A rose by any other name

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer

Mother’s Day was cloudy and brisk in Tulsa. Some mothers had breakfast in bed, others were taken to restaurants for lunch or supper, and then there’s my group who wandered around plant nurseries. It’s May. The gardens are calling.

The severe February cold took many potted plants in my son’s garden. Gardening became a replacement and restoration event. The floribunda hybrid, a vibrant Joseph’s Coat climbing rose, gave up the ghost even though it had been well mulched in its large half barrel and support trellis. WaTTson, the young black Labrador mix, helped dig out the rose which was replaced by the shrubbier but fragrant reddish-purple Burgundy Iceberg rose. Floribundas have clusters of scented blooms (the extent of my rose terminology).

The two deceased nandinas put up a fight when time came to remove them from their sky-blue pots. After each container received new moist potting soil, Route 66 Coreopsis plants became the next occupants. Bright yellow flowers with an inner deep red ring will soon emerge from the attractive foliage of soft narrow, thread like leaves.

The crape myrtles along the fence hadn’t died. They simply retreated back into the ground and decided to come up from the roots, foregoing all the effort to send sap up the damaged stems and form new leaves. The stems were pruned.

The large gray monolithic-like pots flanking the front door are barren. No cannas had even attempted to emerge. Every year the yellow cannas reliably sent up large green leaves and bloomed prolifically throughout the warm seasons. The mushy rhizomes lingered in the soil as a reminder that cannas are somewhat tropical. Mixed-color canna rhizomes replaced the goners. The chunky small subterranean stems from a box store didn’t look the epitome of health, but half were alive and it’s all they had.


Notice most the plants that perished were not native plants. Nandinas (aka heavenly bamboo) are native to Japan, China and India. Roses were first cultivated in China and the Middle East. Crape myrtles come from China, Korea and India.

Closer to home, eighty species of Coreopsis are native to North, Central and South America. The Route 66 Coreopsis were first discovered in 2005 growing in Patti Bauer’s garden in Lucinda, Pennsylvania.

Canna species are also native to North and South America. Of the ten tropical and semi-tropical canna species, the golden canna (Canna flaccida) grows in South Carolina to the Florida Everglades. The water canna (Canna glauca) lives in Louisiana and Texas.

Twenty-two species of native roses grow in the US. Oklahoma has nearly ten native rose species and varieties. The pink prairie rose (Rosa setigera) as well as the light pink Carolina rose (Rosa carolina) are Oklahoma wild roses soon to bloom along fences, edges of woods and in fields. The prairie rose is a gentle rambling species considered vulnerable but not yet threatened. Both native rose species have special value to native bees with pollen, nectar and nesting materials. Another fence rose, the introduced multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), is not welcome. This aggressive invasive species vigorously competes with our native roses. The multiflora rose blooms earlier and is now producing white blooms similar to white blackberry flowers. No surprise. Roses, blackberries, apples, peaches, and strawberries, part of 4,828 known species, are all in the Rose family. Want to control the out-of-control multiflora? Get goats. They love to eat the noxious multiflora rose.

The official Oklahoma State Flower is the Oklahoma Rose (Rosa x ‘Oklahoma’ or Rosa odorata Andr. Sweet). Although the ancestors of the heat-loving hybrid garden tea rose came from Yunnan in southwest China, this ‘Made in Oklahoma’ rose was actually developed in 1964 by Herbert Swim and O.L. Weeks at Oklahoma State University. Go Pokes. Each fragrant five inch rose bloom has velvety red-black petals and a rich ‘old-rose’ perfume.

Just don’t confuse the Oklahoma Rose with the Oklahoma State Floral Emblem, the mistletoe, or the Oklahoma State Wild Flower, the Indian Blanket.