The challenges for rose culture here in Central Florida are many: sandy, infertile soils that heat quickly in the summer sun; high humidity for at least seven months of the year; temperatures in the nineties from mid-May until the beginning of October; and, in many areas, rampant nematodes. There are also some things working to our advantage: Plenty of rain when it's hot, fast draining soils (sometimes too fast), and climate that permits nearly year-round rose culture. The soil is slightly acidic, and there's ample phosphorous. (Some of that phosphorous is naturally-occuring (Central Florida sands have been mined for phosphorous, especially in the 1950s), some of it is residual from the former citrus groves that used to cover the area.) I've never had much of a problem with pests in my roses.
To anyone interested in learning the lore and art of rose culture here in Florida, I highly recommend For the Love of Roses in Florida and Elsewhere by Barbara Oehlbeck. It's a quirky book with disappointing production values, but it's also charming and informative in a folksy way. Imagine your crazy aunt writing a book about her gardening...
There are dozens of roses that grow, even thrive, here in Florida on their own roots, and many more cultivars that grow on "Fortuniana" rootstock. ("Fortuniana," an Old Garden Rose related, it is believed, to the "Cherokee Rose," has produced in the past two decades a real revolution in rose growing in the Deep South, especially here in Central Florida. It's a remarkable rose, so I'll make it a topic for a later post.)
The rose to the left is "Vincent Godsif," а Bermuda "mystery rose" with a, well, sort of shocking, lipstick pink bloom. It's a bit twiggy, and prickly, but it flowers in even the hottest, wettest weather and never needs spraying.
The rose to the right, growing among the "Powis Castle" Artemesia (great as an understory for roses), is a China Rose "Ducher," named, presumably, after the very well-known French rose developer Joseph Pernet-Ducher. It's one of the very few white Chinas commercially available. Like I suppose all Chinas, this one has a somewhat sparse, very upright growth habit. The white, angular blooms have soft pink center initially, which fades pretty quickly. It would make a lovely cut flower, but is very prone to shattering. True to its lineage, it blooms in the heat and rain of August and the foliage remains virtually disease free.
I've owned the own-root roses for about a year, purchased at Seminole Springs Herb Farm, a place highly recommended for its offbeat selection of flowers and roses. I have about a dozen own-root roses in my garden ("Blush Noisette," "Puerto Rico," and several others) as well as a dozen or so roses grafted onto "Fortuniana" rootstock.
The rose to the left here, growing through a metal pyramid, is "Red Cascade." Miniature, perfect dark-red roses with matching tiny foliage and a vigorous growth habit and high resistance to disease. It grows vigorously on its own stock.
I never spray this rose, and even have one off of any irrigation (though that one has done poorly in the periods of dry weather we've had recently). Though it's usually regarded as a rambler or ground cover rose, I think it's best grown up through a pyramid where the hands of pretty flowers are held forth for inspection and enjoyment.
On October 8, my Vincent Godsif (right) is in full, tawdry bloom. We had a cool spell for a few days, followed by heavy rains from October 4-7 (a tropical wave). The hot and humid weather that has followed is an unwelcome surprise to everyone here.
The flowers are quite tight and pretty when they first open, but small right now. The hotter the weather, the smaller the bloom.
If you're interested in learning more about rose growing in Central Florida, visit the excellent rose garden at Harry Leu gardens in Orlando. It's particularly nice mid-November and through the months of February to May. The Central Florida Rose Society meets there monthly, save for during hottest months of summer when they, like roses, take a break. I've been meaning to join the Society for years, but with a busy career and family, I need to make the time.