For those of us who love roses, it can be a trial finding roses that can survive our mountain winters. Fortunately in the world of sustainable roses, help is on its way in the name of Griffith Buck roses.
The search for hardy reblooming roses goes all the way back to the 18th century when Europeans first came into contact with the Chinese china and tea roses that bloomed more than once. However, there was a problem: these exotic roses couldn’t survive European winters so there arose a frantic search to hybridize a reblooming rose that could handle European winters.
This exploration for hardy roses has developed along several lines. Agriculture Canada has developed some charming roses, including ‘Champlain’, but the rose that really does well in North Carolina High Country is a line called “Buck roses.”
A professor of horticulture at Iowa State University, Griffith Buck hybridized roses in an effort to find those that could withstand the harsh Iowa winters. Because he lacked funds, his roses in his rose trials received little fertilizer and pampering: After their first year, these roses were on their own.
Altogether, Dr. Buck introduced over 80 varieties of roses. Fortunately, he was generous in giving away to friends and family many of his hybrids because upon his retirement and subsequent death in 1991, Iowa State University plowed up his test fields. Horrified, his friends and family gathered their varieties, and gave the inventory of Buck roses to the University of Minnesota to manage. Today, realizing its mistake in its failure to recognize Dr. Buck’s contribution, Iowa State University’ now profiles a collection of his roses at its Reiman Gardens.
Most of the Buck roses are shrub roses. Some, like ‘Folksinger’ are quite large while others, such as ‘Malaguena’, are on the small side. They come in a range of colors and all are quite charming. However, if you’re looking for the drop dead magnetism of hybrid teas, lower your sights just a bit—and you will find these homespun roses have a charm all of their own.
Almost all of the Buck roses are disease resistant. All they require is a good pruning in March, an occasional feeding with a good rose fertilizer, and they will repay you with repeat blooms throughout the whole growing season. When winter approaches, spread some additional mulch around their feet before they go off for a long slumber.
Buck roses are widely available through mail order nurseries. The two I recommend are: www.rosesunlimited.com and www.antiqueroseemporium.com. While fall is a good time to plant you may want to wait until January to place your orders as that’s when the best varieties are available. With Buck roses, you’re purchasing uncomplicated roses that will survive an Appalachian winter. Be sure to mark your roses because the names of the Buck roses are a bit hard to remember as they are typically homespun in nature. I’m particularly fond of ‘Candyman’ and ‘Prairie Harvest’. You’ll find that these roses become the workhorses of the garden.
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.