June Tips from the Wedgwood Garden Club

Jacqueline Houston is a member of the Wedgwood Garden Club, and also a Master Gardener of King County. She has been gardening in Seattle for over 30 years. Wedgwood Garden Club always welcomes new members, wherever you live – contact Jacqueline at tppoems@comcast.net for more information on our monthly meetings.

As roses begin to bloom all around us, there is one rose that I am never happy to see – the infamous Dr Huey.

Dr Huey was a Philadelphia dentist who experimented with tough root stocks for roses, and finally he developed one that was so hardy in the coldest of temperatures, and promoted such fast growth in anything grafted onto it, that it was adopted by all the big rose growers as their basic rootstock. They would graft their more ‘desirable’ roses onto this sturdy rootstock and then watch them bolt skywards before their very eyes. It was just like fattening pigs for market – you got a larger product, and made more money faster.

But Dr Huey is not always content to stay quietly underground. Given the opportunity, he will surge forth and attempt a takeover. Any new growth shooting up from beneath the graft (the lumpy bit at the base of the stems) is probably Dr Huey, and if your pink (or white, or yellow, or orange) rose suddenly starts sprouting red flowers, this is what has happened. The red flowers quickly take over, and suddenly you have a red rose that looks suspiciously like all the red roses in the neighborhood, because they are EVERYWHERE, especially in neglected gardens, traffic circles, hanging over fences and railings, etc. (See photo) Once you learn to recognize it, you
can’t unsee it!

And it’s not even a nice red rose! No one intentionally buys Dr Huey, and no nursery would sell it. It’s a dull, matte red, with no fragrance. It flowers once in May/June and then it’s done, and after that most of the leaves fall off! Oh, and it’s prone to blackspot.

You can avoid all encounters with Dr Huey by buying own-root roses, i.e. they have not been grafted onto another rootstock. A specialist nursery such as Antique Rose Farm in Snohomish (the best!!) will know which roses are grown on their own roots and which aren’t. All mine are (43 at the last count) except for one, and guess which one sends up an occasional exploratory shoot from beneath the graft? Yes, you are right.

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