Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Louise Odier'

As I prepared to leave my Denver home for good, for one last LONG road trip to Tampa in late November 2002, I verbally said goodbye to 1684 Willow Street and said goodbye, literally, to a few beloved roses in my front yard. One farewell went to this sensuously fragrant gem (see link below) that in my Denver yard was a very tall, winter hardy, pillar rose that needed to be lashed to two tall heavy pipes pounded deep into that clay, in a restricted drainage 15 gallon tree pot, it is a mannerly shrub rose. Visitors lucky enough to be here when new or nearly-new blooms are open seem astonished at the depth and sweetness and pungency of that classic Damask Rose perfume, though my picky nose picks up hints of Tea rose along the lines of 'Mrs. B. R. Cant'.

Mike Shoup gave me this plant four years ago I believe when I gave a talk on 'Probiotic Rose Growing' at his Fall Roses Festival in Brenham, Texas. (see my article on this topic in the groundbreaking book 'The Sustainable Rose Garden' by Newbury Books). As I chose it from his growing field I felt it to be a VERY long shot since it was almost unmanageably vigorous in my Denver yard but the gamble has paid off indeed. What a joy to see (and smell ) it blooming over and over all year long in my "Old Man" yard in Tampa.

In Denver, roses, especially Old Roses, with soul-stirring perfumes, are in Florida, roses PERIOD are very uncommon, and most encountered have little fragrance is perhaps THE top consideration of mine when trialing roses in my low water use, all organic gardens. 'Louise Odier' is stellar in that regard.

My treasured 'Louise Odier' grows in home made compost with no sprays ( a given for me since 1976) and is fed kitchen graywater, and, when I think of it, poop from the chickens and ducks, home made fish emulsion.....sometimes I pee on it when drinking beer and enjoying 420. It is much less leafy and bushy than my Denver specimen so I will try a hard pruning and a handful of Epsom salts in several weeks.

In Denver it was a very heavy hip very few set. I must make a point to boink it with 'Duchesse de Brabant' for fun.....just imagine the seedlings that could arise from such a cross!

Here are two pics from yesterday morning.

If you want to try it in your garden call The Antique Rose Emporium at 1-800-441-0002 as their plants are own root, not grafted.

Growing roses is humbling because they so often defy what we "know" about them by blessing us with heady blooms in spite of us!.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An article from my weekly column years ago in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News


by John Starnes

Roses are a real pain to grow.everybody knows THAT! Be they purchased as cheap bare-root roses, or as expensive gorgeous potted specimens in full bloom, they promise colorful fragrance but usually deliver disappointment and guilt. We’re told they demand systemic insecticides and fungal sprays and powders (more guilt as we poison the environment) so we comply only to once again end up with sickly twigs whose only color is the perky plastic label hanging on long after all the leaves fall off. Each and every summer roses prove you are a plant murderer with a “brown thumb”. Roses are “expensive annuals”....everybody knows THAT!

And I agree with all this about GRAFTED roses, which until recently was all the public could buy. For the ease and profit margin of big growers in frost free regions of southern Texas and southern California, “grafted roses” are mass-produced by surgically attaching (grafting) pieces of a desirable rose variety ( say ‘Peace’ or ‘Baronne Prevost’ or ‘Graham Thomas’) onto the root system of an easily grown primitive rose, usually ‘Dr. Huey’, which is the lanky red rose that comes up where you KNOW you planted a rose of a different color! Shipped as dormant bare root plants to Colorado in early spring then quickly grown to enticing perfection in cozy greenhouses in time for the “Spring Fever Shopping Frenzy” we all plunge into like salmon in a stream, grafted roses are like all those shiny new 1972 Vegas that broke down a few miles from the dealership.....pretty enough to buy but hardly designed to be a lasting value.

But “Own Root Roses”, like our grandmothers grew from cuttings they rooted under jars, while small and unimpressive initially, are the Toyotas of the rose world. We’ve all seen them thriving every summer in quaint neighborhoods, old cemeteries and private gardens. Due to their reliability and longevity, “Own Root Roses” are being planted in great numbers at the Denver Zoo by Director of Horticulture Merle Moore, who also has been director of the Denver Botanic Gardens. He knows his stuff! Choose a full sun location, and plant your own root rose deeply in a big hole improved with a lot of compost and a couple handfuls of superphosphate or bone meal. Cover it all with a couple inches of the heavy clay soil you removed when digging the hole, apply a few inches of mulch, water deeply, then get on with your busy life. So planted, an own-root rose will barely protrude above the soil line and hence look a little silly, but it will spend that first season developing an admirable root system. Like all woody perennials, own root roses are slow at first but mature in their third year in the garden, hence the charming turn-of-the-century truism about them....”First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap!”

All they need is a lot of sunshine, a pruning late each April to remove winter damage, a late April feeding of organics (I like 1 cup each of kelp meal, Ringer Lawn Restore, epsom salts, alfalfa pellets, fresh horse poop plus one cup of ‘Calf Manna’ from a feedstore) and 3-4 deep waterings per month. My favorite mulch for them is the chipped branches from a tree trimming service A simple soap spray made from a bar of ‘Kirk’s Castile’ or “Octagon Soap’ is the only pesticide I use to control aphids and blackspot and mildew in my clients’ rose gardens, or my own collection of approximately 130 varieties of own root roses, so the petals and hips are safe to use in the kitchen. Not weakened by being grafted onto a foreign root system, they will settle in for decades of life in your landscape, blessing you with the fragrant charm and grace only roses can offer the eye, nose and heart.

Until recently, “own root roses” were very hard to acquire unless one, like me, was an obsessed rosarian who’d scoured the U.S. for obscure little catalogs. But widespread disdain for grafted roses, and the growing, glowing reputation of easy-to-grow “Own Root Roses”, has happily resulted in several Colorado nurseries offering over 200 varieties of Old-Fashioned and Modern Roses on their own roots this spring! So ignore the big flashy “Elvis” roses grafted onto their platform shoes for extra height, and treat yourself to the reliable, smaller-at-first “Own Root Roses” that will be a joy to grow, organically, year after year. As you improve with age, so will they!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So what do I find on my front porch today once home from errands?

A plant of  the lovely Climbing Tea 'E. Veyrat Hermanos' that Pam Greenewald of Angel Gardens sent me! I loved mine for years as it thrived on rebar by my front door, but it finally succumbed to drought and being CONSUMED first by 'Francois Juranville' then 'Mermaid'. Here are some pics from her heyday here. Thanks Pam!!    John

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving My Hybrids This Holiday Season

I've been breeding roses since the early 1990s and a few of the fragrant tough roses I've bred for Florida are available own root and organically grown from the good folks at The Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. They pay me a $1 royalty per rose sold. I've bought many roses from them since 1989 for my two landscape businesses and pleasure and as breeders, and many thousands of the readers in my newspaper columns in The Rocky Mountain News and The St. Pete Times are happy customers of theirs. If you order a rose as a holiday gift they mail the lucky recipient first a nice greeting card letting them know of your purchase. They currently offer my hybrids 'Sarasota Spice', a SUPER fragrant white climber, 'Gold Blush', an apricot, cinnamon-clove scented bushy climber, and 'Gainesville Garnet', a tall flexible caned  red climber with a light tea rose and apple perfume. Their number is: 1 800 441 0002

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roses in buried 5-7 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens

Yesterday I nearly completed the revamp of  a bed out front swallowed long ago first by the giant rose 'Mermaid' then perennial morning glory and bidens Spanish Needle. Now it contains the roses "Maggie", Rosa moschata, 'Abraham Darby', 'Cloth of Gold' and a Mystery White Climber rooted by my friend Mary Jo ( each in a buried Water Wise Container Garden to DRASTICALLY cut my water use), plus several perennials. Fresh mulch, a sowing along the border of Dwarf Jewel Mix nasturtiums, a... sprinking of a few hundred seeds of Sweet Alyssum Carpet of Snow, then a deep watering. I may next tuck in a few tomatoes, then in about a week some flower seedlings now in starter trays including Purple Lemon Mint, Malva sylvestris, snapdragons, Dame's Rocket plus some perennial onions. Those folks who've seen my front yard at its jungly worst already would not recognize it...and I'm only about 40% done! woo hoo! Today I finish repainting the tops of the concrete edgings with bright white latex paint that Mary Jo scavenged for me. Pics, maybe a video, in a few weeks.
I use a 3/4 inch paddle bit to make the drainage holes on the SIDES, three inches from the bottom of each bucket, giving each rose that damp soil zone in each Water Wise Container Garden below the holes as over the years, drought, the absence of hurricanes and draconian watering restrictions, plus my commitment to low water use, has decimated what by 2004 was a stunning collection of 170 roses out front. When the rose gets rootbound the roots can exit those holes down deep where the mulched sandy soil will be much damper. I plan on doing this with about 100 roses over the next six months or so. A LOT of digging and a LOT of hauling away to the back yard of the soil I excavate but I want my roses back BUT this time with a far greater degree of water sensibility.