Coral Drift Roses Survive Memorial Day Flood

By Peggy d’Hemecourt
President & Earth-Kind Specialist, Fort Bend Master Gardeners

As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Unless you’re talking about a plant, in which case you might say “…, the tough keep growing”. That’s what we gardeners hope for when we landscape with tough plants. We expect them to be heat and drought tolerant and resistant to insects and disease. But seldom do we expect tough plants to be flood survivors. That’s exactly what happened though, to many of the Coral Drift Roses growing around the gazebo at Richmond’s Wessendorff Park, planted and cared for by city staff and members of Keep Richmond Beautiful.
On May 28th, as the Brazos River was rising and creeping ever closer to Wessendorff Park, the roses were putting on quite a show and their caregivers wondered how they would fare, and even if a preemptive rescue might be in order. But with more important matters to be addressed, nature was allowed to take its course. And nature didn’t waste any time. The next day, on May 29th, at 11:00 am, the river at Richmond was at moderate flood stage and flood waters began lapping up around the gazebo and encroaching on the rose beds. By 5:00 that afternoon, only the tops of the plants could be seen above the flood waters.
The Brazos kept rising, and on June 2nd, it crested at over 54 feet. Flood water was three to four feet deep under the gazebo. Needless to say, the casual ob-server would never know that roses had been blooming around the gazebo only days earlier.
The roses remained submerged for ten days. When they emerged from the flood waters they were covered in mud, their leaves brown and hanging on to stems that, surprisingly, were showing some green. A week and a day later, green, leafless stems were observed on most of the plants and one of the roses had sprouted new leaves. By June 22nd, new growth was observed on many of the roses.
While it may still be too soon to say with certainty, many of the Coral Drift Roses that adorned the gazebo at Wessendorff Park in Richmond before the flood may return to their former beauty. Tough, as pertains to plants, has taken on a whole new significance. Nature can be resilient. We gardeners may need to be patient following natural disasters and let her take her course.

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