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Buck roses in the far north.

Dr. Griffith Buck (1915-1991) spent his horticulture research and teaching career at Iowa State University from 1948 to 1985. As a young man, he was influenced by the Spanish rose breeder, Pedro Dot, to become a rose breeder. In the Midwestern States a region that often had droughts in summer with high temperatures and cold, windy winters, Hybrid Teas and Floribundas were not cold hardy. His rose breeding program objective was developing high quality, cold hardy and disease resistant roses that could survive the extremes of this climate. He was very successful, developing nearly 90 cultivars that are popular for growing in the colder regions of the U.S. and Canada.

Dr. Buck was a good friend of the nurseryman and plant breeder, Frank Skinner of Dropmore, Manitoba and they regularly corresponded with each other. In 1949 Mr. Skinner recommended to him using Rosa laxa in his breeding program. This is a tall growing species from Siberia having large (7.5 cm. diameter), single, white flowers repeating their bloom. In 1955 he made his first cross with Rosa laxa, combining it with the Rosa elganteria hybrid 'Josef Rothmund.' He selected a double, salmon-pink seedling for breeding purposes. Shortly after obtaining Rosa laxa from Mr. Skinner, Dr. Buck obtained his 'Suzanne' (F2 Rosa laxa x Rosa spinosissima) and began using it in his breeding program. It was from the use of this species and cultivar that made possible the successful development of the Buck roses.

'Applejack' was the first cultivar developed having Rosa lava in the parentage by crossing 'Goldbusch' with the 'Josef Rothmund' x Rosa laxa selection. It was introduced in 1973. The shrub is tall (2 metres), having semi-double, medium pink flowers stippled red The flowers have a clove and the foliage an apple fragrance, hence the cultivar's name. Since the parentage was 1/4 Rosa laxa, it was so cold hardy that Dr. Buck referred to it as his "anti-freeze' rose for use in breeding. He used it to develop 'Summer Wind', having semi-double, orange-pink flowers and introduced it in 1975. It's also in the pedigree of several other cultivars he developed, including his best known rose 'Carefree Beauty.'


The first cultivar Dr. Buck developed using 'Suzanne' was 'Prairie Princess' {('Carousel' x ('Morning Stars' x 'Suzanne)} and introduced in 1972. The shrub is tall (2 metres) and has semi-double, light coral-pink flowers often blooming at the top of the plant. It winter kills in Zone 3 but is crown hardy and flowers on new wood until August. The Morden Agriculture Canada Research Station used this cultivar in its Parkland rose Breeding program to develop 'Morden Centennial' and several other cultivars.

'Carefree Beauty' (Sdlg. X 'Prairie Princess) introduced in 1977 is likely the Buck rose most Canadian rosarians are familiar with. It's large (10 cm. diameter), loosely formed, deep pink flowers have very good repeat bloom. The shrub winter kills severely in a Zone 3 climate but is crown hardy and the flowers bloom well on new wood.

'Country Dancer' ('Prairie Princess' x 'Johannes Boettner') is almost as well known as 'Carefree Beauty' and has semi-double, deep pink flowers. On its own roots, it grew and flowered well for many years at Skinner's Nursery, located near Roblin in western Manitoba.

The Edmonton Devonian Botanic Garden grew 'Applejack', 'Carefree Beauty', 'Country Dancer' and 'Prairie Princess 'as grafted plants for several years in their rose garden. Each winter, with the exception of {Applejack' that was nearly cold-hardy, the other cultivars would winter kill substantially but always bloomed on new wood. Because of their relatively good performance, I established a bed of several Buck rose cultivars on their own roots in 2006. The cultivars included {Applejack', 'Carefree Beauty', 'Country Dancer', 'Earth Song', 'Folksinger', 'Hawkeye Belle', 'Music Maker', 'Paloma Blanca' and 'Prairie Star'. The plants were mulched with a compost that included bark chips and mounded up with this material in late fall before going into the winter. They all survived the winter well, and grew and flowered well in the summer of 2007. I was very impressed with their performance.

There is no doubt the Buck roses are a type of rose that should be grown more on the Prairies. Several cultivars have flowers approaching the quality of Hybrid Teas and they often have good fragrance. 'Earth Song' (soft rose-pink), 'Hawkeye Belle'(pink and white), 'Paloma Blanca' (white) and 'Prairie Star' (white blushed pink) are exceptionally attractive with very double flowers. 'Folksinger' (peach and yellow), 'Golden Unicorn' (yellow and orange) and 'Distant Drums' (bronze-brown in center shading to lavender at edges) have colour combinations not found in the Parkland or Explorer Rosa kordesii cultivars. Therefore, their primary value is adding additional colours to the prairie rose garden.

Dr. Buck had a limited budget for his rose breeding program and could not afford to spray them for diseases. Selections dropping their foliage before winter didn't survive for very long. Inadvertently, he was selecting for disease resistance, and this aspect of his breeding program contributed to much of its success. Since nearly all of the Buck cultivars have Hybrid Tea cultivars in their parentage, it's amazing how disease resistant they are. On the Canadian Prairies, the Buck roses tend to be more disease resistant than they are when grown in warmer and more humid climates. One exception is 'Folksinger', which is very susceptible to mildew.

A wide variety of Buck rose cultivars are available from Hortico and Pickering Nurseries for trial growing on the Prairies. Included are 'Prairie Harvest' and 'Golden Unicorn', having yellow flowers. This is a rare colour in semi-hardy roses that can be grown in the Prairie region. However, they are grafted plants from these sources and for them to survive Prairie winters they should be planted deep to cover the graft union. As with the Parkland rose cultivars, it is helpful to mulch them heavily in late fall to enable them to survive the winter better.


Crush and mix one oz. of orris root, ground nutmeg, ground clove, gum benzoin and powdered storax.

In bottom of rose jar sprinkle a handful of common salt and a little of the above mixture. As various fragrant herbs and flowers bloom, gather, dry and add in layers. Sprinkle each with salt and spice mixture. When above quantity of spice mixture has been used, continue using salt alone between layers. Stir thoroughly each day until all moisture seems dispelled. Cover tightly, ready for use in one month. Use rose petals, lavender, lemon verbena, lemon balm, bergamot leaves, rosemary, dried orange and lemon peel stuck with cloves, clove pink, carnations, etc.


10 cupful dried rose petals

1/4 lb. ground orris root

2 oz. sandalwood powder

1/4 lb. table salt

1/2 oz. ground cloves

1/4 oz. ground allspice

1/2 oz. ground cinnamon

2-3 vanilla beans
COPYRIGHT 2008 This material is for informational use. Views are not those of the editorial committee. Reference to commercial products is made with no discrimination intended or endorsement by The Prairie Garden.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Olsen, Paul G.
Publication:Prairie Garden
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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