Many, like me, gave up on grafted hybrid tea roses years ago because of their high mortality rate. Their persnickety behavior renders budding gardeners as failures, and if you fall in this category, don't give up the rose ghost and tout your black thumb just yet. Non-rocket science research proves it is not your fault. The root of the problem with grafted tea roses is the graft.
Grafting a non-hardy tea onto a hardier rootstock allows them to grow in colder climates. The flip side is the graft is susceptible to diseases such as crown root gall or crown root rot. The grafting procedure also speeds up greenhouse production time, thus dumping these roses on the market in less than one year. This makes the retail price break dirt-cheap. Own root roses can take up to three years before they are market ready so production costs are more expensive. ($3.99 for teas verses $13.99 for own root) However, your investment is protected, because own root roses in most cases take less care if they are zone hardy.
Planting grafted teas in the back of a flowerbed, in effort to hide the ugly, upright growth does not give them adequate air circulation, which can cause a fungus (black spot, powdery mildew) – another enemy of the grafted teas. In addition, if the graft dies, you end up with 'Dr. Huey', a once blooming hybrid multi-flora or the species multi-flora, which is on the federal noxious list.
Grafted tea bushes were bred for cutting gardens, that's why they have long gangly stems. Yes, those big bold flowers take front and center at garden shows, but in the garden scene, they fall flat in overall appearance. I know many long for roses like their grandma grew on the old fence. Many of these roses were lost in the nursery trade and growing them was possible only if you propagated them through cuttings. (Called cloning and this has been done for centuries).
So why did these great roses fall from favor? In Victorian times gardeners held a competitive status and drove the market by demanding more modern plants and roses were included; something new, something different, something no one else had, a plant that could outdo the 'Jones's'.
So, what is the classification for antique and modern? Any rose introduced before 1867 is considered antique. A few of the earliest repeat bloomers were called hybrid perpetuals or Damask perpetuals and were introduced as early as 1832. However, the history of rose growing goes almost back to Cro-Magnon man. Some that were not lost are still popular today. There were many perpetuals, introduced before 1860. Some hybrid Perpetuals do have a tendency toward black spot, but if planted where they are given enough air circulation they can beat it on their own. Many times climate dictates disease. In addition, if you like to spray and putter, then feel free to try either 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed to one gallon of water or 2 tablespoons of vinegar mixed to one gallon of water. This throws off the ph level so the fungus cannot grow.
I want to plant the rose, top dress with a little bone meal and handful of alfalfa pellets, give it a kiss and walk away. Lazy? Call it what you like…. I want to spend my time admiring my roses not nursing them. But, I am not a snob… many modern varieties of hybrid musk and shrub roses are just as worthy as the old timers… always remember, it all goes back to the roots!
FYI - Today, many gardeners are seeking out old-fashioned roses lost from commerce. These plights have turned into full-scale obsessions. One group in the fore font for the resurgence of these lost roses is an organization called The Texas Rose Rustlers. These dedicated rosarians seek out old cemeteries and go on treks to abandon home sites, with permission, where they rescue cuttings, suckers and plants. This organization as well as many others is responsible for the reintroduction of these old roses into the nursery industry.
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