Victoria Educational Gardens participates in rose trial garden

March 26, 2009

By Jerome and Mary Janak

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon

Be sure to watch this column for information on the EarthKind Rose Symposium.  It is planned for October 17 complete with Steve George and a slate of other rose experts.

Good gardening practices for these roses are the same as for any rose.
*At least 8 hours of full sun per day.
*Open space; good air movement around plants.
*Raised bed or good soil drainage.
*Weed the area and till in 3 inches of well decomposed compost.
*Choose recommended, proven rose varieties.
*Plant roses far apart assuring good air circulation when fully matured;  8 feet apart for large roses.
*Top the beds with 3 to 4 inches of hardwood mulch and install a drip irrigation system.

What have they done?  It is not what they have done, but what we hope they will do.

Will they be punished?  The trial period is punishing, but glory awards those who succeed.

But wait, this is not people on trial, it’s roses.  What we hope they will do is become
EarthKind Roses, roses for the time-starved gardener of today.

The punishment takes place during the three-year trial period when they will receive no spraying for disease or insect control, no pruning or deadheading, supplemental watering by drip irrigation only and no fertilizing except through the addition, once or twice a year, of mulch to maintain a three-inch cover.


Almost everyone loves roses, but few have the time necessary to cultivate the gorgeous, but demanding hybrid teas that one purchases as cut flowers.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t enjoy the beauty and fragrance of roses in their own garden without spending a lot of time in their care and without posing a threat to the environment with excess fertilizers and sprays.

That is what the EarthKind Rose program is all about, and Victoria County Master Gardeners are proud to be a part of this quest for these “Easy Livin’ Roses.”

With the expansion of Victoria Educational Gardens in 2007, we were able to become active participants in this quest through the planting of our EarthKind Rose Trial Garden, one of the many mini gardens within the expanded garden area.  Cooperating with Steve George, Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist at Dallas and the organizer of the EarthKind Rose Program, now a national program, we obtained six rose varieties he recommended for trial purposes.

The EarthKind Rose title is given only to select roses that have undergone rigorous testing conditions throughout the state and were found to possess the high level of landscape performance that is required.  Well over a dozen roses have already received that distinction.

To see those roses see our previous article at

The six rose varieties we are currently growing have only completed the first two of the three-year trial period in our garden.  These and many other varieties are also being tested at other locations throughout Texas and the nation.


One of the roses already given the coveted EarthKind designation is Carefree Beauty, a rose whose performance has been so stellar that is has become the control or reference plant for all EarthKind Rose test gardens throughout the nation.  This rose was released in 1977 by Griffith Buck who was a professor and rose breeder with Iowa State University.  Buck was trying to develop roses with the genes to survive and flourish in the extreme cold conditions, help it to tolerate the opposite temperature extreme as well, such as the hot dry climate that Texas provides.

Buck developed more than 80 rose varieties with varying degrees of this necessary toughness.  So it is not surprising that three of five test varieties are also Buck roses as they are affectionately called.


The roses were planted on April 3, 2007.  They were allowed to grow and become established the first year, with the rating process beginning in the spring of 2008.  The plan specifies that ratings be performed monthly during the active growing season of years two and three.  Since the growing season in our area is almost year round, we have evaluated the plants every month.  Each plant is rated on a 0-10 scale with the caution that “almost never is a plant good enough to receive this 10 rating.”

This numerical scale reflects the plant’s overall landscape performance and encompasses its vigor, foliage and blossom, characteristics, fragrance, disease, soil and insect tolerance/resistance, growth habit and overall aesthetics.


The previously mentioned Buck roses we are testing include Winter Sunset, Pipe Dreams and Malaguena.  The other two cultivars in the test plot are Souvenir de St. Anne’s and Soncy, both of which are considered old garden roses.  Each of the roses being tested are repeat or continuous blooming shrub-type roses.

Despite experiencing a record 20 inches of rainfall in July of their first year, and being exposed to a severe drought since then, the year-two rating data is now complete, and overall each of the varieties rates above average.

Of these, Winter Sunset and Souvenir de St. Anne’s have shown the most promise during the first year’s grading, but keep in mind that all of these roses are being tested in other gardens with varying conditions, and final outcome for each will be determined by all test results combined.

Are there any potential winners?  We think so.  As the chairman of the Trial Garden, I (Jerome) frequently hear accolades about the roses we are testing.

For example, on Feb. 16, I received an e-mail from a fellow master gardener asking where he could purchase one of the roses being tested in the EarthKind Rose trial garden.  He commented, “I was in the VEG today and it (Winter Sunset) was, once again, loaded with blossoms.  And the scent perfumes the whole garden—even with gale force winds.”

Unfortunately, I had to inform him that the rose he wanted has limited availability and may be a bit difficult to find right now.  If it is selected an EarthKind Rose, that situation is certain to change.

For more information about each test variety and for good gardening practices regarding these and other roses, click on the trial demonstration direct results of the monthly ratings on the Master Gardener web site at under “Projects” and the second link under “2008 VCMGA Demonstrations.” (SEE pdf of Earth-Kind Rose Variety Demonstration.)

Better yet, come by the educational gardens, located across from the control tower at Victoria Regional Airport, to see for yourself how they are performing.  Perhaps you too will find the garden perfumed by Winter Sunset’s fragrant blooms.
CareFree Beauty
Pipe Dreams
Souvenir de St. Anne's
Winter Sunset
(Scored 0-10 with 10 being the best)
CAREFREE BEAUTY – (7.0) The control EarthKind rose for comparison.  It led the ratings through December but ceded to Souvenir de St. Anne’s recently.  Very few blossoms this winter and some foliage problems.  4-inch light rose colored blooms, retains large, red rose hips.
WINTER SUNSET – (6.95) Continues to perform like a winner. A heavy repeat bloomer with large and beautiful yellow blend with orange-based flowers.
SOUVENIR DE ST. ANNE’S – (7.24) Has lately taken the lead and keeps coming on stronger.  A Bourbon type rose with large semi-double, light pink and very fragrant blossoms.
PIPE DREAMS – (6.7) A compact 3 foot bushy plant with abundant leathery foliage.
SONCY – (6.4) Nice tea fragrance flowers of pale yellow to ivory.  Very few thorns.
MALAGUENA – (5.42) Has beautiful pale pink blossoms, stippled with red, growing singly and in clusters.  A compact and erect 3 foot shrub.  Somewhat disadvantaged at the start due to small transplants.
EARTH-KIND™ ROSE title is given only to select roses that undergo rigorous testing.
See --> VCMGA 2009 Earth-Kind Rose Varieties Photos --