Thursday, November 14, 2013

One of my life missions for my 60s is reminding Floridians that in the late 1900s and early 20th century, Florida landscapes boasted Chinas, Teas and Noisette roses, long before the advent of the Fortuniana root stock and modern chemical fungicides and insecticides. I used to love to curl up on the warm carpeted floor of the Denver Botanic Gardens library on snowy days and savor articles about this in old American Rose Society annuals. For sure, long term drought has very badly impacted rose growing here in central Florida, except for the wealthy and subsidized who can afford gargantuan water bills while plundering a plunging aquifer, but Floridians can grow own root and organically 'Cramoisi Superieur', 'Old Blush', 'Francois Juranville', 'Seagull', 'Leontine Gervais', "Barfield White Climber" and so many more without running up their water bills if they mulch deeply. I pee on my roses both for the water and the dissolved nutrients. Even if one prefers roses budded to R. fortuniana, they are very rarely retailed here. Some advocates of R. fortuniana bud their own as a result, an option not open to Florida gardeners and home owners who just want to enjoy the grace, beauty and fragrances of Old Roses. To me, pesticide-based, high water use rose gardening is not sustainable and discourages people here in Florida or elsewhere to even try roses. My intent is to see the iconic Mystery Rose "Pink Cracker Rose", that was common in Tampa up until the early 80s, once again widely available as it eats nematodes, laughs off fungal attacks, thrives own root and is very long-lived, plus is wonderfully fragrant.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I became an environmentalist in 1970, a rosarian in 1989....if I had to choose, the former is of far greater to importance to me as the world buckles under the weight of 7 billion human beings plundering its resources and polluting entire ecosystems and wiping out several species daily. As a native Floridian it has been disturbing for me to see my state go from lush wetness in the 60s and 70s to essentially permanent drought beginning in the mid 80s. Water tables have plunged. Watering restrictions are draconian and permanent. But I DO love roses too. As an organic landscaper I've planted hundreds of own root Teas, Chinas, Noisettes, Poly-Teas and Wichuraianas in clients' gardens since 1989 that thrived if kept deeply mulched, fed organically, and given a DEEP watering weekly. But I'll be the first to admit that most modern roses fail own root in Florida, likely due to drought and root knot nematodes...the ONLY two to thrive for my clients or me were 'Don Juan' and 'Abraham Darby', both of which have R. wichuraiana in their lineage. Modern roses on the Dr. Huey rootstock sold at Home Depot, etc. have the well-earned reputation of being little better than annuals unless grown in pots filled with rich compost...even then they hardly thrive. I know of a few lush rose gardens in the area based on the thirsty Fortuniana rootstock: one enjoys academic exemption from the watering restrictions that homeowners must abide by else face very daunting fines, and the others belong to VERY upscale people who can afford the Tier Three water bills they generate monthly with their elaborate watering systems. And they all rely heavily on pesticides that I could not be paid to use. So I am thinking of trying an experiment....I've not done any budding/grafting since the 70s and 80s when I was obsessed with euphorbias and cacti and had fun making chimeras.....I can't help but notice over the last decade or more that 'Seagull', "Pink Cracker Rose", "Barfield White Climber", 'Cramoisi Superieur', R. bracteata and R. laevigata, 'Mermaid' and 'Francois Juranville' all seem utterly immune to the nematodes and years of drought and my VERY scant use of water here. It might be a worthwhile effort to try using THEM as root stocks as see how modern roses budded to them might fare in the drought when not indulged in the lavish amounts of water given to most rose gardens based on R. fortuniana. A shortcoming of R. fortuniana is that it fans out an admirably WIDE root system, but it tends to stay in the top few inches of our sandy soil that holds water so poorly....perhaps those other roses that have laughed at all these years of drought send their roots down deeply? That's part of the fun of roses...always new things to learn and try if we have an open mind and don't succumb to dogma and habit.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An article from my old St. Pete Times gardening column that ran eight years until the paper hit hard times:

Susan Johnson all those panty hose you gave me to train my rambling roses are coming in very handy.....I use half an entire leg to attach main canes to the rebar, thin strips for thinner canes plus my tomatoes. Thank you! My 'Francois Juranville' is now retrained to its rebar arch using them and scavenged telephone wire.....I'm re-doing it from a young runner that survived after my monster rose 'Mermaid', which was magnificent for ten years, choked out the original and consumed my front yard to the point that I could not get in for two years! In the 90s a Florida rosarian announced that 'Mermaid' does poorly here but his plant was on Fortuniana and given vast amounts of water and chemical input. So in 1999 I planted an own root one here and it took off and for about 6 years it was manageable, a real show stopper that made people hit their brakes when they'd see the vast number of lovely yellow 5-petaled flowers. Then I simply lost control no matter how much/often I pruned due it suckering maniacally. It was useless as a breeder for me whereas 'Francois Juranville' gives me great seedlings so a friend and I used power tools to cut dowm 'Mermaid' and take a few truck loads to a local brush dump. I am still re-creating the front rose gardens ravaged by 'Mermaid, so it does my soul good to see that surviving cane of 'Francois Juranville' back up on that rebar.....attached is a pic of a portion of it before 'Mermaid' began to encroach on it....the salmony pink blooms smell of Granny Smith apple skin and Old Rose. Thank you!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I bought this 'Chromatella' rose from Ashdown Roses easily 8 years ago, but it has never bloomed. So today I did a version of the Victorian technique called "pegging" by using strips of panty hose to tie long canes back to itself. IF this works it will trigger a geotropic response that will cause blooming laterals to form.

I discovered "Fairmount Proserpine" in October 1999 when a student who'd taken one of my Old Roses classes at The Denver Botanic Gardens walked with me all over the vast cemetery looking for fall color as the vast majority of the Old Roses and Mystery Roses there are once bloomers that peak June into July. My own root plant here in Tampa is 4 years old in a buried 5 gallon Water Wise Container Garden, organically hangs on year after year vs. being VERY vigorous in Colorado gardens. Here the petal count is much lower, the bloom form flat vs. buxom, with blooms much smaller, the color much more pink. The night I found it I curled up with The Old Rose Advisor and felt that 'Proserpine' is a likely ID. Fred Boutin has a plant and he was inclined to agree. Here it is quite dwarf, but in Denver it made a vase-shaped shrub about 6 feet tall. Attached are pics of two blooms from this morning...use the link below to see Michael Mowry's pics of the original plant at Fairmount Cemetery.

Wow....what heartbreaking looks like the powers that be at Fairmount Cemetery, despite all the lip service about "caring" about the Old Roses and Mystery roses, have removed EVERY rose from their Riverside Cemetery where I spent years studying the roses there discovered by now-deceased Denver rosarian Toni Tichy....the pics at the link break my heart. I am so glad that Toni cannot see this.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Like many/most roses in central Florida, in the summer heat "Pink Cracker Rose" sees its petal count plunge and the colors get harsher, with most blooms flat and shapeless vs. the buxom lovely ones that are produced in the cooler months. Looks like two different roses!! After having loved this Mystery Rose since the mid 70s when it was common in Seminole Heights and other older Tampa neighborhoods, and after having tried since 1984 to ID this iconic survivor that has unfortunately always refused to be a breeder (though this year I DO have a hip of [Seagull X Pink Cracker Rose]!!!) I still feel that 'Burbank' is my best guess. The lovely perfume is classic China, with a slight touch of Tea. In 1984 the Tampa Rose Society said all those plants in central Florida were descendants of roses sold for Mother's Day 1932 by the once legendary Holme's Nursery with Kew-style glass houses north of Tampa. It roots readily from cuttings and can be grown as a large bush or tall pillar rose.

In 1999 I planted my little own root 'Seagull' in my west bed even though I had to continue living the bulk of each year in Denver until November of 2002 when I finally escaped that icy hell hole of a state. So it got very little care for three years, one of which saw a record breaking drought. Until 2 years ago, 'Mermaid' and 'Cherokee Rose' blocked all entry into the front yard for two years, so no watering or feeding. But it has gone nuts this year, with a very nice spring bloom phase that is giving me a nice set of hips from my pollinations and open pollinations. It is now sending out LONG new shoots that I need to lash to the rebar. It is a vibrantly healthy rambling rose for me. Thankfully I did not listen to the Florida rosarian who told our meeting in the early 90s that neither the Multiflora class to which it belongs, or the Wichuraiana classes could live in central Florida else I'd not have my beloved 'Seagull' or my hulking Wichuraiana ramblers 'Leontine Gervais' and 'Francois Juranville' in 2013, all planted in 1999! The few he tried were budded to Fortuniana and drenched with water plus chemical sprays and fertilizers, which led to conclusions and pronouncements as myopic as "there is no such thing as 'Pink Cracker' rose". These here are own root, grown organically and get a few deep waterings monthly. I am thankful to rose friends like Bill Grant, Fred Boutin, and Miriam Wilkins who we lost a few years ago, who cultivated endless curiousity decade after decade, and encouraged me to do the same vs. buying into baseless dogma (you HAVE to spray and you MUST bud onto Fortuniana) that discourages rose growing here in Florida. 'Seagull' is a once bloomer, but past germinations of open-pollinated hips gave me repeat-blooming seedlings that reminded me of bushy minis and Polyanthas, most boasting lovely perfumes, so I am PSYCHED to see the seedlings from my first ever controlled pollinations using 'Seagull', mostly as Mom but a few times as Dad. If I had to choose 6 favorite roses for Florida, this would be one even though it was MUCH more vigorous in my Denver yard. Thanks to Susan Johnson for all those panty hose as they will be invaluable in training this rampant growth up onto the rebar trellis!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In 1983 I worked at Armenia Nursery in central Tampa, lived in a funky trailer park in west Town 'N Country in my beloved 8-wide trailer I still have dreams about, grew tons of food, few ornamentals, did not care about roses at all, but had a "Pink Cracker Rose" out front due to sentiment for it from my early 20s in Seminole Heights in the mid 70s while an art major at the Ybor HCC campus. In 1983 it was still a quite common sight in older Tampa neighborhoods, and so now and then people would walk into the nursery with a branch asking for an ID due to its extreme reliability in Florida where roses are usually considered very wimpy and difficult. I had no interest in roses then but COULD ID 'Red Cascade', 'Don Juan', "J.F. Kennedy' and 'Sterling Silver' only because I saw them daily. Finally, I called the Tampa Rose Society, they asked I bring to the nursery a bouquet with every stage of growth...they picked it up, then called me some time later. 20/20 hind sight in 2013 thirty years later makes me chuckle...they said it was a China rose (took me until 1989 in Denver to learn what that meant and its significance), and that all the Cracker Roses, as we'd long called them, all over central Florida, were descendants of roses sold on Mother's Day of 1932 by the remarkable Kew Gardens-style nursery in the forests north of Tampa, 'Holmes Nursery' that friends and I visited in the late 70s. My obsessive research into the "Pink Cracker Rose" all these years also leaves me with the feeling that the VERY colorful, wealthy Mr.Holmes, whom I met a few times, a Barnum and Bailey kind of guy who globe hopped for exotic plants for his many glass houses, likely knew Luther Burbank. This link to 'Burbank' pics at HMF so reminds me of "Pink Cracker Rose" and once again I realize why Joyce Demitts from California immediately suggested 'Burbank' when I introduced her to her first shrub...she quickly pointed out traits of 'Bon Silene' and 'Hermosa' in the blooms and foliage...both are suspected parents. Whatever "Pink Cracker Rose" is, it is extremely reliable in Florida, say planted next to a veggie garden or compost bin for a large accent of color and fragrance. One of my missions in my 60s will be to get this wonderful Old Rose back into Florida sprays, no endless hassle and frustration and failure, just year round fragrant blooms, and MUCH more appealing that the soulless 'Knockout' roses. I very much hesitate to make an ID, but 'Burbank' remains my best guess. The pic is of a winter bloom of "Pink Cracker Rose" in my front yard. John