Grace. The final frontier. These are the tales of the rose-breeding enterprise. Its continuing mission — to explore spray-free plants; to seek out new colors and new hybridizations; to boldly go where no rose has gone before!
So what do roses have to do with “Star Trek,” only the greatest sci-fi TV series of all time? To find out, you have to go back in time to 1995. (Don’t worry, it’s easy. We’ll just aim the ship at maximum warp directly at the sun, then pull away at the last possible instant, and the resulting mass distortion in space-time will catapult us back 14 years. Nothing to it.)
In 1995, Australian plantsman Anthony Tesselaar (who sounds a lot like Robin Leach) introduced the Flower Carpet roses. These low-growing shrub roses promised excellent disease-resistance and repeated flushes of blooms all summer long. They made quite a splash, but in the Grump’s view were misread by the public as being true ground cover plants, which they were not. The white Flower Carpet, in particular, eventually grew to a 4-foot tall mound.
2007 marked the premiere of Flower Carpet — the Next Generation (see how the “Star Trek” reference ties in?). No, you won’t see Counselor Troi parading her cleavage and gigantic extensions around the bridge trying to win back Commander Riker. But you will see new Flower Carpets with new colors, even better disease resistance, low-growing forms, and nonstop blooming from spring through fall. At least that’s what the promo material says.
The Doubting Grump takes nothing at face value, so to verify the claims,I talked with Stewart Chandler, Plant Evaluation Specialist with Monrovia, the country’s largest wholesale nursery. He works at Monrovia’s south Georgia facility in Cairo. “We’re about 90 miles from the Gulf, so we get a lot of rain in summer — about 50 to 60 inches a year,” he says. “So when you’re talking about developing black spot on roses, we certainly have the perfect environment for that.”
Stewart doesn’t baby the plants he’s testing. “The first year, I don’t spray and I don’t prune very much,” he says. “I want the plant to show me its real value.”
And the Next Generation has. “They start blooming very early in the spring and don’t stop the cold makes them stop,” he states. “I’ve actually had them flowering right up to Christmas.”
The first NG Flower Carpet introduced was Scarlet in 2007, followed by Pink Supreme in 2008. The new one this year is Amber. I love the color — peachy yellow — which is so revealing of my insight, because the Pantone Color Institute has named this color, Pantone #14-0838, the 2009 Color of the Year. Only they call this color “Mimosa.” No way, Pantone. Everybody in the South knows a mimosa is pink.
Amber grows into a mounding shrub about 3 feet tall and wide. The other two are lower growing and more prostrate. They’re not immune to black spot, like ‘Knockout’ is, but when growing well are quite resistant. “If I gave ‘Knockout a “10,” I’d probably rate these an “8,” says Stewart.
With Monrovia doing the growing, the Next Generation should be available at garden centers everywhere this spring. So make your heading 1051mark2 at Warp 3. Engage!