"At some point, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. [Landscape] roses will be all you have; the beautiful, unique hybrid teas will be gone."
—Charlie Anderson, president of Weeks Roses
This makes me sad. I’m no big fan of hybrid teas, but for me the romance of growing roses includes all the different types. An article in the Sacramento Bee discusses a decline in the use of hybrid teas, as homeowners plump for low-maintenance landscape roses (think Knock Out), which don’t need any special care (extra fertilizing, nurturing through diseases and infestations, etc.). If “special care” means using more chemicals, I’m all for not using hybrid teas. But I haven’t used chemicals on my roses for eight years. I have a few David Austins, climbers (above), and old roses (Louise Odier, Blush Noisette), and I would never consider giving them up in favor of any of the new easy-care series.
When I started planning a garden, the first flowers I thought of were roses and lilies. I pored through rose books, then catalogs, and ended up ordering mainly old roses from a couple vendors. Exactly two of them survived, and I think that’s pretty good, given the generally shady conditions and equally general ineptitude of the gardener.
The fragrance-free, nondescript flowers of the new easy-care shrubs wouldn’t be worth the space they’d take up in my small urban property, though I have seen them in action as large public plantings, and heartily approve for the most part. In fact, I’d agree with this telling quote from the Bee article—"People don't even see Knock Out as a rose any more; it's a landscape plant." Exactly.
I think these big companies like Weeks should start pushing their heirloom and antique roses more. Many are just as sturdy as any of the new shrubs, and though they may not bloom as much, I would take one blowsy, deliciously-scented Louise Odier or Abraham Darby—neither of which gets or requires any special care—over 100 Knock Outs.