Yesterday morning, after grooming and weeding one of the gardens I care for, I walked up to the property line to see some goldenrod blooming. In the terraced garden below me there were six Knockout roses and two Hybrid Teas, all healthy. But there ,on the forest edge, not 100 feet away was a multiflora rose, a curse from the birds, and it was infected with rose rosette. Today I will cut the canes to the ground and get rid of them. If it is cool enough I will dig the roots out., though that may have to wait a few days. I broke the news to the garden’s owner so she would be prepared if the virus spreads.
I drove then to a second garden in Green Hills. I am cleaning out a bed there that the owner is planning to change to a cottage garden. Its centerpiece is the hybrid musk “Penelope”, and we were planning to move the old fashioned climber “Albertine” from another bed into this one. The Albertine once belonged to me. I raised it from a cutting off my original, which I bought from Pickering Nursery in Canada. My Albertine had 20 foot canes, and had covered an apple tree in my side yard. When that rose bloomed, it was a spectacle(. Albertine was one of Vita Sackville West’s favorite roses.)
The cutting grew, and when I left my house behind it went as a refugee to this Green Hills garden.
After I spent an hour digging out two stumps of two large shrubby Hypericums, I went over to the Albertine bed to weed. To my horror, two new canes on the rose were red, twisted deformed witches’ brooms. Rose Rosette disease.
I ran for the shovel, dug the rose out, cut it to bits and bagged it to go into my apartment dumpster.
The infected rose was not three feet from a magnificent and venerable “Buff Beauty”.
I walked the yard, but the rest of the roses looked healthy. How long will they stay that way?
What is infuriating is that this disease was introduced deliberately to kill multiflora roses, and now may spread to kill all our roses. It has enough potential victims. It needs only to spread from yard to yard to median strip into our new monoculture of Knockout roses. It is possible roses may go the way of the American Elm and the American Chestnut. And we did this through stupidity.
A photo of an Albertine rose.