The National Earth-Kind Rose Research Study is the flagship of environmental rose research for the country. One hundred rose cultivars are being evaluated in four randomized, replicated blocks. This research is part of a program that includes four countries, seven universities and 27 states. The goal is to identify a collection of roses that will grow across the country, with cultural practices that are environmentally responsible.
In February, 2008, the Parks and Recreation Department of Farmers Branch, Texas (a suburb in northwest Dallas) joined with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Houston Rose Society in a great public/private partnership to create what is, to our knowledge, the largest environmental rose research study of its kind in the United States. The goal of this flagship research is to help identify cultivars that are of such toughness and quality that they will comprise the first ever National Collection of Earth-Kind® Roses.
Located on 2.5 acres in beautiful Gussie Field Watterworth Park, this four-year research study consists of 100 cultivars replicated four times for a total of 400 plants. The experimental design utilized in this flagship study is randomized complete block which is considered the strongest design possible for field research. The vast majority of the experimental cultivars (“varieties”) are very winter hardy which means that if they can perform well in the heat, humidity, alkaline soils, and intense disease pressure of north Texas, they have great potential to go virtually nationwide. As the ultimate test of their genetic strength, these experimental roses received no soil amendments, and they will never be fertilized, never sprayed with any chemicals, never deadheaded (i.e. have the spent blossoms removed), and never be pruned (except in rare instances to prevent a plant from encroaching on its neighbors). A three-inch-thick mulch layer consisting of tree limbs that have been run through a chipper will be maintained year round. Once established, the plants will be grown with a 70% reduction in the amount of irrigation water applied.
The research partners in this study are: Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Dr. Steve George, Dr. Greg Church, and Kim Schofield), City of Farmers Branch (Pam Smith), Houston Rose Society (Gaye Hammond), Texas A&M – Commerce (Dr. Derald Harp), and the University of Wisconsin (Dr. David Zlesak).
The garden is located across from Oran Park and near Farmers Branch City Hall at the entrance to Gussie Field Watterworth Park, 2610 Valley View Lane, Farmers Branch, Texas 75381.