Recently I met with Michael Schwartz at the Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut to visit the rose trial gardens of both Earth-Kind roses and the newer organization A.R.T.S. trials. The American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S.) was founded in 2012 when the All America Rose Selections (AARS) closed its doors. Schwartz is the trial director of both gardens, as well as the current president of the A.R.T.S. organization.
Earth-Kind roses have been around for a number of years under a program run by Texas A&M AgriLife and Extension. There are now Earth-Kind trial gardens in several locations in Texas and in several states as different as Maine, Mississippi and California. Canada, New Zealand and India also have Earth-Kind rose trials. The goal of all these sites is to identify the roses that thrive with low-input conditions which means pest and disease resistance and needing less irrigation and fertilizer.
Chamblee’s Rose Nursery has a number of Earth-Kind roses that are familiar to gardeners including The Fairy, Belinda’s Dream and Carefree Beauty.
The 11 A.R.T.S. trial gardens across the country are working to provide objective, accurate and reliable information about the cultivars that are tested to identify the most disease and pest resistant, and the most garden worthy cultivars. No fungicides, insecticides or miticides are used in the trial gardens. Each garden also includes Carefree Beauty and the Original Knockout rose, to use as reference points for the growth and condition of the trial roses.
Schwartz gave me a tour of both test gardens. In the A.R.T.S. test garden I admired the roses planted this year, and roses planted last year. They showed a lot of growth in only two years. I also got to see Peachy Knock Out; Ice Cap, a double white shrub rose; and Double 10, a riotous orange tea rose, all of which won four regional awards, and earned the name Master Rose. These roses are the first A.R.T.S. winners and will come on the market in 2018. Watch for them.
Those three roses are not the only A.R.T.S. roses that will be available next spring. Also watch for Farruca Courtyard, a compact climber with double red blossoms; BougainFeelYa, a compact spreading shrub with single red blossoms, and Apple Dapple a blush pink shrub rose, both from the Look Alikes series; and Petaluma a semi-double orange-pink shrub rose. These colors are all luscious!
The system for evaluating the test results has been a lot of work, but now that the results can be handled electronically the process is more thorough and much easier. In addition to quantifying disease resistance and such, rose marketers know that fragrance, mature growth habit, and length of season bloom are important. These qualities are taken into consideration as well. The final question Schwartz said “tries to account for the X-factor which is – do you like the rose? That takes a subjective evaluation, but it’s important. It’s hard to quantify beauty, but we tried.”
After visiting the A.R.T.S. trials Schwartz walked me across the campus, past the Biblical Garden, the Teaching Garden and a collection of some of the maple tree varieties that are part of the college’s Tamarack Arboretum to view the Earth-Kind rose trials. This large trial garden is located on a steep terraced hillside, with each terrace devoted to one year’s roses. There is no way I was going to slide down the narrow hillside path to wander through this lush rose garden, but it was an amazing site in its entirety, even if it didn’t make for a great photo. It is clear that the Earth-Kind list of low maintenance roses will include new cultivars in the near future.
Schwartz and I spent some time in the Zinser Rose Garden talking about the college, its roses and the two year horticulture, and horticulture and landscape design programs. The rose garden is named after the beloved Professor Zinser who taught mathematics. Here we were surrounded by a number of hardy, easy care roses like the romantic Blushing Knock Out, Teasing Georgia, a striking yellow rose, and Nearly Wild, with pink/white single blossoms.
Schwartz told me that there have been a number of companies and rose gardens that have disappeared over the past few years. In this modern world too many gardeners were finding too many roses too much trouble to grow and fuss over. Roses had such a reputation for requiring a lot of work and chemicals that many gardeners never even tried to grow roses in their garden.
The Earth Kind and A.R.T.S. trials will be giving gardeners the information to choose beautiful and low maintenance roses to make up a successful rose garden.
Several years ago I met Peter Kukielski, then curator 0f the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden and he told me that he often had to assure gardeners whose roses died. He’d tell them “you are not the problem. It is the roses that are the problem.” He went on to write Roses Without Chemicals: 150 disease free varieties that will change the way you grow roses. Kukielski was the first president of the A.R.T.S trials and worked to identify more strong and beautiful roses for gardeners.
I wonder which one of the A.R.T.S. roses I will plant next year?
Between the Rows July 1, 2017