US: "Humans have done their best to destroy roses, but they survived"

Roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow and disease-prone. But who's really to blame?

We are, said Peter E. Kukielski, a rosarian and the author of "Rosa: The Story of the Rose," a new book about the flower's place in human cultural history. After the genus Rosa had survived some 35 million years on the planet, it took us less than a century to render it less resilient than it had to have been to stick around that long.

"It has to be one tough plant to go through all the climate changes and everything else it's gone through before we started hybridizing roses," Kukielski said, referring to the human interventions to change the flower's shape into what became the hybrid tea, achieved at the expense of disease resistance.

So "give them some credit," he said. And give them some proper companions, too: flowering perennials, annuals and bulbs that foster a healthier rose garden, without chemical intervention. Like the one he designed three years ago for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario — a chemical-free province — that he proudly describes as "3,000 roses and 18,000 perennials chosen as insect-attracting companions."

He added: "I don't mind bad insects. As long as we have the good insects, we will have balance."

It's no surprise that Kukielski doesn't recommend a diet of synthetic fertilizer, or propping roses up with pesticides and fungicides if spider mites or black spot threaten. 

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