Monday, June 28, 2010

Lee Sherman, the Grande Dame of Roses


Lee lovingly strangling Joel

Describing Albuquerque rosarian Lee Sherman is a challenge......funny, irreverent (check out her hilarious 'Lazy Slut' page at her site!), warm hearted and loved by many, a touch decadent (loves her cigarettes and gin and garlic), loving wife of 47 years (she lost Joel on New Year's Day this year, see below the obituary written by their son Mark), tidy, a tree-hugging Liberal who shares my deep loathing of George Bush and his many high crimes, a passionate birder, and an obsessive collector of Old Roses, especially Hybrid Perpetuals and Bourbons. Years ago, rosarian and breeder Mike Lowe (now passed away) bred a striped rose in her honor, 'Sheerstripe', as she is totally mental about striped roses. I got to see and SMELL her collection of over 600 varieties of roses just past their peak several years ago before I moved back to Tampa....breathtaking! Many a rosarian has visited her lovely "garden of roses" as Mike Lowe called it if I recall right, plus she has had ARS tours there too. She grows all her plants organically in a wonderful wild profusion of roses and perennials and annuals and herbs.

I am proud to be a graduate of her "Lazy Slut School of Gardening" and for years have proudly displayed my beautiful framed diploma on my wall. We met on-line in 1996 due to my co-hosting the 1997 Heritage Rose Foundation Conference in Denver where we met in person. She gave an incredible number of gift subscriptions to my self published news letter 'The Garden Doctor' the last year I put it out. She has mailed me seeds and pollen to use in my own rose breeding work.

She is a gem of a human being, and a crowning jewel for rosedom. Be sure to check out her website below and sign her guestbook. If you and I are lucky, someday too we will be "Lazy Sluts"! John

SHERMAN -- Joseph M. Sherman passed away on January 1, 2010 at the age of 88 and is survived by his wife of 47 years, Lee Woodell Sherman; along with his three sons: Joe, Adam, and Mark; and one grandson, Patrick and one sister, Natalie. Joel, as he preferred to be called, was born in New York in 1921. After a stint in India flying cargo during World War II, he decided at a young age that he would determine the conditions of his labor and therefore set out to create a life that did not revolve around work, rather his life was about living. He was often heard saying that he worked only enough to buy scotch, cigars, and steaks (other living expenses came as needed, but were not a priority). As a result, he took up photography. He lived and worked in New York until he moved the family to Alexandria, Virginia, where he continued his photography and opened a marine supply store. In 1973 the family moved to Albuquerque, NM, a place where he could enjoy the sunshine throughout the year. He continued photography and other personal business ventures, until he started working for the City of Albuquerque, from which he retired in the mid 1980's. Memorials can be made in his name to The Make-A-Wish-Foundation. No memorial services will be held at his request. The family would like to thank from VistaCare Hospice, especially Leann, Bernice, Sandy, and Larry.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Article I Had in the St. Pete Times in 2007:


Abraham Darby

Clotilde Soupert

Duchesse de Brabant

Cramoisi Superieur

Souvenir de la Malmaison

Autumn Damask (note the pine-scented glandular hairs)

Autumn Damask

Letting your eyes and nose be drawn into the sensuous velvety folds of a richly fragrant rose is a tonic for the soul, like getting lost in the allure of love itself. Perhaps that is why lovers and roses are linked in literature and life itself. But these days, a dozen cut roses often smell no better than the cardboard box they came in! Add to that the myth that "roses are hard to grow in Florida" and most of us long ago gave up on the dream of sweetly scented home grown bouquets.

But since 1989 I have created for my clients many no-spray, low-care rose gardens of truly perfumed roses that thrive in our climate now as they did in Victorian era Florida gardens. Plus certain modern varieties offer huge, brightly colored scented blooms when grown on the rootstock ‘Fortuniana’ that resist the nematodes in our sandy soil. Of my approximately 170 roses, all but a handful are "own root" vs. grafted, and all grown with no spraying. My focus instead is on keeping the soil healthy and fertile and biologically active. And the cool upcoming autumn months are a great time to order and plant them.

Grown on their own roots (vs. grafted onto short-lived rootstocks like ‘Dr. Huey’ that so often struggle and fail in Florida), several classes of Victorian roses may well outlive you as year after year they bless you with bountiful blooms. Known as Chinas, Noisettes, Polyanthas and Teas (very distinct from modern Hybrid Teas) and Wichuraianas, they are genetically subtropical and thus love it here if their simple needs of full sun, a deep weekly watering and rich mulched soil are met. Available from trustworthy mail order houses and even some local garden shops (!!), they offer rich reds, sultry magentas, pristine white, warm apricot and salmon, plus feminine pastel yellows. So don’t let your previous "bad luck" with roses stop you from trying a few this winter and spring, when the cool temps help them get rooted and established.

But they aren’t perfect: the blooms are smaller and on shorter stems than modern Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras, but they look charming in petite vases when picked half open and will scent your home like few modern roses can. When well fed, they need no chemical sprays and thus you can sniff and inhale deeply with no fear of breathing in toxic fungicides and insecticides.

Want larger blooms in bright modern colors that also are heavenly scented? Try some 20th century hybrids that are sometimes sold on the ‘Fortuniana’ rootstock. In my clients’ gardens they thrive just as well on that all-organic regimen, defying the "truism" that they require all kinds of fuss and muss and elaborate pruning and toxic spraying schedules. See the lists below for some that offer irresistible "nose candy".

Another approach is to buy modern roses on that ‘Dr. Huey’ rootstock but grow them in pots filled with compost vs. in the garden; this seems to protect their fragile roots somewhat from the harmful nematode worms. In 2005 I got several for just $2 each at Lowe’s so I was able to grow ultra-fragrant reds like ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Mirandy’ for one year for use in my breeding work. More and more are finding this "roses in pots" an effective third alternative. BUT...they will still be short lived as a rule, almost an annual.

Hey, life is short and sometimes a battle...why not invite in the sweet surrender of fragrant roses? Just scan your landscape for a full sun location and plan on indulging very soon in the innocent decadence of fragrant roses on your dinner table.


Cramoisi Superieur ( 1832) cherry red
Ducher (1869) Ivory white
Le Vesuve (1825) lilac pink
"Maggie" (unknown date) deep magenta
"Spice" (unknown date) palest pink
Jean Bach Sisley (1889) salmon pink
Blush Noisette (1817) pastel pink, potent cinnamon scent!
Mme. Alfred Carriere (1879) pale flesh pink
Souvenir de la Malmaison (1843) pastel flesh pink
Lady Hillingdon (1910) rich apricot
Mme. Berkeley (1899) salmon and gold
Perle des Jardins (1874) pastel lemon yellow
Duchesse de Brabant (1857) conch shell pink
"Portland from Glendora" (date unknown) magenta pink
Rival de Paestum (1848 or prior) creamy white
Clotilde Soupert (1890)cotton candy pink
Climbing American Beauty (1909) deep pink
Autumn Damask (ancient) rich pink, amazing scent

MODERN ROSES (on Fortuniana or Huey rootstocks)
Oklahoma (1964) darkest red
Abraham Darby (1985) apricot-salmon-gold
Mirandy (1945) crimson red
Evelyn (1992) apricot and warm pink
Don Juan (1958) red and black shadings
Sterling Silver (1957) pale lavender
Double Delight (1977) strawberry red and white
Mary Webb (1985) pastel apricot; anise scented!
Ashdown Roses 1-800-ASHDOWN
The Antique Rose Emporium 1-800-441-0002
Chamblee’s Roses (1-800-256-7673)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Which Wichurana

This article ran in 2004 in my gardening column in The St. Petersburg Times. These all thrive here in Tampa own root and all organic, several thrived in my Denver gardens despite the brutal winters, and I saw spectacular specimens in California, the Pacific Northwest, and at David Austin's and Peter Beales' nurseries and in Cambridge in southern England. I'd expect them to do well most anywhere except VERY cold dry regions like Montana, etc. If you want vigorous, easily trainable rambling roses, give them a try. John

Jersey Beauty

Leontine Gervais



Sure I love central Florida, but like many northern transplants I had long wished for the grace and fragrant charm of old fashioned rambling roses. Generations ago they covered cottages and garden arbors with sweet swirls of pinks and white and reds, and here we Floridians are cursed with countless ugly chain link fences just waiting to be used as trellises! But every time we buy a "climbing rose" it struggles to reach the top of our mailbox then often dies. So we conclude that climbing and rambling roses "won’t grow in Florida". WRONG!
But you’d be right IF you were referring to the Climbing Hybrid Teas like ‘Climbing Peace’ or ‘Climbing Oklahoma’ many of us have seen in full glory in Oregon or Tennessee, and that what is generally sold to the public here as "climbing roses". Those areas offer roses high rainfall, clayey soil, and winters that offer essential periods of dormancy. But here, climbing Hybrid Teas are denied that winter rest while they cope with a long spring drought, funky acidic sandy soil teeming with microscopic nematode worms that sting their roots, plus a long hot steamy summer far more suited to subtropical plants. But we don’t have to endure blizzards and icy sidewalks to have rambling roses thrive here.

Years ago I experimented in my yard and my clients’ yards, and found that if we just switch gears mentally and instead purchase "own root" plants of a certain class of Old Roses called "Wichurana Roses", also long called "Wichuriana Ramblers", we WILL enjoy raging success! Their blooms boast a pleasing palette of colors, most are quite fragrant (often of rose and ripe apples!), and their growth is RAMPANT in Florida! Bred mostly in the late 1800's and early 1900's, these genetic climbers display rapid growth, great vigor and are largely aloof to the bugs, heat, humidity and fungal diseases that plague most wimpy modern climbing roses in our climate. All were bred from a wild Japanese species called Rosa wichurana noted for its toughness, beautiful glossy leaves, and rampant flexible canes.
Like all roses they prefer full sun, slightly acid soil well-amended with compost, a thick mulch (my favorite is the chipped limbs and leaves from a tree trimming company) to keep the soil damp and cool, and a feeding of a good organic like menhaden fish meal, Calf Manna (from a feed store) or Mills Magic Rose Mix or every March, July, September and December. Most of inland central Florida has quite acid soil, so most rose folks give their roses a light sprinkling of dolomitic limestone every March to neutralize that acid and to supply needed calcium and magnesium.

Oddly, you’ll get much faster coverage of a trellis or fence if you train the long new shoots of a climber as HORIZONTALLY as possible, not UP as is our instinct. Why? Trained horizontally that long rose cane will send up many vertical new shoots that will then eagerly climb UP. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut up old pantyhose and nylons into flexible and inconspicuous plant ties to lash those vigorous new shoots to your fence or arbor….they will stretch as the canes thicken and so not strangle them as can a metal twisty. And remember, these climbers are VIGOROUS, so don’t bring home a wimpy little trellis but instead make a sturdy one out of pressure treated 2" x 2" lumber, construction rebar, or plumber’s pipe, or train them on that long-hated chain link fence. They rival Jack’s magic beanstalk with their growth so plan accordingly with a strong structure for them to consume. These are Climbing Roses on steroids!

The upcoming cooler autumn and winter months are ideal for mail ordering and planting these lovely toughies, so scan your landscape for a sunny spot in need of a touch of class and year round splendor, then choose from the Wichurana Ramblers listed here, keeping in mind that they can tolerate light shade. Notice their dates of commercial introduction to give you an idea of their longevity into the 21st century! These tough but exquisite beauties may well outlive you, so your yard deserves a few on a funky fence or on an English style rose arbor framing your front doorway. Life is short and has prickles of its own; why not invite in the soft, sweet but reliable beauties our great-grandmothers knew and cherished?

Albertine (1921) pastel salmon pink
Leontine Gervais (1903) warm apricot, gold and tangerine
Cl. American Beauty (1909) deep rose pink and magenta
C. Red Fountain (1975) rich red
Aviateur Bleriot (1910) pastel apricot and yellow
Alberic Barbier (1900) pale lemon and cream
Dr. Van Fleet (1910) baby blanket pink
Francois Juranville (1906) clear pink and salmon
Gardenia (1899) pastel yellow and white
Jersey Beauty (1899) 5 petals creamy yellow

Roses Unlimited (864) 682-7673 e-mail:
Antique Rose Emporium 1-800-441-0002
Chamblee’s Roses 1-800-256-7673
High Country Roses 1-800-552-2082
Mill’s Magic Rose Mix 1-800-845-2325

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Winterizing Roses

Here is an article that ran in my Rocky Mountain News gardening column in 2005. John


Once again our summer rose gardens are a cherished memory to fill us with hope of renewal this winter, as the shrill colors and killing frosts of autumn then snows serve to welcome back another long winter. And while those first luscious blooms of next June are many months away, many of us already dread finding once again a bunch of our roses either dead or badly damaged or reverted to that lanky ‘Dr. Huey’ rootstock. Does it ever seem to you that your rose garden never "arrives" at a point of glory you can take pride in and luxuriate in? Join the club! But as our trees’ leaves cascade around us like giant colorful snowflakes we can give ‘The Queen of Flowers’ a few easy advantages over winter’s cruel excesses.

First….do less in your rose garden each fall and early winter….many folks spend HOURS brutally pruning back their rose bushes to "neaten up" the garden. But that leaves only the heart of each bush exposed to bitter, drying cold. Instead wait until winter when the bushes are dormant and prune off only the long lanky canes you feel could be snapped by heavy snows. Then let winter’s bitter cold "prune" the rose for you by killing vulnerable canes, which you can cut off late each April as you shape your rose bushes for another summer. Much easier, huh?

But you do need to do some work if you haven’t mulched and have bare soil. Why? Low snowfalls make dry soil a cruel enemy of our landscapes, including our beloved roses. Avoid those perky, suspiciously red mulches that are "decorative" but tend to fade and/or float away in gullywashers while holding little moisture and barely suppressing weeds. Treat yourself instead to a load of the chipped branches-and-leaves mulch provided by tree trimming services at low cost or even for free. A 6-8" thick layer of this valuable recycled organic matter will have a great natural look, settle firmly into place, add vital humus to your funky soil as it decays, dramatically boost your population of earthworms, suppress many annual weeds and most importantly, do wonders to keep your garden soil damp all year long. Plus it acts as an insulating blanket to greatly reduce wild freeze-thaw cycles that can "heave" bulbs from the soil and stress the roots of roses, grafted roses in particular.

Do make it an instinctual habit to give all your roses a deep watering once a month on those inevitable mild days. "Winter Drought Stress" is hell on our roses and landscape in general if we let the soil dry out. Do this every non-snowy month from November through April if you really love your gardens….plus it will take less water in the spring to nourish your plants as you will not have to rehydrate the soil.

And late each summer consider not doing a couple things… stop deadheading and picking every single bloom so that the bushes can set hips, cease vegetative growth and thus deepen their descent into dormancy. Water deeply just once or twice instead of 4 times in September to further help them to "harden off" for winter. Do less and get fewer dead roses each spring!

Lastly, remember that "own root roses" are much tougher in most cases than the wimpy grafted roses so many of us have come to regard as "annuals". Ever wonder why Grandma’s roses (remember her rooting cuttings in the garden beneath mason jars?) and those ancient ones in cemeteries and alley ways live for decades with little or no fuss? They are on their "own roots" vs. being grafted onto a frail ‘Dr. Huey’ or ‘Manetti’ rootstock rose grown in balmy southern California or Texas. So every year as your gnarly grafted roses "Bite the Big One" just calmly replace them with the expensive-but-worth-it "own root roses" increasingly available at many local and mail order nurseries. . Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to buy each rose variety you love just ONCE?

Wanna hear something weird? Try planting own root roses in the fall! Yup, right up till just before the ground begins to freeze. They send out roots all winter long beneath the mulch layer so they can burst into growth in the spring. Plus own root roses are often on sale in the autumn....achieve success AND be frugal (well I’m cheap!) at the same time.
And while us gardeners may see winter as welcome as Ozzie Osbourne at an Enya concert, it brings to our roses the period of rest they need to fill our hearts once again with the priceless gifts of soul-stirring color, fragrance and annual renewal. So let’s give them a cozy bed every autumn and early winter.

Harlequin Market, Boulder 303-939-9403
The Antique Rose Emporium 1-800-441-0002
Chamblee’s Roses 1-800-256-7673