Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
July 23, 1999

Buck's roses bred to outlast an Iowa winter

by Linda Charles
A rose is a rose is a rose ... Except after an Iowa winter, and then it's very likely dead.

The rose, the regal queen of any flower garden, generally has a difficult time surviving in Iowa. There are too many diseases and the winters are too cold for the hybrid tea and floribunda roses that are found in most nurseries.

Griffith Buck, an Iowa State alumnus and horticulture professor from 1948 to 1985, spent his lifetime remedying that problem. The Buck roses, about 90 in all, can survive Iowa's cruel winter temperatures and are resistant to most of the common diseases that claim these American beauties.

About 50 varieties of Buck roses are on display at Reiman Gardens. Staff are preparing another 10 to 15 for planting, probably next year, said Nick Howell, Reiman Gardens superintendent. The Buck roses are on the south edge of the main rose garden.

The Iowa State University Research Foundation has been helping promote the Buck roses and bought some of the roses for Reiman Gardens in an effort to establish a complete set at the gardens, said Julie Gustafson, program assistant in the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer.

Gustafson developed a Buck roses website ( that details the various varieties and provides information on distributors.

One variety of the Buck roses, "Carefree Beauty," had some commercial success. However, Buck didn't present most of his roses to ISURF to be patented or marketed. Fortunately, he gave the other varieties to friends, neighbors and other rosarians, which ensured most survived.

The nearest large distributor of the Buck roses is in Hastings, Minn., Gustafson said. However, the Town and Country Market in Slater carries a few varieties of the roses.

Buck, who died in 1991, is probably best known for his "Blue Skies" rose, a bluish-blossomed rose that Buck reportedly never cared for much.

Many of Buck's roses were named after his friends.

"Dorcas (Speer) was a television reporter on our college television station (WOI-TV), Buck said during a speech in 1985. "Every noon she would have an interview program. Since I enjoyed being on her program, I named a rose for her."

The "Dorcas" is a pink blend rose shrub with dark green foliage that is coppery-tinted when young.

About a yellow blend rose shrub, Buck said, "I named it '(That's) Incredible' for the comment made by my gardener when I showed him the first bloom."

Incredible could be used to describe many of Buck's roses, which cover the whole color spectrum and thrive in Iowas weather.

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