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Garden Talk

Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden

Rose Garden Transformation

Bobby Mottern

The Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden is undergoing a renovation this summer due to a plant ailment called rose rosette disease (RRD). This disease has become prevalent on Duke’s campus, and in the last two years it made its way into the rose garden. It causes abnormal growth in the form of witches' brooms, as well as excessive thorniness, enlarged canes, malformed leaves and flowers, and eventually death of the plant. 

rose rosette disease

RRD is a virus spread by mites. It has been in the country since the 1940s but has recently become more widespread with the popularity of landscape roses. At this time there is no cure nor any roses that are immune to the virus. Several universities are researching RRD, with the goal of developing roses that offer some resistance to it. 
Our long term plan for the rose garden is to continue displaying roses, but likely fewer of them. We will also use more companion plants to provide longer seasonal interest. As our roses become infected, we will replace them with new roses. It takes about three  years for a rose to become unsightly once infected, so there will be more rotation of plants in the new plan. This summer we will display annual plantings in the rose garden. We will begin adding new roses in the fall.

Photos by Bobby Mottern (top) and courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden (right).

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