Roses are the most popular woody ornamental in the United States (Waliczek et al., 2015) and around the world. There are many different designations of roses, ranging from the single-flowered stems of the hybrid teas to the multiple blooms per stem of polyantha and shrub roses (American Rose Society, 2007). Unfortunately, many roses, especially hybrid teas, require frequent fertilization and irrigation, are highly susceptible to disease, especially black spot and powdery mildew, and pests (Mackay et al., 2008). Consumers today are increasingly unwilling to use high-maintenance plants and desire a rose that is medium sized (3 to 4 ft tall and wide), disease resistant, pest tolerant, and blooms throughout the growing season (Grygorczyk et al., 2013; Waliczek et al., 2015).
One of the most significant and prolific public rose breeding programs in the United States was Griffith Buck’s program at Iowa State University (ISU). Dr. Buck served as a professor at ISU from 1948 to 1985. These hybrids were released from 1962 until his death in 1991, and posthumously for many years thereafter (Minot, 2019). Reiman Gardens at ISU grows 93 Buck roses in their display garden, and they recognize a total of 102 Buck roses (American Public Gardens Association, 2019). Most of Dr. Buck’s roses were registered as shrub roses, with a limited number registered as hybrid teas and grandifloras.
Dr. Buck bred and selected roses for adaptation under low-input conditions in the midwestern United States (e.g., winter survival without insulation, strong growth during the short growing season, and disease resistance). Recent interest in shrub roses has led to renewed interest in his cultivars, especially those with black spot resistance (Bates, 2010; Mueller et al., 2008; Zlesak et al., 2010). During his career, only a limited number of his roses were placed into the national supply chain and were widely available to gardeners. His roses were released through ISU, but this did not necessarily mean there was a commitment in place that, upon release, industry members would commercialize the roses. It was in the early 1990s that a strong effort by a limited number of specialty mail order nurseries gathered Dr. Buck’s roses, confirmed their identity, propagated them, and made them available to the public. Buck family members gathered these roses and worked with Chamblee’s Rose Nursery (Tyler, TX) to release eight of them in 2010.
Dr. Buck’s goal was to develop winter-hardy roses that would retain their foliage without fungicides, and some of his cultivars are in the parentage of many of today’s most popular landscape roses (Bates, 2010). For example, Carefree Beauty™ is the most widely sold cultivar, and it is in the pedigrees of the currently best-selling roses Knock Out® (RADrazz) and Double Knock Out® (RADtko) (Radler, 2001, 2006). Carefree Beauty™ has been recognized as a strong performer under low-input conditions in the south-central United States, and it was designated by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as the Earth-Kind® Rose of the Year in 2006 (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, 2019). Carefree Beauty™ is also a strong performer in north-central Texas, selected as the control cultivar planted in multiple rose cultivar trials (Zlesak et al., 2017; Zuzek et al., 2016).
Many of the Buck roses are resistant to black spot. The Buck rose cultivars Aunt Honey, Carefree Beauty™, Honeysweet, Earth Song, Prairie Squire, and Pearlie Mae had strong black spot resistance and maintained high landscape quality, even under moderate disease pressure (Mueller et al., 2008). Black spot consists of many races, distinguished from one another based on their ability to infect common roses (Zlesak et al., 2010). When challenged with black spot races 3, 8, and 9, the Buck rose cultivars Barn Dance, Quietness, and Square Dancer were resistant to two of the three races, and the cultivars Country Dancer, Folksinger, Prairie Harvest, and Winter Sunset were resistant to one of the three races (Zlesak et al., 2010).
Unfortunately, other than Carefree Beauty™, little information is available regarding the use of Buck roses in warmer climates. Identifying roses with strong landscape performance, resistance to pests and diseases, and a tolerance for the heat and drought common in north-central Texas can be difficult (Harp et al., 2019; Mackay et al., 2008; Zlesak et al., 2017). The objective of this study was to evaluate a selection of Buck roses under minimal-input conditions in north-central Texas.
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