For flower lovers in Baton Rouge, spring marks the perfect time to visit the LSU Agricultural Center Botanic Gardens’ rose display, said Wanda Ellis, a research associate at the gardens who runs rose trial testing sites for two evaluation programs.
Research and evaluation of roses are key to knowing what grows best in different locations. The LSU Agricultural Center grows roses that are part of those evaluation programs.
One of those evaluation programs, the national rose evaluation program, once known as the All-American Rose selection program, is being phased out to make way for new programs that favor disease resistance and hardiness to the regional conditions, in addition to attractiveness, Ellis said.
The test sites are sponsored by the American Garden Rose Selections and The American Rose Trials for Sustainability, Ellis said, and are mainly in response to the fact that roses that grow well in one region of the country may require much more maintenance, pesticides and fungicides to get the same blooms.
“Apart from the initial watering to get the plant established, we’re looking for roses that will grow in the conditions we have, so don’t water, and use minimal pesticides,” she said.
Lower maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance, Ellis stressed. Regular pruning is still necessary, and occasional treatments for insects may be required.
Overall, however, the newer varieties that come out of the program — the first selection winners will be named in 2016 — should not need the weekly rotation of fungicides and pesticides normally needed.
The LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden is one of 12 initial AGRS trial sites in the country. The U.S. selection program will include regional winners from the Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central, Northwest and Southwest.
Trials for the second program, The American Rose Trials for Sustainability, began in 2014, and look at similar factors — the most disease- and pest-resistant, hardiest and best garden-worthy rose varieties.
The LSU AgCenter is also evaluating Kordes rose varieties for the Gulf South. Kordes is one of the world’s largest and oldest rose-breeding companies. They do not use fungicides in rose development and evaluations.
Kordes roses are sold in the United States by NewFlora.
“Disease resistance in hybrid teas, sustainability in rose growing and growing ‘own-root’ modern roses can be achieved with some of these varieties,” said Ellis. “Well-known, older Kordes varieties that we have successfully grown in Louisiana many years include Shreveport and iceberg.”
Some of the newest Kordes hybrid tea and floribunda rose varieties being evaluated at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station and at the Botanical Gardens at Burden include Beverly, grand amore, pink enchantment, sunny sky, wedding bells, winter sun, Poseidon and summer sun.
“Serious rose gardeners and members of the American Rose Society know these new varieties, but the average gardener is not yet knowledgeable on these plants,” Ellis said.
These evaluations are being done in cooperation with K & M Roses in Buckatunna, Mississippi, and Chamblee’s Rose Nursery in Tyler, Texas.
The LSU AgCenter has many current recommendations to aid Louisiana rose growers as they select new varieties, Jeff Kuehny, director of the Botanical Gardens at Burden.
The popular Belinda’s Dream rose has previously been named a Louisiana super plant by the LSU AgCenter and has now been named the Gulf District Rose of the Year for 2015 by the American Rose Society.
The ground cover, dwarf landscape shrub Drift series roses with seven colors — apricot, red, pink, coral, popcorn, sweet and peach — are also Louisiana super plants.
For patrons of the gardens who would like to see the gardens in bloom and support the center, the public is invited to Gourmet in the Garden, May 1 at 7 p.m., at the gardens, 4560 Essen Lane. The event will start with hors d’ouevres and entrees being served in the Orangerie and surrounding garden. Dining will be in the Rose Garden, with dessert and dancing in the Pavilion.
“In keeping with the event’s local theme, come enjoy local food by local restaurants and their chefs created with local vegetables, herbs and more,” said Kuehny. Original cocktails by local mixologists also will be among the offerings.
Tickets can be purchased online using Eventbrite. Seating is limited, so buy your tickets early. Tickets are $60 per person in advance. The cost at the door is $70 if seating is available.
Call Michelle Fuller at (225) 763-3990.