There are two words, when they are placed together that make all of us gardeners, no matter how small or how large our gardens are, take a second look: low maintenance.
Yes, those two words have us looking twice at most different kinds of plants or techniques, probably more so to see if it is really true. I know that in the past I have tried some things that are low maintenance, and my definition of low maintenance is not the same as those who were calling a particular plant low maintenance.
Texas A and M University is currently researching low maintenance plants in regard to several goals: Landscape water conservation, safe use and handling of fertilizers and pesticides in the landscape, reduction of yard wastes entering landfills and landscaping for energy conservation.
The U of M has taken what A and M has started and moved it up north so that gardeners who live in zones 3 and 4 can also benefit from these studies.
Currently, the U of M is studying the reliability of low maintenance of roses. As a rose grower, a low maintenance rose generally has meant to me one of the old fashioned roses which are tough, hardly need any attention for any reason and, in fact, sometimes grow too well for my own tastes.
In the past Yard and Garden newsletter, there is a great article which you can find on the U of M Extension's Web site about what work is being conducted in correlation with Texas A and M research regarding EarthKind. Generally at the moment, the work that the U of M is conducting is in regard to roses, but they will eventually move on to other ornamentals and vegetable plants as well.
Generally speaking, Earth Kind is combining the best of organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles to create a horticultural system based on real world effectiveness and environmental responsibility. It uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape enjoyment while preserving and protecting our environment.
By going onto the Earth Kind Web page which is found at www.earthkind.tamu.edu you can learn more and even take a quiz to find out how you are doing with your own landscape environment. You can also find some plants that are doing well within the research criteria. The Northern EarthKind trial sites can be found all over Minnesota (Roseville, Morehead and Crookston), Iowa (Ames), Nebraska (Bellevue) and Colorado (Fort Collins). There are 20 roses that are currently being studied for the Northern EarthKind Trial. They are: Radbrite (Brite Eyes), RADramblin (Ramblin' Red), John Cabot, John Davis, Quadra, William Baffin, Alexander Mackenzie, BAIine (Yellow Submarine) BAIlena (Lena), BAIole (Ole), BAIore (Polar Joy), BAIset (Sunrise Sunset), BAIsven (Sven), Bucbi (Carefree Beauty), Frontenac, George Vancouver, Morden Blush, Prairie Joy, Seafoam and Summer Wind. If you notice, many of these are the original 'Canadian' varieties.
For those of us who may already be raising some of these roses, you can already guess how well they will do in the research. They have the ability to last for a very long time without a problem.
For more information on gardening you can reach me at Stephanie@starpoint.net