Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Bourbons Won't Grow in Florida"

Reine Victoria

Reine Victoria

Louise Odier

Coquettes des Blanches
Ever since the early 90s I've heard here in Florida the "truism" that "you can't grow Bourbons in Florida, except for a few varieties on the Fortuniana rootstock, and with routine spraying". But the 5-15 gallon "Water Wise Container Gardens" I invented and now make from discarded plastic buckets and barrels are letting me grow and ENJOY a number of roses, own root and all-organic, that I loved in my own yard in Denver and my landscape clients' gardens, including Bourbons!
Next I try 'Mme. Isaac Perieire' and 'Mme. Piere Oger'. I could have never imagined a few years ago when I fooled around with early prototypes of these Water Wise Container Gardens for FOOD CROPS as a response to Tampa's perennial drought, that they would end up being a total gamechanger for my beloved Old Roses and hence, my breeding work that had ground to a near halt. The drought has been so severe and longstanding that one now sees roses ONLY in the yards of upscale homes with elaborate drip systems for people who can afford the monstrous resulting water bills. So I am PSYCHED!
More to come.....MUCH more to come! John

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rooting Rose Cuttings in a Fish Tank

Aquariums are a common curbside scrounge item, with many perfectly good and non-leaking. I found this big one (30 gallon?) some months back, and am trying it out as a rose cuttings rooting box. There is a few inches on the bottom of a mix of homemade compost and gritty sand from hurricane sand bags, and I have the broad side facing south. Cuttings (some with rooting hormone, some with none) are stuck in, marked with a strip of miniblind, with a horizontal strip of miniblind dividing the groups of cuttings. A long shallow plastic storage tub I dumpster dived over the top keeps out rain and traps humidity. To prevent overheating from excess solar gain, I placed two blue plastic bread trays over the top and laid a tray of sunflower seedlings onto them to hold them down and block more sunlight. It has been "running" a couple weeks ago and so far there are no dead cuttings...same with my inground method I am testing I posted earlier about. I sure my near 10 year curse of no longer being able to root roses easily is cured so I can begin growing and selling my own hybrids and others in 5 gallon Water Wise Containter Gardens as a new perennial income source. Plus when people buy and bury their rose container gardens, they will discover that rose growing in central Florida CAN be easy while using VERY little water since water shortages are now the new norm for this overcrowded state I love and was born in.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'Mme. Antoine Mari' vs. "Pink Cracker Rose"

While I no longer suspect that my 'Mme. Antoine Mari', which I bought from Chamblee's Roses, is the ID for Florida's iconic Mystery Rose "Pink Cracker Rose", due mainly to very differing perfumes, I continue to be struck by their great similarity, including very maroon new growth. Right now my 'Mme. Antoine Mari' is making a BIG springtime candelabra of buds and blooms that looks SO very close to those that a healthy "Pink Cracker Rose" produces in spring on strong basal shoots. The photos are from sundown a few days ago. John

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest."-- Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi - (1869-1948)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We had a nice rain system pass through Tampa throughout the day....lovely effects on my roses. John

Sold to me as La France (but actually 'Marchioness of Londonderry'?)

Teasing Georgia on the Fortuniana rootstock

my hybrid 'Lemon Zen'

I bred this rose under glass in Denver, using pollen from 'Graham Thomas' on a bloom of Rosa moschata. I thus consider it a true archetypal Noisette, a modern counterpart to the first Noisette 'Champney's Pink Cluster' (R. moschata X Old Blush) though the folks at IRARS won't list it as such. This own-root plant has thrived in my Tampa yard for years despite prolonged drought, my scant water use and all-organic growing methods. I am soon mailing cuttings to California rosarian and breeder Kim Rupert to test in his climate. Over the years it has set VERY few OP hips, and I've yet to get one seedling. But it has the cinammon-clove perfume of the Mom, and I love the occasional giant clusters it produces that are bouquets in and of themselves. I am now hopefully rooting my first ever cuttings so I can begin sellling my own hybrids directly vs. the usual $1 per plant royalty. John

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'General Jacqueminot' own root in Tampa

There is an unfortunate "truism" that Floridians cannot grow the Victorian class of roses called "Hybrid Perpetuals". I am growing several classic HPs here in Tampa in 18 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens I make from discarded plastic detergent barrels. But I am totally psyched today to be seeing and smelling 'General Jacqueminot' (year of introduction, 1853) and gathering its pollen to use in my breeding work. I had not smelled that astonishing perfume since June 2002, my last year in Denver.....what a delight! This first bloom was damaged by a hard freeze and abrasion against a freeze-killed Brazilian hot pepper....it will be fun seeing what the other buds do.


Death of a Mermaid

Ten years ago I planted in my brand new Tampa yard an own-root plant of the climbing rose 'Mermaid' to compare the results to the negative ones attributed to it when budded to the Fortuniana rootstock. It should be renamed "Rosa kudzuensis" due to its astonishing vigor that consumed my front yard over a year ago due to unrestrainable growth, mind-boggling thorns plus suckering ( I learned after the monster was cut down.)

Three Fridays ago my friend Pat came over with a reciprocating saw, loppers, and leather gloves to act as both catalyst and helper in my indecision as to how to deal with 'Mermaid' and reclaim my yard. A lot of thorny work for sure, ending with his pickup PACKED with chopped branches we hauled to the local brush dump site. Thanks Pat!!

Attached are a few photos....since I am delightfully altered on cannabis and grapefruit juice with gin added, I won't even try to arrange them chronologically.

Re-inventing my front yard based on growing roses in 5-18 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens will be a prime focus for me this year. Years of drought had greatly dampened my roses enthusiasm as I tried to grow my own food and help to conserve Florida's scant water resources.
I am sure the 'Mermaid' trunk will send up vigorous shoots, but I will spray them with my GlyphoSafe herbicide I invented in Denver to kill quackgrass there. Time to reclaim my front yard from 'Mermaid' !
Yes folks.......'Mermaid' WILL grow and bloom on her own roots in Florida....but beware.

koo koo ka-CHOO !

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rooting Rose Cuttings like Great-Grandma Did

Up until almost 10 years ago, I rooted vast numbers of rose cuttings both here and in Denver easily using a few simple cheap methods. Then several years ago, some kind of a curse settled upon me, and neither those old "reliable methods" nor many others I tried in desperation worked. VERY exasperating to be a rosarian who can't root rose cuttings, especially of his own hybrids he worked so long and hard to breed. So today I set up two experiments in hopes of breaking that curse.

Last Friday I had a good daylong rain that gave me 2.5 inches, so today I turned a rich composty area in an east bed over with my shovel, levelled it, then gave it a bucket of rain water and let it drain and warm in the sun a while. Next I set on the soil a dumpster dived transluscent plastic storage tub beside the area so I could see its dimensions, then stuck into the soil cuttings of my hybrids 'Gold Blush', 'Gainesville Garnet' and 'Lemon Zen' (I let the cuttings dry in the shade for about 10 minutes so the cuts could heal a bit). Then I began inserting them into the loose rich damp soil, some with rooting hormone powder, some not, marking each hybrid's section with a piece of mini-blind, and using pieces of miniblind to separate each group from the next. Then I placed the storage tub over them, and lastly, covered it with a heavy slab of dumpster-dived mirror to hold the box down and prevent excess heat gain.

I will be sure to let you know if it works....cross your fingers! Tomorrow I will share the other rose rooting experiment I set up today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tea Rose 'Safrano' and Hybrid Tea 'Oklahoma'

My specimen of the old Tea Rose 'Safrano' took off big time once I transplanted it into an 18 gallon Water Wise Container Garden, and after a good feeding of horse manure tea and home made fish emulsion during this chilly wet El Nino winter in Florida, she has begun blooming in earnest. I LOVE this rose! My 'Oklahoma' on the Dr. Huey rootstock has grown happily in an identical container for almost a year now, but, oddly, just bore this gorgeous bloom looking more like David Austin's stunner 'Othello'.....usual glorious "red rose" heady perfume that 'Oklahoma' has long been famous for. Enjoy, John

'Oklahoma' looking much like 'Othello'!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Roses in My Tampa Yard March 9 2010

Despite/because of this chilly wet El Nino winter, some of my roses are beginning to bloom.....today I have open blooms on Chrysler Imperial, Teasing Georgia, "Barfield White Climber", Archduke Charles, Perle d'Or, "Dade City Red China", Abraham Darby, Mme. Antoine Marie, Oklahoma, Bon Silene, one of my own hybrids, Safrano, Hermosa, Julia Child, "Maggie", Monsieur Tillier. And I have buds on Duchesse de Brabant, Coquette des Blanches, Radiance, La France, General Jacqueminot, La Reine, and Reine Victoria. I love Tampa winters! John

Thursday, March 4, 2010

an article I had in the St. Pete Times five years ago

How fitting that living in a lush state surrounded by balmy seas can let us enjoy the lovely climbing yellow rose ‘Mermaid’ that has "Jack and the Beanstalk" vigor, extreme health and charming blooms twelve months a year. It glories in summer yet is unfazed by freezes. And few roses can beat it for drought tolerance once established.

Forget planting it by your mailbox....mine’s would span 35 feet in width if I let it! ‘Mermaid’ is the perfect solution for consuming an ugly shed or fence, or try using an old swing set as a trellis. After 5 years the canes at the base of my south Tampa plant are as thick as my calves, and I feed my roses just once a year in spring and water just 6 times a year due to my thick layer of oak leaves and tree trimmings mulch. The vicious thorns make this lovely monster a great security solution too; some estates in California have hedges of ‘Mermaid’ as living barbed wire fences! Friends there joke that the only fertilizer their ‘Mermaid’ gets is the decaying bodies of would-be burglars!

Most of us have struggled with so-called "climbing roses" that barely reach the top of the mail then die. But those are usually climbing "sports" (mutations) of Hybrid Teas that tend to fare poorly in our soil and climate. ‘Mermaid’ is a "genetic climber" that flourishes in Florida, is seemingly immune to nematodes and disease yet bears blooms of a heart-melting delicate beauty. This rare combination of toughness and feminine grace is due to the unique parentage....the climbing species Rosa bracteata from Japan was pollinated with an unknown yellow Tea rose by William Paul, who named and released ‘Mermaid’ into commerce in 1918. Yet even now in the 21st century many of the world’s greatest rosarians consider it one of the most perfect roses ever bred.

Despite the rare beauty, ‘Mermaid’ is easy to buy as own root plants from two trusted mail order rose growers, Chamblee’s Roses (1-800-256-7673) and The Antique Rose Emporium (1-800-441-0002) who prefer to ship their potted (not bare root) roses to Florida in the cooler winter months. So scan your landscape for a BIG sunny space where you’d like to see a cheery waterfall of yellow roses for decades to come.
Littlest mermaid? Yeah, right!
p.s. keep in mind the photos of the bush by the van are five years old.....it was MUCH bigger when Pat and I cut it down last Friday

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bye Bye Mermaid

The giant climbing rose 'Mermaid' by my driveway that had become unmanageable, and that fed on the blood of visitors and myself, is no more. More to come soon. John

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pillarizing my 'Teasing Georgia' bush

I've been growing this lovely David Austin for a little over two years, on the Fortuniana rootstock. Just as Michael Marriott had mentioned, it was at first a very shy bloomer on that rootstock, but growth has been vigorous despite the year's long drought and my stingyness with water.
I've launched a "spring cleaning" campaign to reinvent my front yard due to my friend Pat coming over last Friday and initiating the effort to cut down my maniacally big 'Mermaid' rose that had kept me out of my own yard for over a year...more on that, plus pics, in another posting.

Once 'Mermaid' was down, I could then access my 'Teasing Georgia' several feet behind the mailbox...it had gotten very lax and sprawly, and I debated cutting it back HARD to try to make it be a shrub, or, pillarize it using a 10 foot length of rebar.....the latter won.

The process was made possible by cutting off the power cords from a dead vacuum cleaner, and an AC convertor box I had dumpster dived as the canes were very thick and woody.....my usual panty hose strips would have been pointless. As I have for years when pillarizing roses for me and my clients, I stood atop a ladder and used a sledge to pound a ten foot long section of rebar about 3 feet down into the ground, behind the plant and in the direction I want to train towards to keep it from encroaching onto my driveway.

I eyeballed the shrub for the best branches to train up and in, and which to lop off, then wrapped the vacuum power cord around the bases of the branches I wanted to keep, and used my foot on a heavy cane and pushed in as I drew the cord tighter and tighter to create the base of the pillar rose. I knotted the cord several times, then repeated the process above that point. Then, using the thinner cord from from the AC converter box, I drew the upper branches to the rebar, then one last piece of vacuum cord for the very top. Power cords might seem like overkill, but this IS hurricane country....awareness of that shapes many decisions I make about my yard.

Today I gave the pillar rose a few gallons of "tea" made by steeping unusually urine-rich horse stall cleanings in water for a couple days. Then I drenched the root zone with a few gallons of rainwater into which I mixed a soluble bloom booster fertilizer a friend gave me, plus a handful of dolomite and half a handful of Southern Ag minor elements.

Since spring is at hand here, I expect to see a nice leafing out of the rose from its semi-leafless winter dormancy, and, hopefully, due to the geotropic responses of the tied branches, a lot of those lovely warm yellow, tea-scented blooms on laterals. Ogle the link below for wonderful photos of the elegant flowers.
I will try to post the pics of the process in sequence.....I think the software for this blog reverses the order when they are posted. Here goes. Pillaring roses with rebar is a wonderful and affordable option for training unruly roses.