The City of Southlake has a $500,000 thorn in its side.
The city must remove all of its 4,000 roses along medians and public parks because of the rose rosette disease, which mutilates and then kills the flowers within a few years.
Rose rosette is a viral disease that is spread by microscopic mites carried by the wind. When Southlake resident and gardener Diana Pospisil identified the disease in her roses, she saw that the city’s flowers were infected as well.
Once infected, the plant’s leaves and twigs become a bright, red color and may be distorted. Infected plants also grow so many thorns that sometimes the stem is not visible.
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Pospisil, a member of the Perennial Garden Society, said she has tried so-called “cures” online, but the only way to get rid of the infection is to remove the plant all the way down to the roots. She has already removed 13 of her roses and has about 40 left.
“I understand why they planted them, it’s the same reason I did,” she said. “It’s such a great plant, but once they’re infected, boy you have to take them out.”
Community Services Director Candice Edmondson said the city will replace its roses with drought tolerant plants, shrubs and dwarf crape myrtles.
The city began removing infected roses earlier this year on the Southlake Boulevard median and at several parks, and plans to finish the removal and replacement by 2016’s end. Bicentennial still houses several of the infected roses.
The city has funded the removal and replacement of roses in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, and Edmondson said the city staff will request additional funding in Fiscal year 2016 to obtain the $500,000 necessary.
Edmondson said this is the first time the city has had a landscaping issue of this scope.
“The city has addressed other minor plant diseases in the past with chemical applications or soil amendments,” she said.
Posipsil said she’s keeping her roses for next year’s garden tour, but plans to replace them following the exhibit.
“My yard was spectacular with roses,” she said.
Edmondson said roses may return to the city’s public spaces.
“Hopefully in the future,” she said. “Our hope is that a treatment will be developed that can protect roses from this disease.”
She said residents can keep their roses and could try to apply miticide to their plants to deter the mites that spread the disease.