belinda’s Dream a try.  I am encouraged, knowing it was the first rose to be designated by Texas AgriLife Extension Service as Earth-Kind®, a research endeavor with the goal of developing landscapes requiring minimal maintenance while protecting the environment. 


The founder of Earth-Kind®, Dr. Steven George, Texas A&M landscape horticulture specialist, recently spoke to our MG group, and was sad to note that all rose cultivars are susceptible to Rose Rosette.  He admitted we must now assume our roses will get Rose Rosette after 18-24 months.  “It has turned a long-lived plant into a short-lived one.”


Hearing that is not enough to deter me.  If the Peggy Martin Rose, (recommended by Dr. Welch in 2012 and a climber to consider) can withstand Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and if an American Elm (our Oklahoma Survivor Tree) can escape Dutch Elm Disease and withstand a bombing, who’s to say a rose can’t foil a witches broom?


So I will give it my best, take Jamie’s advice, follow the fact sheet’s instructions; cross my fingers, and hum “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses.”


If all else fails, I still have my rose rocks.



Plan now to attend the 2019 “Home Gardening 101” workshop.  Presented by OSU Extension Master Gardeners of Oklahoma County, the 3-day workshop will take place Feb. 16, 23 and March 2. 

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