Roses for people who hate roses

A new line of disease-resistant roses called Clean ‘n Easy offers new hope for rose lovers.

Roses for people who hate roses

If you were to ask people who purport to hate roses exactly what it is they dislike about these popular flowering shrubs and climbers, most of them would complain about the constant cultural problems.

They generally like the beautiful flowers, the scintillating fragrance and long blooming season, but hate the disease issues. And as most gardeners know in wet coastal British Columbia – fighting black spot, powdery mildew and rust can be a bit of an ongoing challenge, and many people just don’t want to have to constantly spray fungicides.

There are a couple of reasons why this disease problem is so severe, one being our often challenging wet weather, the other that many of the new roses are being bred and tested in California, where they thrive on the heat and drier climate. When those same roses goes north, it is often a different story.

However, there is some hope, and it comes from Pan American Nursery, which supplies local garden centres with a new line of disease-resistant roses called Clean ‘n Easy.

These Kordes roses have been rigorously tested for their beautiful flower display, excellent vigour and, above all, disease resistance.

There are seven cultivars in this collection, including three floribundas and four hybrid teas – ‘Archbishop Desmond Tutu’ (red); ‘Poseidon’ (lavender); ‘Brothers Grimm’ (pink/orange blend); ‘Wedding Bells’ (pink); ‘Grande Amore’ (red); ‘Souvenir de Baden Baden’ (pink); and ‘Winter Sun’ (yellow).

These come to us from W. Kordes Sohne (W. Kordes’ Sons), a family run German nursery with 125 years of experience breeding disease-resistant roses. This dynasty began in 1887 with Wilhelm Kordes, who started a rose breeding nursery in northern Germany. His goal was to create roses that thrive in the local climate (which is similar to our own) and he began by breeding with European natives such as Rosa canina, R. spinosissima and R. rubiginosa, and eventually expanded to hardy Asian species such as R. wichurana and Rosa rugosa.

His son, Wilhelm the Second, successfully crossed the latter two species to create a new class of hardy, glossy-leaved roses called Kordesii, which was later used extensively in the development of the Canadian Explorer Series.

Wilhem Jr.’s son Reimer was responsible for breeding such rose standards as ‘Iceberg’ (white floribunda), ‘Antike 89’ (white/rose blend climber), ‘Golden Holstein’ (yellow floribunda) and ‘Alchymist’ (apricot climber or shrub).

During the 1950s and ’60s, the third generation of Kordes, including Reimer, Hermann the Second and Werner, reached the peak of production, growing upwards of four million roses a year.

Today, W. Kordes Sohne is being run by the fourth generation, but they have kept to their core commitment of producing disease resistant varieties, as they have not sprayed their test garden roses at all for the past 20 years, just so they can see the true results of their breeding.

The latter program includes crossing 50,000 new varieties each year. That will ultimately yield between four to six new cultivars for the market, and even these must go through a rigorous eight- to 10-year testing period.

So, as you can see, it is no small feat to produce a disease resistant rose and luck really has nothing to do with it when only a handful of successes arise out of thousands of deliberate crosses.

That being said, Kordes has many other worthy roses to offer, including  ‘Westerland’, ‘Leverkusen’, ‘Blue Girl’, ‘Aloha’, ‘Sunsprite’, ‘Peter Frankenfeld’, ‘Dortmund’, ‘Nicole’, ‘Loving Memory’ and ‘Samba’.

• For more information on Kordes roses visit and download their current catalogue.