Professor Seeks Sustainability Through Earth-Kind Project

Feb. 18, 2011— David Zlesak, assistant professor of Plant and Earth Science at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and northern Earth-Kind rose trial coordinator, has been interested in the breeding of roses since childhood.

The Earth-Kind project began in the early 1990s at Texas A&M University. The project’s goal is to find a variety of approaches to incorporate “kind” landscaping practices for the earth. Earth-Kind also strives to reduce the excess use of water and only does so in the establishment phase as well as in times of drought (reads as if reductions in excess use of water will only take place during establishment or in time of drought).

In 2007, the Northern Earth-Kind initiative began. Roses were selected as the first plant to be tested using the Earth-Kind values. 

“Roses were chosen not only because they are the national flower and a favorite among many gardeners and landscapers, but also due to their extended flowering season, diversity of flower color, fragrance, plant size, and growth habits,” says Zlesak.

During the preliminary phases in 2008, Zlesak organized with eight public gardens, and 800 plants were donated towards the Earth-Kind efforts. In 2009, 1,200 plants were donated and were planted in more locations ranging from Minnesota and Wisconsin, to the mountains of Colorado and warmer regions of Kansas.

Each year, more plants are being donated and distributed to additional locations. This spring will be year four for data collection from the first group of cultivars implemented as part of the Northern Earth-Kind project.

“This program is a great opportunity and part of a unique educational outreach,” says Zlesak.

Both Canada and New York City have recently passed laws to restrict pesticide use. At the NYC Botanical Garden, there is a special exhibit that includes Earth-Kind roses.

“Recently the world’s best roses have been developed through a German company, Kordes. This company has the best group of roses for health and are ready to flood the U.S. with their product,” Zlesak explains.

Zlesak has combined the excellence of Kordes roses and the techniques of Earth-Kind and implemented them in a trial located at UWRF. These roses can be found in gardens located across campus. Zlesak says he hopes to implement more Earth-Kind shrubbery around campus in order to educate people on the benefits of using sustainable techniques. 

Public Earth-Kind trial gardens can also be found at two locations in Minnesota, the Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park in Rosemount and the Mount Saint Benedict Monastery garden in Crookston.

“People are hungry for good information for gardening, conserving limited natural resources, and preserving the earth,” says Zlesak, “Let Earth-Kind feed them the needed information to achieve that.”

For more information or to become involved with Earth-Kind, contact Zlesak at or 715-425- 3852.

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