Are you the kind of gardener that likes roses but does not have a lot of time spraying, fertilizing, watering and pruning? Have no fear, there IS a rose for you and some of the best are called Earth Kind Roses, chosen by Texas A & M after careful study and rigorous testing. Only a very few of hundreds of roses tested have received the Earth Kind designation. Of these, ten are pink (Marie Daly, The Fairy, Caldwell Pink, Belinda’s Dream, Else Poulsen, Carefree Beauty, Duchess de Brabant, Spice, Climbing Pinkie, and Georgetown Tea) , two are white (Sea Foam, Ducher), one is red, (Knock Out), one peach (Perle d’Or) and one has flowers that open yellow and fade through pink and orange to crimson (Mutabilis). Several are fragrant and their growth habit ranges from small and low to very large. Like most roses, these need to be planted in a location with good air circulation and at least 6 hours of direct sun.
Although these roses were tested in unimproved soil, they will do better in good garden soil or a mixture of equal parts of aged compost, sand and manure. To conserve moisture and add nutrients, 2-4 inches of hardwood mulch should be added to the surface of the bed. By adding an additional inch of mulch twice a year no further fertilizer should be needed. The plants should be well watered (1 inch/week) during their first year but nothing after that. Some of the Earth Kind roses may show fungal or insect diseases but it will not kill them and pesticides do not need to be used. None of the Earth Kind roses need regular pruning but will tolerate a light shaping if necessary. In addition, these roses are self-deadheading (drop spent blossoms) but will set buds more quickly if deadheaded.
To read more about Earth Kind roses with specific information about the varieties included go to: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/
There are two other series of roses that offer a big bang for the buck but are not as drought tolerant or soil tolerant as the Earth Kind roses. Their outstanding qualities are disease resistance and abundant flowering throughout the season. The first is known as the Flower Carpet series that comes in hard pink, soft pink, white, coral, yellow, and red. In my garden the white, pink and red are disease free while the yellow variety gets a touch of black spot by late summer but not enough to stop the plant from blooming until frost. These roses make excellent ground covers but can be cut back if necessary.
The second series of roses that offers outstanding disease resistance, large blooms, extended bloom time, compact growth habit, and long vase life is the Dream series. They may be pink, yellow, orange, or red. The down side of these roses is that they are hard to find.
There are many roses that will thrive in your garden with little care BUT you need to give them a good start. You will have to water them the first year so that they can grow a good root system but once they get established many will do fine on their own. If you like roses they are worth the effort for that one year.