Mutabilis Rose Named ‘EarthKind Rose of the Year’

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, March 20, 2005

by Lynn Rawe

The Extension Earth Kind™ program at Texas A&M is an Environmental Stewardship Program-Horticulture that conducts studies and demonstration gardens, in order to provide the public with research-based information on the best landscape plants for all areas of Texas. This year, the Mutabilis Rose, first introduced in 1894, has been named “EarthKind Rose of the Year” by Texas Cooperative Extension’s Earth Kind team. Enjoy the following media release, and consider a Mutabilis Rose for your landscape this spring.

Dr. Steve George, Extension horticulturist in Dallas, said this new honor was created by Extension horticulturists to highlight the best performers in their EarthKind Rose program. “This is a really tough honor to obtain,” George said. “The title comes only after years of field research during which roses are grown and evaluated under very trying conditions. They’re not fertilized or pruned. They’re grown with greatly reduced irrigation and are never treated with pesticides. The winning roses are so easy to grow that everyone, even novice gardeners, can enjoy great success with these outstanding cultivars. We at Texas A&M University heartily recommend widespread planting of this wonderful old rose throughout Texas and trial plantings across much of the southern half of the United States,” Mr. George said.

Mutabilis has risen to the top to become one of the very best roses to date. It’s a wonderful old China rose. Chinas comprise a class of roses best known for their repeat blooming habit. This rose has long been one of the most popular of the old garden roses. The blooms are flat with a single circular row of petals. Each blossom “mutates”‘ or goes through three distinct color changes. They open peach gold, then change to a beautiful pink and finally turn a stunning crimson. The pink and crimson color phases each last 24 hours.

Mutabilis is also called the “Butterfly Rose.” It’s profusion of silky blossoms in a simultaneous display of all three color phases is reminiscent of a group of brightly colored butterflies resting on the shrub. Mutabilis produces flushes of blooms from spring through fall, right through summer’s heat. The blossoms have little or no fragrance, but they provide tremendous landscape color.

Like all Earth Kind roses, Mutabilis needs at least eight hours of direct sun daily and good air flow over its foliage. It will grow in almost any soil, from well-drained acid sands to highly alkaline clays. It’s also very drought and heat tolerant once established. The rose is not immune to pest problems, but its tolerance to pests is so great that pesticides are almost never needed. This cultivar is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9. What more could we want!

Mutabilis makes a large, very handsome landscape shrub that reaches a symmetrical seven feet tall and seven feet wide at maturity. Its growth habit and shape are very attractive even without pruning. For a striking accent, it can be pruned into the shape of a miniature tree with an under story planting of shade-tolerant annuals. It can also be used in groups of three or five at the back of a border to create a strong design element.

“Earth Kind roses excite me more than any other group of plants I have ever tested, because they return so much enjoyment for so little care,” George said. Since Mutabilis is one of the very best to date, it’s a great one with which to begin your Earth Kind collection. It grows like gang-busters while providing vivid color and great interest in your landscape. And, your children and grandchildren will love it. That’s quite a resume for the first ever ‘Earth Kind Rose of the Year.”

This article was submitted by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.

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