Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roses in My Life and Here in Florida

I went "mental" over Old Roses in Denver in 1989 after living there for a year and a half, and until two years ago they were a primary shaping passion of my life. But I realized some months ago that for the last two years or so I'd lost easily 90% OF that passion due to six years of unrelenting long term drought and draconian watering restrictions that had steadily decimated my collection, leaving me with a few tough stalwarts like 'Mermaid', R. bracteata, "Barfield White Climber", 'Newport Fairy', "Pink Cracker Rose", Francois Juranville, and R. laevigata. As an urban farmer who grows most of his own food and who has seen the lush wet green Florida of his youth (Key West native) turn into a dessicated sandy peninsula prone to catatrosphic fires, with the Everglades at death's door, I use what little water I DO have access on my food crops vs. roses. Plus I have heartbreakingly witnessed Tampa's high chlorides/high sodium reclaimed water destroy in months wonderful collections I'd created over the years in my landscape clients' gardens. So 20/20 hindsight made me realize some months ago that SLOWLY, very slowly, I'd lost most of my love for roses as here in Tampa they are a VERY rare sight except in the landscapes of the VERY wealthy who can afford sprinkler systems that A. Let them evade the restrictions without getting busted and B. They can AFFORD the resultant water bills. But with Tampa Water now talking about QUADRUPLING the base water rate, rose growing here could be even more of a challenge. But I MIGHT be getting my roses mojo back due to something I invented a few years ago by trying to figure out why so many of my St. Pete Times readers did not like their expensive Earth Boxes for veggies growing.....

I take 5-7 gallon discarded plastic buckets, and, for roses, use a 3/4 inch paddle bit to make about 5 drainage holes on the SIDES of each bucket, about 3 inches from the bottom, add layers of soil and compost, plant the rose, then bury the bucket. This protects the plastic from the brutal UV here, but also, when the rose gets rootbound, the roots can exit those holes at that depth of 2 feet or more where the sandy soil will have at least SOME moisture present and hopefully anchor then grow deeper towards the ever-dropping water table. Prototype plantings out front seem very hopeful: Safrano, "Fairmount Proserpine", Baronne Prevost, "Pink Cracker Rose", "Natchogotches Yellow" (sp?), "Morrocan Rose" and Cramoisi Superieur seem to be thriving! So even though my income has plunged due to the loss of my Times column 2 years as they struggle to stay afloat, I just placed a big order from Chamblee's Roses (Mark just called to confirm the order) plus will order an Autumn Damask from ARE and a THIRD 'Louis XIV' and 'E. Veyrat Hermanos' from RU. All will be planted in what I call 'Water Wise Container Gardens' and buried as one last effort to grow roses RESPONSIBLY in my native Florida, in hopes I can recover all my former roses passion. The whole experience reminds me of long term married folks I've known who've shared with me that they'd realized they'd fallen OUT of love with their spouses and wanted it back. Since I am still healing from the demise of my first real romance since 1994 with a top shelf guy who turned out to be confused and in denial about his sexuality, loving roses again could perhaps aid that process too.

I must apologize to Kim and Anita for failing to mail them cuttings of "Pink Cracker Rose" for a year now plus losing my cherished plant of "Not Fortune's Yellow" to this freakin' drought before I buried its bucket as I had not yet cut down the MONSTROUS Mermaid that had consumed my front yard. "Pink Cracker Rose" is now buried out front in a buried 7 gallon Water Wise Container Garden made from a swimming pool tablets bucket and should take off in the spring. Realizing that I had failed Anita and Kim repeatedly was a wake up call that I was very close to not caring about roses.

A few other catalysts to getting the fire in my belly back was having success in early prototypes of these Water Wise Container Gardens made from tree pots and 15 gallon detergent jugs with "Fairmount Red", Louise Odier, "Jo An's Pink Perpetual" (a Fairmount Cemetery rose), Pat Austin, and "York Street Yellow" (one of Tony Tichy's Denver finds), plus being asked to speak about Probiotic Rose Gardening at a roses festival April 30th near Gainesville, plus learning recently that my article on that topic was published in the newly-released wonderful book ' The Sustainable Rose Garden' co-edited by our own Gene Waering and Pat Shanley and Peter Kukielski.

Today I made three postings at my roses blog (see link below) about the roses at Denver's Fairmount Cemetery, and my years of work with them.

So maybe I AM falling back in love with roses!! Like I told Lee Sherman, if this labor intensive approach of buried Water Wise Container Gardens DOES not work in the increasingly dry climate here, that could well trigger a final break up and divorce. In my youth I could have never imagined that a flower of all things could be so capable of moving OR stilling my heart.


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