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 was MUCH bigger when Pat and I cut it down last Friday

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