economics and demographics: selling your rose

Slightly off the topic but a major factor I think, is the reality of a world in transition. Too many models of the economy presume a perpetual growth of 3 %/year (or some other number). Paul Ehrlich spoke here a couple weeks ago and hit really hard against that point. Of course he’s right. Rose purchases were connected to increasing affluence, new housing stock and the move to suburbia in the 1940s-1960s. And what people purchased was as disposable as a toaster, perhaps more so. Almost like the planned obsolescence of cars in that era.

So the most recent ARS magazine mentioned very big rose bush sales that peaked some years ago and have declined a lot. Disease and lack of winter hardiness killed them by the million, and only some of the Dr. Huey survived. There must be a couple thousand in our town, on the rental properties that students live in.

Now we have a country that is growing only by immigration. Europe is shrinking soon, aging rapidly now. We’ve maxed out home ownership around 70 %, and foreclosed it back down a bit in many areas. So who’s buying roses? Landscapers of condos, local businesses, parks departments.

Then someone finally succeeded in getting a shrub that did what we asked. It survives and doesn’t look too much like Dr. Huey. And it blooms all summer. If there are 20 million Knock out roses planted in a decade, that eliminates demand for 100 million others. How? Because it lives at least 10 years, compared to their average of two. Over another decade another 100 million gone, if it survives, as it likely will.

How many forsythia are sold per year? That’s more like what roses will be in future. Always some for new plantings, but little need to replace. We’ll have to develop new marketing strategies.

Time to go eat dinner. We can think about this one for a while.

I think you have hit the nail on the head.

Thanks, Larry. I knew what you illustrated, but reading your explanation, suddenly, all was crystal clear.

My binary-speaking, Trig textbook-reading-for-fun, engineer brother-in-law has said for the twenty years I’ve known him, the climate for computer viruses was created and has been fostered, even encouraged by Microsoft to hasten the obsolescence of their products. Before they’re even released, their “vulnerabilities” are well advertised, leading to “Update security patches”, resulting in further advertising of further vulnerabilities until everyone is excited to buy a new version without all those “vulnerabilities”.

Suppose RMV and the other plant viruses were deliberately left in the rose stocks created in this country because of the engineered-in obsolescence they provided. If they can be prevented in Knock Out and its ilk, it’s the end of “life as we know it”! LOL!

Interesting point Kim. By selling virused roses, that would have hastened obsolescence and forced the average rose grower to buy the newest creation. Had never thought of it that way as possibly being a deliberate ploy.

Jim P

Whether deliberate or not, surely by the time it reached its cresendo, enough was known about it they had to have figured that out. Whether they “did it deliberately” or simply permitted it to remain is moot at this point. Perhaps, it helped hasten the industry collapse a bit earlier, or maintained it a little while longer as they kept their market possibly a few years longer until the Knock Out era. Of course, the World Market Collapse let blood all over.

Not to downplay viruses as a rose problem long run, but I think Blackspot kills a lot faster. And winter gets 'em every time, at least it did when we had winters. I thought 2 yr was a fair average home garden lifespan for a '50s rose.

If every tenth person buys just two permanent roses per year (50 million total, which is what used to sell) then in a decade there are 2/person nationwide and in 20 yr all the gardens are at around a dozen per house. So we have a choice of getting them to die off, or seeing demand go down, or convincing everyone in the whole U.S. to have a big rose garden.

I’ve killed a lot of roses in my time but my front gardens have a couple dozen that have lasted 20 yr or more. And I don’t have any reason to throw them away.

Not to neglect you folks in Australia/NZ. Same principles hold I’d guess, though maybe a dozen per house would not seem like a lot, contrasted to here.

Actually, I’m optimistic that we could get lots of folks to replace that tiresome spirea Anthony Waterer with a rose, if we had something the same size that grows as easily and that a grounds crew can maintain with a chain saw. That’s where Rainbow Knock Out comes in on our campus. In fact some of the complex creeping wichurana hybrids like White Meidiland or such are actually getting planted that way, in large beds. So is Sunrise-Sunset. We see KO with Stella d’Oro daylilies, pampas grass, shrub Euonymous, dwarf forsythia, purple chrysanthemums. Makes the eyes ache.

We’re having issues with water companies here in Califorina denouncing roses as ‘water thirsty’ and suggesting many other genera instead. Anita Clevenger and others promote the use of the found Chinas from the Gold Country and older cemeteries which have survived for generations with only annual rainfall. Not bad for areas which only get a little rain in winter. Two photos she’s shared she uses for this are below.

[attachment 428 anitaoldrose1.jpg]

[attachment 429 anitaoldrose2.jpg]

They probably look quite a bit as the Knock Out do where you are.

Thanks, Kim for the pics. You probably know all the stuff that follows, having been in the landscape business. But I wanted to comment for others to think about.

Water use efficiency is one of those tricky topics that even does in a lot of folks who should know better. For instance the professor who argued that rice uses too much water. Wrong! Leaky paddys use too much water. But the rice itself does just fine with as much water as wheat. Alfalfa has a bad rep too, and wrong again. That was based on plants in pots in Akron Colorado in the early 1900s. The oasis effect in action.

There are differences in drought tolerance or avoidance. For instance Hulthemias, or R minutifolia are really good at avoidance, by the bloom and drop strategy. Probably once-blooming roses in general look more drought tolerant than the repeat-bloomers, because they can shut down for the summer, without being conspicuous about it.

Some genera really do use about half as much water per amount of biomass produced- the C-4 species- compared to the C-3 species. And the CAM plants do even better, things like Jade plant, cacti, and assorted succulents. Well-watered prickly pear is the most productive plant in the world, if you can get the cows to eat it. Park Noble (in Santa Barbara I think) studied it for decades. Worst water user in the world, closely mowed, well fertilized fescue or bluegrass. This defines the benchmark evapotranspiration rate, from which all crop coefficients are defined. Most are considerably-10-30%- lower. Bermudagrass is one of the efficient C-4 grasses but also has the capacity to use 100 inches water per year in AZ if given nutrients. And those eucalyptus trees are probably one of the worst things there is because they grow high into the breeze with a huge surface area of leaf. They will suck up 100 inches of water also, if it is available.

I guess where it gets complicated is when it comes to back yard gardening. People pour on the water in the hopes of… Of course gravel takes a lot less water to maintain and probably in the CA climate that’s about all people should have in yards for groundcover. But Ag is #1 water waster, by far.

I would not single out roses as water users. All C3 plants that make flowers use a lot if they are growing. Rational design is the answer.