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Trial Roses at the University of Tennessee

New varieties of roses that are disease resistant and planted less frequently than Knockouts.

Q. I never thought I’d want to plant roses, but seeing all the beautiful disease resistant Knockouts has me tempted. Still, I am the kind of person that likes to have something different, and feel as though there may be some new ones that aren’t so widely planted. Would you have some early information on some other varieties that are equally good? P.O. Danbury CT

A. Indeed, I would, since the University of Tennessee has been conducting research on no-spray roses since 2006. Under the guidance of brother pathologists Dr. Mark Windham and Dr. Alan Windham, graduate student Jimmy Mynes has planted thousands of roses in Tennessee and Mississippi and evaluated them for disease resistance and ornamental performance.

Many of them proved themselves as worthy, but it is valuable to compare the 2007 results with the 2008, which you can do at the website. Since the summer of 2009 was extremely rainy, it should be interesting to see those results once analyzed. Plus, new plantings of dozens more rose cultivars including a large collection of climbing roses were installed just this year, so stay tuned.

Since I can walk out the building door and examine them personally at any time, I have developed several personal favorites. To me, it isn’t just the number of flowers, or even clean foliage, but the plant’s overall habit and character.

‘My Hero’, and ‘Super Hero’ are tidy mounded plants, and reliably colorful with red flowers, of a typical rose form. ‘My Girl’ is quite similar, but flowers are bright, deep pink. ‘Home Run’ had an equally mannerly habit, but the foliage flushes burgundy and the flowers are single, and brilliantly red. ‘Golden Eye’ always snagged my attention with its bright coral red flowers. ‘Carefree Sunshine’ was covered with cheerful light yellow flowers, and impressively large.

A few favorites were spangled with so many small flowers that they struck me as very un-rose-like, but very attractive as flowering woody plants. These included ‘Bonica’, ‘Carefree Delight’ and ‘Fiesta’. As a group, these tended to be larger, and more lax in habit, but graceful.

Low-growing forms that could be used as colorful groundcovers included several selections of the “fairies” especially, ‘Crystal Fairy’ and ‘Lovely Fairy’.

The official publication breaks these roses down into two categories, one being resistant and the other, tolerant—meaning that if you don’t mind a few spots, the rose doesn’t either, and continues to perform well.