Monday, October 4, 2010

In praise of roses

Souv. de la Malmaison

There are orchid people, and there are rose people. Despite having dozens of orchids, I'm firmly in the latter category. Nothing speaks to my heart like a rose.

Our garden in England was full of roses, mostly hybrid teas, and we had a gardener take care of them, a luxury I certainly can't afford. Oh, but I loved growing up with vases of sweet scented blooms around the house.

Natchitoches noisette

Moving here in '86, I was happily surprised to find that roses grow in tropical climates, too. In fact, we used to visit a nursery out on Krome Avenue, way west of the city, operated by a lovely man who had grown roses in his native Cuba. You could even buy bunches of roses, and you'd never know what you'd get as he or his wife wandered around selecting the best blooms. That was part of the charm. Tragically, he was murdered when he was depositing cash at a night safe, and his wife didn't have the heart to keep the nursery going.

Natchitoches noisette

For a while, I grew hybrid teas, but I gave up because they're a lot of work and it takes masses of chemicals to keep blackspot, mildew and the like, at bay.

While roses can take all the heat and the sun on offer, they don't like humidity. Nor do they like the nematodes in our soil, so most roses are grown on nematode-resistant Fortuniana root stock. Since I grow my roses in pots, it doesn't matter to me.

Then, last winter, I ordered three old garden roses from Rose Petals Nursery in Gainesville: Souvenir de la Malmaison, Natchitoches noisette, and Louis Philippe; I'd heard that all three did well in Florida humidity. After a rocky start, when I thought they were all going to die (and thanks to Meems at Hoe and Shovel for encouraging me to stick with them), I am simply thrilled!

This past summer has proven to have been one of the hottest and stickiest on record, and my roses have thrived! They're all in pots and I feed them rabbit pellets (because they're made from alfalfa), and worm tea.  I occasionally find leaves with blackspot, but that's the worst of it.

As soon as I can afford it, I'll be buying more OGRs.

A vintage oil painting I found on eBay