Sunday, January 31, 2010


This is an article that ran in 2004 in either 'Colorado Gardener' or 'The Rocky Mountain News'....I forget which. Except for the reference to the local fertilizer 'Mile High Rose Feed', the contents of this article should be useful to anyone wishing to grow roses reliably and easily in a cold dry climate in a region with alkaline soils like Colorado.

Have you ever pulled into your driveway and felt utterly underwhelmed by the bland "mustache" of boring junipers strangling the front of your home? Do you feel hemmed in by the insipid privets that form passionless parentheses constricting your property like cheap bookends? Is your shrubbery in general about as exciting as reruns of "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" ? Do you lurch instinctively for the loppers and shovel to happily render a radical juniperectomy, only to feel paralyzed by not knowing of alternative INTERESTING replacement shrubs that are are also drought-resistant, winter-proof and low maintenance?
Believe it or not, some beautiful and TOUGH varieties of richly-colored and deeply fragrant Shrub Roses increasingly available in Colorado can artfully fill the void created by joyously tearing out colorless, scentless, soul-less overgrown junipers and privets. And unlike the the frail, finicky, short-lived grafted "garden roses" that convince so many folks they have "brown thumbs", these drought-defying Shrub Roses, when grown on their OWN ROOTS, mature into beautiful flowering landscape shrubs that need no chemical coddling, and little watering once established.

Let’s face it; few of us lovingly admire a prickly blob of junipers...but a privacy hedge that bears hundreds of richly scented pink, red, white or yellow roses each summer, plus perfumes the yard while providing luscious Victorian style bouquets for the dinner table, fragrant petals for potpourris, and a bonus of bright red hips for winter color and attracting wild birds, now THAT would be awesome and waterwise!

While many different kinds of near-xeric, cold hardy yet lusciously fragrant varieties may be lumped under the catch-all label of "Shrub Roses", those listed below share the same minimal care needs: one optional annual pruning in early to mid-July after last petal drop, a 6"-8" deep mulch of tree grindings (usually free from a tree trimming service) to keep their root zone moist, 1 or 2 deep waterings per month in summer, and one annual feeding of organic nutrients in April (try 2-4 cups of ‘Mile High Rose Feed’ per bush). All are remarkably resistant to disease, insects, drought and winter freeze damage, and thankfully are sold by more and more Colorado nurseries.

Beware: those offered for sale in some quite famous mail-order catalogs are almost always GRAFTED onto a rootstock often grown in mild southern regions near the Mexican border; avoid these wimpy wannabes! These grafted, namby-pamby impostors are rarely vigorous or long-lived despite the alluring pictures in those glossy catalogs; bu only OWN ROOT Shrub Roses if you want the hassle-free toughness of junipers and privets PLUS wonderfully fragrant roses to plunge your nose into......breathe deep! is good!

Seek out juniper replacements from this list of fragrant Shrub Roses known to thrive on the plains of Colorado with minimal care; those followed by an (R) can bless your landscape with a Repeat flush of blooms in late summer and early fall. Remember that Own-Root roses are generally small when when purchased...a turn-of-the-century saying about own-root roses’ slow initial growth rate is: "First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they LEAP!". Unlike grafted roses, they initially expend their energy forming an admirable root system THEN get big, living for many decades. That is why so many very old ones are seen thriving in old cemeteries and homes and abandoned farmsteads.....they are true survivors in our harsh dry climate. And the sensual symphony of their heady fragrances and broad range of colors can create a water-wise annual jolt of joy where monochromatic junipers once induced a near-coma with their numbing sameness.

So if you’ve ever felt you had to choose between keeping big boring bushes or yanking them only to have a starkly empty landscape to conserve water, just remember Mr. Spock’s truism: "There is always a third alternative". And own-root Shrub Roses are that alternative, one deserving the long-overdue attention of our eyes, noses, minds and souls.So go ahead....DO that juniperectomy!’s the delicious menu you can select from:

"Desiree’ Parmentier" (Gallica, circa 1848). Deep pink, very sweet, full of petals. True name being investigated for years now.
"High Country Banshee" (Damask, 1928) Light pink, Victorian-style roses; very fragrant. True identity being researched.
Harison’s Yellow (Hybrid foetida, 1830) Bright yellow, odd scent, indestructible.
Alba maxima (Alba, circa 1100 A.D.) Petal-packed wonderfully scented snow white roses. Many red hips.
Great Western (Hybrid Bourbon, 1832) Crimson-purple "cabbage roses", incredibly fragrant.
Complicata (Hybrid Gallica?, ancient) Big pink single (5-petals) fragrant roses, winter hips.
Baronne Prevost (Hybrid Perpetual, 1842) Rich pink, gloriously fragrant Victorian roses. (R)
Fruhlingsgold (Hybrid Spinosissima, 1937) Giant arching shrub, fragrant light yellow roses.
Rosa eglanteria (species, circa 1551) Small, single pink roses, delightful apple-scented leaves, abundant winter hips.
Rosa glauca (species, 1830) Silvery-plum colored leaves, scentless small single pink roses, tremendous numbers of winter hips for wild birds.
Blush Damask (Damask, 1759) Medium pink, lusciously scented Victorian roses, big bush.
"Victorian Memory" (study name; Boursault hybrid?) Oddly-scented lilac-pink petal-packed blooms on a tall thornless arching shrub-climber (R).
Austrian Copper (species hybrid, circa 1100 A.D.) Single, oddly-scented blooms of bright orange-red and yellow.
Persian Yellow (species, 1837) Fully double, oddly-scented bright yellow roses.
Variegata di Bologna (Hybrid Bourbon (?), 1909) Fully double, cupped VERY fragrant roses of pure white striped crimson and purple...very dramatic.
American Pillar (complex hybrid, 1902) Barely fragrant bright pink single roses in clusters on a BIG arching shrub-climber. Indestructible.
Pink Clouds (Hybrid miniature). This MONSTER rambler bears hundreds of small, very sweet single pink roses. Gillions of winter hips!
William Lobb (Moss, 1855) Wonderfully fragrant, decadently dark purple-crimson Victorian style big blooms on an arching shrub-climber. A living treasure!
Rosa woodsii (species, 1820). Native to Colorado. Single, fragrant rose-pink roses followed by numerous hips. Colonizes by runners.
Rosa spinosissima (species, prior to 1600). VERY cold hardy. Single, sweet, creamy white blooms early in spring, numerous and beautiful black hips.
Rosa multiflora (species, 1868). Rampant rambling shrub, hundreds of very fragrant white roses
like apple blossoms. Multitudes of winter hips.
Alba suaveolens (Alba, prior to 1750). Very sweetly-scented, semi-double snow white roses followed by flavorful red hips.
"Fairmount Red" (study name). Wonderfully fragrant, crimson-magenta Victorian-style cabbage roses" in clusters on a big arching shrub. Discovered in historic Fairmount Cemetery in 1990.
Francis E. Lester (Hybrid Musk, 1946) Monstrous climbing shrub, big clusters of medium size single roses of palest pink fading to white. WONDERFUL fragrance. Oodles of winter hips for the wild birds to feast on."

mail order U.S. sources of these include: High Country Roses in Utah, and Chamblee's Roses and The Antique Rose Emporium, both in Texas.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cold Hardy VERY Fragrant Roses I grew in Denver

Louise Odier Tampa grown

Golden Celebration

"Fairmount Proserpine" photo by Michael Mowry

"Fairmount Malton" grown in Tampa

Baronne Prevost grown in Tampa

Great Western grown in Tampa

Here are some roses I used in my Denver yard, the yards of some of my landscape customers there, and that I promoted in The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Gardener. Tough as nails there despite the brutal long winters and hot DRY summers! What a joy to have many here in Tampa in my Water Wise Container Gardens despite the absence of winter dormancy and our long humid summers....once I left my Denver rose gardens in 2002 to come back home to Tampa for good, I just assumed I'd never be growing them again. Look for them as own-root (vs. frail grafted plants) at fine mail order rose growers like High Country Roses in Utah and The Antique Rose Emporium in Texas, plus Chamblee's Roses in Texas too.
What a shame I can't attach the fragrance of each to the photos......I guess you'll just have to grow them yourself and breathe deep!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Probiotic Rose Growing

The article below was the basis for my talk at The Antique Rose Emporium Fall Roses Festival in 2008, and is how I have grown roses for myself and landscape clients for many years. Cheap, effective, and good for the environment!

I’ve been in many rose gardens over the years and one thing has been very noticeable....the most disease and bug-ridden ones are those subjected to regimens of toxic pesticides. "But I HAVE to spray my roses!" some folks protest. But just as many women get a severe yeast infection after taking a broad spectrum antibiotic like tetracycline, with the doctor THEN trying to treat that with a new drug that kills off more beneficial bacteria in her body, the sprayed rose garden is denied having bacterial and fungal and insect allies that would fend off diseases and pests FOR the rosarian...hence that poor soul feels, again, that they "must" spray yet another toxic pesticide in a classic vicious cycle.

The healthiest and most stable ecologies in the natural world are complex, multi-tiered ones, with predator and prey creating sustainable want a FEW aphids to insure your lacewings and lady bugs stay and do their job, and, like the human body, a healthy rose garden is teeming with beneficial bacteria and fungi that keep the pathogenic ones under control. Fungicides wipe them out, with the disease-causing ones being the first to re-inhabit the garden. Science has confirmed that a truly healthy human adult has in their digestive tract 3-5 POUNDS of living bacteria representing up to three THOUSAND species, and that their cell count exceeds the number of cells in the body! Seventy percent of our total immune system is comprised OF these microbes! And just as many of us refuse antibiotics and instead ingest pro-biotic foods like kefir, kimchee, yogurt, natto, tempeh, miso and more to keep our internal ecology complex, we can easily and cheaply duplicate this mind set in the rose garden, and thus transition to pesticide-free, organic rose gardening.

First, stop using ALL pesticides except perhaps BT (Dipel) since it is itself a natural bacteria that controls caterpillars. Switch from chemical fertilizers to natural ones like horse and sheep and poultry poop, kelp meal, alfalfa pellets, menhaden fish meal and ‘Calf Manna’ (which contains several beneficial fungi and bacteria) from feed stores, Mill’s Magic Rose Mix, and compost, since chemical fertilizers usually lack trace elements, can harm soil organisms, and can force a plant to exude a scent that ATTRACTS insect pests.

Next, just as you would eat yogurt or drink kefir after taking antibiotics, begin inoculating your rose garden with good critters to crowd out the bad ones that cause black spot and powdery mildew and rust. Favorites of mine include any dry compost starter (usually sold in a 1-2 pound box) plus fresh horse manure tea, compost tea, rich soil from an old growth forest or virgin meadow, plus commercial preparations of mycorrihizae that create a symbiosis with your roses’ roots to better absorb nutrients. Below is a recipe for a brew that you can sprinkle onto your roses with a watering can, or strain and apply with a clean new sprayer that has never held pesticides. While this recipe will never be on The Food Channel, it can help ease you into pleasurable, inexpensive and non-toxic rose gardening. Enjoy!


Fill a 5 gallon bucket with 4 gallons of well water or city water aged two days. Add 1 gallon of FRESH horse poop, stir daily for one week. Then add 2 cups Calf Manna, 1 cup compost starter, 2 cups good garden soil or fresh compost, 2 tablets of ‘Primal Defense’ (health food store or on-line) and 2 cups sugar. Stir, let brew for one day, and then sprinkle lightly all over your rose garden, both the plants and the soil. Since your garden will now no longer be toxic, these beneficial microbes will multiply and create a stable complex ecology to help make rose growing a joy."

Fragrant Roses for Florida and other mild winter regions

Mrs. B. R. Cant

Souvenir de la Malmaison

Leotine Gervais



Clotilde Soupert

Abraham Darby

Cramoisi Superieur

Reve d'Or


Click on each copyrighted photo to enlarge it for more pleasurable viewing.

Welcome to ROSEGASMS

The link between the human heart and romance and sensuality and roses goes back many centuries. Three thousand years ago the Egyptians cultivated roses, and in Cleopatra's time the rose eclipsed the lotus in their symbology. The Greeks said that roses came into existence after the birth of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The Romans would release from ceilings during their orgies billows of the petals of the lusciously fragrant 'Autumn Damask' rose, which until the 1700s was the only repeat blooming rose known to the Western world. The red rose to this day symbolizes romance, be it a big bouquet of them, or just one clenched in one's teeth during a steamy dance. The word rose itself is an anagram of "Eros", and since the Middle Ages poets have employed visions of roses to embellish their romantic verses.

A quick glance at the names of many roses, both Old and Modern, reveals anew this flower's hold on our lustful, romantic souls....Belle Amour, Sweet Surrender, Love Letter, Sweet Passion (my own hybrid), Passionate Kisses, Cupid, Compassion, Bride's Dream, Wedding Day, Ultimate Pleasure, Sexy Rexy, Marry Me, Maiden's Blush, Honeymoon, Hot Lips and so many more. Who says that rosarians are stuffy, uptight academics with our noses in the air or in dusty old books when they are usually penetrating deeply into buxom blooms? Most rosarians I know live life lustily, enjoying good drink, great food and friends, "colorful" language, some like me enjoy sublime cannabis, and heady music, with roses adding their own innocent decadence.

I went mental over roses, initially Old Roses, in Denver in 1989, a little over a year after I moved there from Tampa. It was easy...they thrive all over the city in alley ways and the humblest of homes and rentals in even the most impoverished neighborhoods. That passion was cemented in June of 1991 when I was bicycling through the 260 acre Fairmount Cemetery and saw a forlorn bush with magenta-red blooms and a sad framework of mostly dead canes. I soon snuck back with clippers and organic soil foods in my backpack, slowly revived it, then named it 'Fairmount Red". I saw that lawnmowers whacked the root suckers, so I rescued a few, planted one in my south hedge, and propagated others for my clients. This led to 12 years of studies and cataloging 77 varieties, then co-hosting the 1997 Heritage Rose Foundation Conference in Denver and leading a tour for the attendees. For several years I led tours of Fairmount Cemetery for the Denver Botanic Gardens each June and July, and worked with the board of Fairmount and many noted rosarians to try to preserve the roses, many of which were planted around a lovely white gazebo facing Mt. Evans. By using a restricted drainage container here in Tampa, I have for two years now been blessed with a thriving plant of "Fairmount Red", which defies all logic as it is a very cold hardy once-bloomer that glories in Denver. After this "frigid" winter (27 degrees two nights and many nights in the 30s and 40s) it should treat me to a stellar display this March and April.

I know it was their fragrance that initially inflamed my soul for Old Roses, and in time, certain Modern Roses, like some of the stunning creations of David Austin, whom I had the honor of meeting at his nursery in England immediately after the Denver rose conference. But I was a landscaper at the time, and discovering in Peter Beales' book 'Classic Roses' that my native Florida, long considered hostile to Modern Roses, was once bejeweled with three classes of subtropical roses called Teas, Chinas and Noisettes, I promptly began buying and propagating them under glass in Denver, then planting them in Tampa clients' gardens on working trips there each winter...they thrived and my customers were smitten too. Back in Denver I obsessively read every rose book I could find in the botanic gardens library, and soon had 170 varieties of roses in my small front yard to propagate from for my Denver customers.

When Brent C. Dickerson's book 'The Old Rose Advisor' came out I fell even more deeply in love with roses, and, as a direct result, began breeding roses in 1993, a passion I pursue to this day.

As someone whose gardening interests had always been primarily food crops, I could have never imagined a scented flower becoming pivotal to my life and work! But love is rarely rational or predictable or even sensible.

So I dedicate this ROSEGASMS blog to humankind's long lusty relationship with a deeply sensual, headily perfumed and often prickly (just like love!) flower that has touched and ensnared the heart for centuries. I look forward to sharing articles I've penned for The Rocky Mountain News, The St. Petersburg Times, Fine Gardening and other publications, plus many photos I've taken over the years. Of course as a "proud Papa" I'll share photos and data about my own hybrids, some of which are in commerce...some were bred for cold climates and some for mild areas like my native Florida.

I look forward to hearing from fellow rose lovers following this blog about their passions for various roses in their own gardens, and hopefully their benefiting from my postings here. The photo of the large pink rose is of my 'Autumn Damask' here in Tampa, the rose the Romans used at the climax of their orgies, and the one of me beneath a rose arbor is of 'Hiawatha' in my Denver yard in July 2002, the last year I lived there. There is a close up of the petite blooms of 'Hiawatha' the ONLY rose I've forgiven for being scentless. This blog, and my other two that address all my other interests and passions in life, should keep me happily and lustily busy for years to come!