Linda F. Benedict, Owings, Allen D.
Gardeners who have shied away from growing roses because of the fungicides and care needed to grow them can take heart in a recently completed research project conducted by the LSU AgCenter and the American Rose Society at the Gardens of the American Rose Center in Shreveport.
The research was initiated to identify hybrid tea varieties that will flourish under minimum-care conditions. This project began in February 2009, and the last data from this four-year study were collected in October 2012.
Based on the highly successful Earth-Kind rose program initiated and managed through the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service, the Easy-Tea Hybrid Tea project focused on hybrid tea varieties rather than the shrubs and old garden roses primarily included in the Earth-Kind research.
As with the Earth-Kind program, the Easy-Tea Hybrid Tea research attempted to identify existing rose varieties that meet the criteria to be designated earth-friendly. Thirty carefully selected varieties of hybrid tea roses were evaluated to identify those with the highest level of natural disease resistance.
Claude Graves, of Dallas, Texas, the American Rose Society member who chaired this project and solicited the LSU AgCenter to conduct the research, stated, "The American Rose Society is seeking to encourage citizens to enjoy growing our national floral emblem, the rose, by developing a testing program that will identify hybrid tea rose varieties that require a minimum of care – including minimal application of chemicals considered by many to pose potential harm to the earth’s ecology."
Rose varieties were included in the study based on an extensive national survey of American Rose Society. Some of the criteria for the research included:
The study was designed as a randomized complete block and was properly replicated. Data were statistically analyzed. Growing conditions in Shreveport over the four-year period included one year with environmental conditions favorable for blackspot disease development; one year with conditions Louisiana Agriculture, Summer 2013 23 that would be considered average for blackspot development; and two years of dry conditions that would lessen blackspot disease on roses.
After four years, the roses designated Easy-Tea varieties are Traviata, Pink Traviata, The McCartney Rose, Tahitian Sunset and Frederic Mistral. This selection was based on blackspot susceptibility and overall landscape performance in terms of flowering, vigor and visual plant appearance. Top performers (ranked first through fifth) in visual quality of overall landscape performance are Traviata, Tahitian Sunset, Frederic Mistral, Tropicana and Pink Traviata. The top overall performers in terms of blackspot resistance (ranked first through fifth) are The McCartney Rose, Traviata, Pink Traviata, Tahitian Sunset and Tiffany.
Traviata is an older hybrid tea released in 1962 by Meilland and marketed by Conard-Pyle Roses in the United States. It has brilliant, dark red flowers with 90-100 petals per bloom. The foliage is dark glossy green. Long stems are typical, and plants in Shreveport reached 5 1/2 feet tall. This rose was the overall performer in the Easy-Tea Hybrid Tea rose trial.
Tahitian Sunset is an All-America Rose Selection winner from 2006. This brightly hued rose has flowers that start as orange-yellow buds. When flowers fully open, colors go to a peachy-apricot-pink with yellow highlights. Petal count averages 30, with 5-inch-diameter blooms. Stems are 14-16 inches long, and the flowers have a licorice fragrance. Foliage is semi-glossy. This was the second-ranked Easy-Tea rose.
Pink Traviata is a mutation of Traviata released in 2005. The deep pink flowers have the same form and petal count as Traviata. Foliage is dark glossy green. Stems are slightly shorter than Traviata. Plants reached 5 feet tall in Shreveport. Pink Traviata was the third-ranked Easy-Tea rose. Frederic Mistral is another Meilland rose that is an Easy- Tea winner. Blooms are dusty rosy pink, double and 4 1/2 inches in diameter with 40 petals. Blooms are fragrant, and plants have rich green, semi-glossy foliage. This was the fourth-ranked Easy-Tea rose.
The McCartney Rose is a Meilland-introduced rose distributed in the United States by Conard-Pyle. Plants have fragrant, brightly colored, deep rosy pink flowers. This rose was offered as a birthday present to Paul McCartney by his record company. A tall, upright grower, plants reached almost 6 feet tall in the Shreveport gardens. This was the fifth-ranked Easy-Tea rose.
A few retail garden centers in Louisiana carry some of these varieties, and additional outlets for these plants for low-maintenance rose gardens will be more widely available in the future.
Allen Owings is a professor at the Hammond Research Station.
The research project was a joint effort of the American Rose Center and the American Rose Society with some financial support provided by the ARS Research Endowment Trust.
(This article was published in the summer 2013 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)