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.