I think Earthkind is trialing David Austin roses

meslgh(DFW 8a)July 5, 2014

As many of you know, Earthkind is a Texas program that tests roses and other plants on a kind of "tough love" basis. There is a demonstration garden in one of the Dallas suburbs that I dropped by today, even though I wasn't expecting it to look like much, given the month.

I had last visited last fall, and I was very surprised to see things looking quite different from last year. Lots of roses that had been there had been pulled out, and had been replaced with row after row of David Austin roses labelled something like David Austin trial roses. Sorry, no pictures. I'm going to have to go back when I have some more time, and check things out more carefully. One thing I did notice is that although previous Earthkind trials have not used supplemental water (or maybe they did in the first year and not subsequently), there did appear to be a drip system installed. I hope that it is really true that they are testing the David Austin roses under no-spray Texas conditions, as this would be valuable information.

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I found this sentence explaining the program's irrigation model, but I'm sure it's a bit more complex than one sentence can convey:

"Once established, the plants will be grown with a 70% reduction in the amount of irrigation water applied."

So, it doesn't sound like the DA roses are getting special treatment. It will be interesting to see which varieties are tough enough to tolerate North Texas conditions... I used to think I didn't particularly like any of the Austins, but there are so many of them, I had to like at least a few varieties...

Thanks for the heads-up,

Here is a link that might be useful: Earth-kind roses link

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 9:30PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Few of the Austins are really GREAT in our conditions. And even those that are -- really do need a lot more water than our Teas and Chinas. And I am talking about long-established roses.

It will be very interesting.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:43PM
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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens)

Testing disease resistance in a non-spray environment is one thing, but testing 'draught resistance' surely must depend on whether the rose is own root or grafted. If a rose does not perform well in this respect when own root this does not mean that it can't be a great performer when budded to a suitable rootstock. So what is Earthkind testing exactly?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:34AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

I have been disappointed that we cannot find more information about the Earth kind roses today. I have seen no additions to the list, and wonder about the water restrictions. Dallas is a 3-4 hour drive from Tulsa. I do not understand how the roses can live without water, and even if they live, why would anyone want a rose that would be so terribly weakened.

Surely they have altered their goals. I also think they should clearly state whether the roses are own root or grafted.

Since they are growing David Austin roses, I wonder how much choice they have in the conditions. I have a lack of knowledge in rules and regulations, but I have always thought the David Austin (organization or company) controls programs like this that use their name.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:41AM
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meslgh(DFW 8a)

Some while ago I came across a horticultural journal article about the original Earthkind study (they did not use the term Earthkind in the article, but it was pretty clear that that's what it was). I just looked at it again, and see that they used drip irrigation in the first two years and no supplemental water after that. They used both own root and grafted cultivars in the study, but not a direct comparison of own root and grafted for the same cultivars. Overall, the own root roses did better. I remembered that in addition to no pesticides that they did not fertilize; I had not recalled that they did not amend the soil, although they did mulch with organic material ( interesting, since the Earthkind people recommend amending the soil, perhaps that was another study). One reason (previously auto-corrected to Ionesco, I hope not relevant to the topic at hand) I liked reading the study was learning which roses had been studied and had not made the grade.

Back to the trial apparently currently running, many of the plants had tags on them from the David Austin people, so I suspect they are grafted. I didn't see any Chamblee's tags, but I know that they have provided roses for past studies. These were big plants for plants that had to have been planted this spring. As with the previous study, they have 4 ( sometimes I only saw 3) plants for a cultivar. Somewhere I had read that they are testing in people's gardens these days, so maybe there are more plants elsewhere. I'm not familiar with all the David Austin roses but I saw many familiar names.

Here is a link that might be useful: Performance of Garden Roses in North-central Texas under Minimal Input Conditions

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 8:55AM
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From reading the info the Earth-kind folks have on their web site, my understanding is that they're trying to find out which cultivars perform well under a wide variety of stressful conditions in order to recommend specific rose cultivars for gardeners across the U.S.

The assumption being that North Texas is a stressful gardening climate for most roses, and roses that can cope with hot, dry summers and harsh winters without chemical inputs must be able to cope with "green" gardening practices in a wide variety of stressful conditions.

Something that does worry me is that roses that may flunk the EK trials might perform beautifully in, say, Pennsylvania without any chemical inputs, but may get passed over by well-intentioned PA gardeners in favor of EK roses that prefer TX condtions to PA conditions...

Will perfectly good roses that can't tolerate EK trials get a rep for being "inferior"or "finicky", even if they really may surpass EK roses under different (but equally "green") growing conditions?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:27AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Moreover, as someone here pointed out a while back -- Roses with NO irrigation will be dead roses in most of Southern California. Our rainy season (when we have one) comes during the winter months. Even in a "wet" year, we get no rain after, say, early April.

That means the plants survive through the hottest months of the year with nothing. They may not die, but they aren't going to bloom, and they won't look good.

I'd hate to have new gardeners here think that they can grow a rose here as if it were prickly pear.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:29PM
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Based on my experiences in Kansas, I don't think the David Austin roses will do well in a real EarthKind trial. For one thing, many of them blackspot like crazy here. Heritage is the only one I've seen that might make it without spraying.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:49PM
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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens)

What Jeri says above is applicable to any typical med type climate. I strongy suspect that very few roses however mature can survive without any dry season irrigation. Sometimes one sees neglected old roses thriving but they most probably receive some kind of irrigation even if this is accidental like a leaking pipe, access to a septic tank or a high water table. There are some species roses that will survive in the wild like R. sempervirens, but most garden roses will not.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 1:14AM
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