Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

They’re Tough and They’re Roses Too

Rose in hand

What plants would you guess might survive if your garden had been covered by 20 feet of salt water for two weeks?

When Louisiana gardener,, surveyed her garden in the wake of hurricane Katrina, she found one rose and one crinum still alive.

That rose, a vigorous, thornless climber, continues to be smothered by medium-pink flowers that continue through all but the hottest weather in Louisiana, and gardeners in Idaho and Nebraska report it survives the cold winters there too.

Now named the ‘Peggy Martin Rose,’ it is one of the 680 rose varieties planted in 83 beds at the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanic Garden.

It’s no accident that this remarkably durable rose is featured in the NYBG’s collection.

First designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1916, the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden was restored and completed in 1988. (David Rockefeller paid for most of the restoration, and his wife Peggy was a gardener who loved roses, especially red ones.) Peter Kukielski, the collection’s curator has transformed the garden into an exceptionally disease-resistant one.

rose II


Known for fussiness, roses classically have a reputation for being seriously “high maintenance.” But in the past two decades, breeders have finally begun to favor rose selections that are disease-resistant, flower longer, and are not difficult to grow.

Mr. Kukielski has made sure that the garden includes many of these—in 2010 the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden received the Rose Garden Hall of Fame Award from Great Rosarians of the World, as well as the Most Outstanding Public Rose Garden Award from All-America Rose Selections.

What a stunning sight from the top of the entrance steps; the fragrance was lovely too.

The front beds were planted with the new dwarf and disease-resistant ‘Icy Drift’ rose, in combination with ‘ Betty Prior’ –an older favorite that I can verify is easy to grow.

There were David Austin Roses, and Germany’s Kordes Roses, known for disease-resistance. Griffith Buck, a professor of horticulture at Iowa State College in the 20th century, selected 85 roses distinguished by free-flowering habits, disease resistance, and yes, hardiness.

Damask roses and Knock Out Roses each have their place in the garden, and so do current AARS Winners.

Walking the garden’s perimeter, visitors can participate in an audio tour led by Mr. Kukielski on their cell phones. And the ‘Peggy Martin Rose’ is sold at the NYBG store, or can be located, here.

Roses in a pot