When I wrote about roses a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the Rose Flower Carpet series in passing at the end, noting their absence yet again from the Rose Review. One of the comments I received in reply acknowledged that absence and noted: “the Flower Carpet range is part of the rose scene here and overseas”.
For readers who don’t know the history, the Flower Carpet series of roses hit the retail scene with a roar close to two decades ago. Most roses in this country are grown by a handful of specialist nurseries and the production is tightly controlled because so many varieties can only be produced under licence. At a time when the market was starting to call out for easier care roses that could be grown without the usual recommended spraying routine, nurseries were slow to react. Their focus remained on more beautiful flowers, too often at the cost of good garden performance.
Flower Carpet Pink (the first of the series) was launched with an unusually strong marketing campaign and its production came through general nurseries rather than specialist growers. Sales were made through the big box stores as well as the usual retail garden centres. Gone was the traditional prestige of roses, the romance, mystique, fragrance and cut flower potential. This was a new generation of utility rose with a utility name. It was followed by the rest of the series, identified by colour, not by evocative names – Flower Carpets White, Appleblossom, Red, Yellow, Scarlet, Gold, Coral and now Amber.
The market place seized these roses with alacrity. They promised to be high health and require very little care. The purists sniffed and derided – and still do to some extent. Many looked for fault. But sales figures do not lie. While the initial spike could be attributed to an aggressive marketing campaign, the endurance of these varieties now should force a rethink from the doubters. There have been 2 million sold in NZ alone, 75 million internationally. They are here to stay and the reason is that people buy them because they make good garden plants. By now they have amassed goodly swag of international rose awards too.
Utility roses the Flower Carpets may be, but they deliver on health and performance and we all need some plants in our garden that are undemanding and reliable. Not that they are all equal. The first release, Pink, is a fantastic performer but a hard, somewhat garish colour. It creates a lovely bright spot if you situate it in a very green garden, but it lacks subtlety. It is a bit “look at me, look at me” when surrounded by other colours. With my inside info, I can tell you that it is much favoured in the UK where lower sunshine hours and lower light levels mean that people favour bright spots of colour.
White remains the best seller in New Zealand. I have it both grafted as standards and as a shrub rose. It flowers on and on and on. It still a few flowers right now in mid winter. It is a terrific performer and completely reliable, in my experience.
Appleblossom is arguably one of the prettiest in flower form and colour, but its flowering season is shorter and the one I have in partial shadow does tend to ball in heavy rain. If it wasn’t a big standard, I would move it because the shrub ones in full sun are much better.
I didn’t keep Red (but that may have been issues with the position I chose to plant it), and Yellow is a bit average in my experience, but Coral has been a surprise as a top performer. It is a single (just one row of petals) and the trouble with single flowers is that as soon as a petal drops, the whole flower falls apart quickly. Coral just has so many flowers that it doesn’t matter and I have found it more upright in growth than the yellow.
I am told both Amber and Scarlet are very good, but I haven’t found a place for them yet. These two are the first releases of the next generation of Flower Carpet roses. The initial six colours were all the work of the late Dr Werner Noack, a German rose breeder who started work over 30 years ago on breeding healthier garden roses. Now the mantle has fallen to his son. Look out for Pink Splash (the first bicolour and a sport of Pink) and Pink Supreme.
I would not only grow Flower Carpet roses. There are others I like too, especially for picking. But I would certainly miss them in the garden if they were removed. They are the best garden plants in terms of flowering season and health.
In the interests of disclosure, I should note that the company which manages the Flower Carpet series also manages some of our Jury plants internationally. In practical terms, what this means is that if I did not think the roses were good, I would remain silent.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.