Thorny But Rewarding

We think of February as a time of hearts and roses. The ancient Greeks linked the rose to love, beauty, purity and passion. The Romans embellished Greek rose mythology many times over. But few of us Floridians and modern-day rose enthusiasts have the passion and patience to grow roses in Florida’s sandy soil, heat and humidity. Rosarian and Nassau County Master Gardener, Carol Ann Atwood, spoke to our club members this month about how she tackles these issues. In summary: organic materials, fertilizer, water and fungicide!  

A close look at her “Rose Calendar” reveals there are only three months out of the year when roses are NOT fertilized:  November, December and January. Every month is marked “water as needed” except May, June, July, August, September, October and November, when the mantra becomes “water, water, water!” 

The spraying regimen begins as early as February. Fungicides are applied every 7 - 10 days every month thereafter through December! Want to be a successful organic rose gardener in Florida? Not.

Florida’s long periods of high humidity wreak havoc on roses. Although faithful watering is necessary, be careful to water only early in the morning. Drip irrigation systems are preferred. 

Roses need excellent air circulation to combat periods of high humidity and should be pruned in an “open bowl” form. Rejuvenating pruning is done in mid-February. Think Valentine’s Day. 30 - 50% of the plant should be removed, cutting 1/4” above an outward facing dormant bud at a 45 degree angle. All leaves can be removed or only the diseased ones. 

Removing dead blooms (deadheading) is essential to encourage further blooming. Cut 1/4” above an outward facing 5-leaf (or greater) cluster, not 3-leaf.

Consult the Jacksonville Rose Society for details about the best roses to grow in NE Florida. Hybrid roses grafted onto ‘Fortuniana’ rootstock are favorable.  UF also has helpful information.  

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose . . .