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A fairy tale ending for gardeners?

An enchanting line of disease-resistant roses gains fans.

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Once upon a time in a land far away, a revered rose-breeding company took on a gigantic, seemingly impossible challenge: to create a line of plants that could stay healthy throughout the growing season without the aid of chemical sprays.

So it came to pass that in the early 1990s, Kordes Roses of Germany stopped spraying its young plants.

For several years thereafter, many of the bushes in the fields were afflicted with diseases. The hybridizers may well have wondered if their 100-year reputation as king of the Queen of Flowers  might be in jeopardy. And there was sadness throughout all rosedom.

But after years of toil, there came glad tidings. A very focused breeding program resulted in a variety of roses that combined a nostalgic multipetaled bloom reminiscent of grandmother’s garden with extraordinarily healthy foliage.

One collection of floribundas and shrub roses was dubbed “Fairy Tale roses.” They were dispatched to the New World, and soon many of the wisest rosarians in the land fell under their charming spell.

Peter Kukielski, a curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, was facing a challenge of his own when he had an unexpected introduction to the Fairy Tale line.

As part of the presentation of Great Rosarians of the World award to Wilhelm Kordes III in 2007, Mr. Kukielski saw slides of the new highly disease-resistant roses.

“I was blown away and wanted to learn more, since we’ve curtailed spraying here,” he says. “Kordes sent me a few bushes to try, and at the end of the year, I was amazed. The Fairy Tale roses sported lush, shiny leaves, while others around them were completely defoliated.”

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