In these harsh times with water restrictions in virtually every state, the subject of Bullet Proof Roses is quite relevant. Many have suggested planting Australian Natives as the only alternative for gardens but I believe we should consider plants which are Natives in the Northern Hemisphere, Roses.

When we look at where many roses originate we see Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, China and even Mexico as countries with native roses. In most cases the roses are growing in areas with little rainfall and hot dry conditions and once established they do survive.

So what would be my most bullet proof roses for Australia?  There would be no question, species roses. Once established they will survive with only rainfall giving a wonderful display of flowers in spring and attractive, colourful seedpods through summer. As they are native roses their health is excellent without the diseases many modern roses can be struck down with.

But gardeners want more than just once flowerers. My second tier of bullet proof roses consist of Tea’s, Portland’s, Rugosa’s, China’s, Hybrid Musk’s and Shrub’s. In these roses we see wonderful spring flowers but also good flowering over summer and into autumn if a minimal amount of water is applied. Many of these roses possess good health so spraying is not really needed. To complete the package most do have lovely full flowers compared to the species with predominantly single flowers.

So what modern roses would I consider bullet proof? Most of our modern roses have been introduced and grown in the ‘good times’ when water was plentiful and gardens were able to flourish.  It has only been a few years of water restrictions across the nation and I feel we are only just beginning to gauge the performance of our favourites in the changing climate and watering practices.

Many would consider the award winning roses from trial grounds which are assessed for free flowering and health. These could be classified bullet proof candidates but winning an award does not necessarily mean the rose is tough.

It is true that an awarded rose has proven to be exceptional in all facets it is judged for, but how do these varieties cope with extended periods of little water, or no water, and what ability do they have to fading and burning in Australia’s hot summer sun? Will they grow equally well in heat of Roxby Downs, the cool of Hobart or the humidity of Darwin, and on Dr Huey, Multiflora or Fortuniana understock?

We must be careful in being swayed by awards as many wonderful varieties from both overseas and locally bred have never been entered into the trials. The Australian ‘True Blue’ roses, the ‘Flower Carpet’ series, Delbards striped roses and many others have proven sales winners for the introducers and winners for the garden, yet few have awards to their names.

Ultimately the public will decide which roses they will purchase, award winning or not, local or imported and time will dictate if a rose will last on nurseries lists. This has been the way of the past and no doubt it will be for the future.

My top 10 bullet proof roses have been selected for their toughness, ability to grow in various climatic conditions and appeal to the public, landscapers and corporations. (Selections are in alphabetical order only).

Amazing Grace Excellent flower, superb health and good repeating, hardy.
Bonica Mass of flowers, good health, good repeating with little maintenance.
Deane Ross Wonderful flower, excellent health, good repeating for old style flower.
Duchesse de Brabant Good number of flowers, good health, can flower well into winter.
Pink Flower Carpet Mass of flowers, excellent health, one of the best varieties around.
La Sevillana Wonderful coverage of flowers, good health, used extensively in mass plantings.
Mawson Good coverage of flowers, excellent health, can be argued is better than Iceberg.
Mutabilis Toughest of the tough, flowers well and has excellent health.
R. Viginiana My pick of the old roses. Lovely flowers, excellent health, interesting foliage.
Rugosa Alba Used extensively by landscapers. Excellent health and exquisite foliage.

So where will bullet proof roses come from in the future? The world is changing and our climate is too. Varieties developed in cool regions are mainly trialed for toughness to cold and snow and do not necessarily do well in hot climates. Quarantine restrictions are making it harder to import new rose varieties into Australia and we will never know if a total ban may exist one day.

I feel the future of roses for Australian conditions may exist right here in our own backyard. Only Australian bred roses have been developed in this country, seedlings selected while growing in our harsh conditions and trialed for 3-4 years in various climates and constantly viewed for their performance on 40+ degree days.

With the breeding of roses in Australia really only just in its infancy, future bullet proof roses will one day have a ‘Made in Australia’ badge.

Created  23/12/2007