Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rose People

As I've shared before, less than a year ago I had lost most of my roses mojo due to 6 years of drought, severe watering restrictions, and my own values as a Florida native environmentalist regarding water use as a permaculturist who grows much of his own food. But I am getting my roses passions back due in part to the Water Wise Container Gardens I make, grow roses in then bury to give their roots a chance to survive long enough to go deep, and due to meeting dedicated rosarians who've NOT lost their mojo. Recently I had the pleasure of a brief visit from Anita Clevenger on her way to give two talks to Malcolm Manners' roses group....sadly, due to my having failed to plan in advance regarding the scheduling of the classes I teach here on weekends I had to miss both....I bet the slide presentation was lovely! Anita was effervescent in her love of the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden, and since I've had the pleasure of being visited by Fred Boutin twice in Denver, it was a delight to meet the other half of the team. Despite the Third World appearance of my urban farm as I re-invent it based on my Water Wise Container Gardens, Anita seemed to appreciate my efforts to work exclusively with scrounged/dumpster-dived materials in my projects inside and out. I hope to visit their cemetery garden at full peak some year.

At the Third Annual Roses Lovers Gathering in Alachua, Florida last Saturday, I finally got to meet Gene Waering, co-editor of the wonderful 'The Sustainable Rose Garden'. As I expected he was a true gentleman, as can be seen in the short video I shot of a portion of his great talk I will soon be posting on YouTube (I will share the link here when I do). I think I expected him to be a academic type, but he was effusively friendly. The host of the event, Pam Greenewald was a trip.....endless energy, funny, irreverent, curious, well informed about biology and ecology and in the spirit of thoughtful experimentation is growing a VAST number of roses rarely seen in Florida and free of the dogmas of spraying chemicals and budding on Fortuniana as a "necessity".

These folks and others have helped me to revive my roses passions largely smothered by perennial drought. Since the collapse of J & P, roses budded to Fortuniana are even more rarely retailed to the public here, who is now back to the Dr. Huey roses that gave roses the reputation of "annuals" in Florida years ago. I gather that Florida is down to just one grower of Fortuniana roses, and here in Tampa the one nursery I know of that sells them, Hardin's, is open just a few hours on Saturdays as despite its advantages, Fortuniana is a VERY thirsty rootstock due in part to its roots staying in the top few inches of the soil as a mat. So they too are often short lived in a non-rosarian's garden. But Tampa's "sugar sand" has minimal ability to hold moisture, and with the rainy season now a fraction of the length it was in the 60s and 70s, roses on Fortuniana are a rare sight in yards except in those of the very well off who can afford the drip systems and the monster water bills that result. So I am hopeful that pioneering rose folks like Pam can make roses in the yards of regular folks thinkable again. I intend to begin selling roses grown in these Water Wise Container Gardens so that people can bury them and sustain the roses in that finite soil mass with minimal watering, even if they do not save their kitchen graywater as I do.



  1. John,
    My wife and I both enjoyed your talk. You had a lot of specifics to offer. Thanks to you we found out about Durango as a source of bait to control grasshoppers. We are awaiting delivery now. We also found out about other beneficial insect suppliers.
    Your "poop soup" will be made shortly as an aspect of organic rose growing, I have collected most of the ingredients. Seeing the results that Pam has at Angel Gardens easily convinced me that there is no other way to go.
    A follow up article in Florida Gardening would help to convince more of the chemical lovers that there are effective alternatives.
    Don and Jan Rogers

  2. Thanks to both of was a great and inspiring event. Yes Nolo Bait is THE way to go with grasshopper control as long as you know it is a LONG term solution...very little short term control. Did you see my recent article in 'Florida Gardening' about Probiotic Rose Growing? Pam is doing leading edge work there! John