Saturday, July 23, 2011

Easy Roses

(Originally published on December 29, 2010 and accidentally republished today. So sorry.)
After a few attempts to grow roses, that is, hybrid tea roses, I finally decided to treat them like annuals, good for a season and that's it. My experience with azaleas and a few butterfly-attracting plants did not equip me to grow beautiful roses, and even if I had known about spraying for fungal diseases and cutting back to the 5th (or 3rd or whatever) five-leaf set I would certainly have merely failed more expensively. I knew nothing of rootstocks and whether they were good or bad in Florida sand. I only knew they needed sun, and that's why I decided to plant some at my new (present) home. I had lots and lots of sun. So if I remember right, I bought two from Lowe's in 2006, Golden Showers and Showbiz. They were lovely until black spot got them, especially Showbiz.

Trying to learn more about how to keep them lovely longer, I went online to the internet and found The Roses Forum, The Antique Roses Forum and The Organic Gardening Forum on "In for a penny, in for a pound" is how it has turned out - head first into the deep end of the pool I dove, immersing myself in a realm of knowledge that was way over my head. After not much research I realized I didn't have a whole lot of chance of success with roses the way I was going at it, and the more I learned the more successful I wanted to be. So in February, 2007 I bought my first Old Garden Roses from a nearby nursery. Within a month or two I bought a handful of roses on Fortuniana rootstock, mostly NOT Old Garden Roses, and then four own-root roses from an online nursery in Texas. By that winter I had started excavating my front yard, replacing much of the grass with a rose garden I designed on graph paper, and the rest is history as they say.

I now have 96 roses on a .17 acre lot, but that's probably less than half of the roses that I have bought. The rest are gone, mostly due to a very steep learning curve. You see, this is Florida, and things are different here. Who knew that so many plants don't like the state that I love? I didn't. And even trying my best to choose roses that were said to be healthy, many just were not healthy HERE. It did not feel like trial and error. I would never have admitted to that methodology! I was diligently educating myself and making "good" choices based on all the information I could lay my hands on, almost entirely the experience of others, most of whom did not grow roses in Florida. I didn't know then that much of Texas is hot and DRY, not like Florida. I did not know that when California nurseries say their roses are disease resistant, they are referring to powdery mildew and rust NOT black tspot. I didn't know that some roses do not like alkaline soil which is what I have. As hard as I tried to learn from what is written, it really didn't count as much as what I learned from what my garden was trying to teach me. So there were losses, and there were successes, and alas, there were successes that just didn't please me. Most were removed with sadness, and a few were given the bum's rush.

Four growing seasons later I've achieved some equilibrium and confidence in what I'm doing. And that is the reason for this blog. I think there are Floridians who want to grow roses as they did up north or want to grow roses for the first time - simply because they are beautiful, but personal experience or well-meant advice from others has dissuaded them from fulfilling their dreams of a rose garden in Florida. Such a sad and unnecessary defeat. The truth is that there are roses that thrive in our climate and even in our sandy soil, albeit amended sandy soil, but rarely are they found at the local big-box garden centers. These roses are resistant to fungal diseases and don't need spraying. They're the progenitors of the hybrid teas and floribundas of today. They love Florida because Florida resembles their original climate. They are excellent garden shrubs that laugh at our heat and humidity, blooming from spring through the hottest summer and beyond the first frosts. Basically, only hard freezes and lack of water will stop their bloom. These are the roses I want to introduce to those who have a heart for growing them. So here goes.


  1. Welcome to the world of rose blogs, Sherry! I'm sure many of us look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  2. I love your header picture with all of your roses. I bet it smells heavenly!

  3. Sherry, I love your writing style and Marion County is lucky to have a wonderful OGR Ambassador such as you. Best of luck! I will be an avid follower.

  4. Sherry i remember your first posts to the GW forums ; ) It's nice to see how far you've come.

    I never really believed you were the crazed, unfashionable, perspiring gardener that you claim to be. You look as neat and manicured as your gardens. I know it's wrong but i'm a little disappointed ; )

    Good Luck with your blog, you are off to a fine start!

  5. Hey, Julie, you must be mauirose, right? Where have you been? Crazed, unfashionable, perspiring gardener...yeah, you have an accurate memory. I thought about using one of those sweaty pics, but I'm more vain than that. They definitely gave me second thoughts about gardening in the front yard. How are your roses doing?

  6. Hi sherry your garden is so beautiful! heavenly gardern............ love all your flowers...

  7. Somehow I accidentally republished this post today, and I don't know how to move it back to January 22, 2011. Sorry for the rerun, but I hope you enjoy it.