Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Best Roses for Florida

The Orlando Sentinel published a list of favorite roses from the Central Florida Rose Society. The criteria included:
  • Continual bloom (good luck!)
  • Floriferous
  • Disease resistance
  • Relatively carefree (I have no idea what that could mean – all roses here have roughly the same needs.)
Here goes the list, with the top seed in bold:

Hybrid Tea
  • Double Delight
  • Mr. Lincoln (I grow it – a very vigorous, wonderful plant.)
  • Veteran’s Honor
  • St. Patrick (An excellent, very upright narrow bush with tight buds. The best rose for cutting, lasting a remarkable week or more.)
  • Elina
  • Loise Estes
  • Bride’s Dream
  • Gemini
  • Moonstone
  • The McCartney Rose
Shrub Roses
  • Knock Out (I grow both the original cherry red and a very pretty light pink sport. First-rate landscaping rose, seemingly immune to black spot (not just resistant to it). Low water needs.)
  • Belinda’s Dream
  • Dortmund (A Kordes rose. Reputedly very disease resistant. I’ve not seen it for sale on Fortuniana rootstock, though.)
English Roses
  • Abraham Darby (A standout in my garden, too.)
  • Heritage
  • The Prince
  • Charlotte
  • The Dark Lady
  • Graham Thomas
  • Molineux
  • Gold Medal (I bought under the name of AROyqueli. It was so diseased and stunted I got it for $1.50. So far, it’s doing well, but not many blooms.)
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Cherry Parfait
  • Tournament of Roses
Miniature Roses
  • Bees Knees
  • Butter Cream
  • Fairhope
  • Jean Kenneally
  • Jeanne Lajoie
  • Figurine
  • Miss Flippins
  • Kristin
  • Pierrine
Climbing Roses
  • Don Juan (An exceptional, vigorous, disease-tolerant rose. Don Juan is an oddity: At any point, it will have all stages of flowers, from new shoots, to bud to blown. The vast majority of roses go through cycles of bloom, where all the flowers are roughly in the same stage of bloom.)
  • Prosperity (Another great recommendation. Extremely vigorous and disease resistant.)
  • Fourth of July
  • Cecile Brunner (Very vigorous, growing on its own rootstock. I bought mine for $4.50 from Seminole Springs Nursery. I planted mine a few months ago, and though it hasn’t bloomed, it’s already mounted my six-foot fence.)
  • Altissimo
  • Clotilde Soupert
  • Red Cascade (I’d classify this as a rambling miniature rose. Perfect tiny red blooms. It grows very well in a small cage or tripod. Floriferous and the toughest rose I’ve ever grown.)
  • Champney’s Pink Cluster (Bred by Champney in South Carolina. It’s the parent of the Blush Noisette and all the innumerable offspring of that rose.)
  • Marechal Niel
Old Garden Roses: I grow many of these, all of them purchased from Seminole Springs Nursey.
  • Louis Phillippe
  • Mrs. B. R. Cant
  • Souvenir de la Malmaison
  • Mutabilis (There’s a wonderful example of this rose growing at Freedom Playground here in DeLand.)
  • Pink Pet
  • Blush Noisette
  • Duchesse de Brabant
  • Paul Neyron
  • Cramoisi Superieur
Floribunda Roses
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • Iceberg (My first rose!)
  • Playgirl
  • Sun Flare
  • Miss Ada
  • Hannah Gordon
  • Betty Boop
  • Europeana
  • French Lace

Garden Visitor

We have several species of tree frogs living around our house. This is one of two who live behind a wall fountain on the patio. They usually come out only at dusk, but it's mating time. The utter wreck of a garden fountain I installed this winter (I must replace it!) is full of tadpoles at all stages of maturity, to the constant entertainment of my son.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dahlias in Central Florida

My dahlias continue to thrive... This is a lateral which I should have disbudded, but given that this is new territory for me, I opted for more flowers earlier with shorter stems.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A brown anole (Anolis sagrei) inflating its dewlap early one May morning. The plant in the background is an African Blue Basil, a 2006 FNGLA Florida Plant of the Year, and one of my favorite plants in the garden. It is somewhat camphory (like Thai basil, though Thai is more minty), and I don't care much for its culinary uses, though I still use it when my Mediterranean basils have burned out in September. The African basil grows from spring to frost, covered in long blue spikes. The flowers themselves are small, bluish white and short-lived, but the blue calyces (modified sepals that look like flowers but are not) last for weeks. It sprouts readily in a glass on the windowsill, and has always come back from the root after a frost. Mine was hit hard by the cold here in January, and is just starting to come back into bloom.

The reason I love the plant, beyond its landscape value, is its attractiveness to honey bees. I visit my basil corner every summer morning, to marvel at the seething buzzing multitudes that hover about it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Delphiniums in Florida

Mediterranean Seas (Delphinium tatsienense) from Thompson & Morgan. I started these a bit late, in February or March, but they seem to be going strong in the back of my bed. Not the tallest delphiniums at only 30 inches, but they're an intense blue and they seem to handle the heat with little complaint.

An addendum: This particular Delphinium makes a first-rate cut flower. It looks as good six days after cutting as the first day -- the best vase-life of any cut flower I am currently growing.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A family of milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus) enjoying the butterfly flora at Leu Garden. Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12, 2006


More true perennials for Florida: Up North, people think of mums as plants for fall. Here, though, Mums have two seasons: I buy them in early fall for some quick color in pots when everything else has died or has yet to recover from the rains and heat of September. Once the plants go out of bloom (usually a month or so), I chuck them in a sunny corner where it's easy to water them from time to time, and then wait the four months until they come back into bloom, right at the end of spring. If I were really really patient, I could then transplant them into a lightly shaded corner of the garden and they would bloom again come fall. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bulbs of FLA...

Because we can't grow (perennially, in any case) tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, there's a strange idea common to Central Florida that we cannot grow bulbs at all. That's far from the truth, though gardeners need to choose their bulbs carefully. (Now, of course, the pictures above and the discussion here is not limited to bulbs, but includes rhizomes (and their ally, the tuber) and corms. These are distinct storage organs, but from the gardener's perspective, there's really little difference.) As a rule of thumb, we can grow virtually any bulb if planted at the right time of the year, including tulips and daffodils. However, many bulbs from temperate climates can't cope with Florida's heat, humidity, and "soil." Bulbs from the southern hemisphere, particularly from South Africa, do very well here. I don't mean this to be a comprehensive list, but here goes with the bulbs I have grown in my garden, with some comments on their performance:
  • Ranunculus asiaticus (Persian buttercups): Plant as soon as cool weather starts. I remember reading somewhere that the name means little frog (rana in Latin). That might incline you to believing that they grow in marshy, wet soil (which would be entirely wrong -- they're actually sold as xeriscaping bulbs); I think the name more likely comes from their star-shaped, crinkled rhizomes, which look a lot like little frogs. I planted these in too shady a spot this year, and by the time they bloomed, we started to have our typical intermittent heat waves. Still, I had several dozen lovely blooms for a small investment. Next year -- rich soil, full winter sun, plant in early November.
  • Dahlias: This is my first year growing them, as many gardeners and books had instructed me that they don't grow here. Nonsense. The trick for me at least was to plant them (in full sun and fairly rich soil) at the beginning of February: They started to bloom in mid-April. There was the risk that a late frost might have killed them, though. I bought cheap, generic tubers from Lowes, but have been very happy -- I have 6 plants growing, two blooming; the others are too small to bloom now, but might still do so this season. (They are the yellow and burgundy blooms in the photos above.) I mistakenly divided the tubers when I probably should have kept them all together. I predict that these will continue to bloom as long as they are watered well. I'll pull them as soon as it's obvious they are rotting (which they will inevitably do, once the rainy season starts).
  • Dietes (several species): My comments from Daves Garden:
Sturdy, ultra-low maintenance plant here in Central Florida. It grows rapidly -- even very small, one-gallon plants grow within three years to 2-3' or more in diameter.
Grows best in filtered light here in FL (direct sun farther north), but I have it in full direct sunlight in the swale and it's doing well in those tough conditions, though the leaves are not as deep green. Flowers best in sun, but even in full shade it flowers and grows. Blooms in flushes, with large flowers in the cool season and smaller ones when it's hot. Makes a beautiful cut flower, though lasts only one day.
It does self-sow, but the seedlings are easy to recognize and shallow-rooted.
Note: These plants, when large, are VERY difficult to dig and divide. I have dug and divided monster clums of 4' -- it took me more than an hour to pull the plant out of the ground and another hour to cut the plant into manageable clumps. That said, the one large clump produced 10 medium plants that are now filling a bed.
  • I can't praise highly enough the freesia I bought from They have provided a full spring of blooms. In my garden they grow in completely unimproved, though heavily mulched, soil under partial shade. They aren't demanding, don't take up much space with their small, sword-like foliage, and have already put out new growth. They say you can leave them in the ground, and given their relatively low price, I'll give it a shot this year.

  • To be continued...

Stokes Aster

Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis) is another reliably perennial herbaceous (as opposed to a shrub) plant here in Central Florida. When dormant, it looks like fat liriope (which, by the way, is unaccountably pronounced luh-rye-o-pee -- surely the second least predictable pronunciation after kalanchoe, which, trust me, is correctly pronounced (per Greek norms) kal-in-kow-ee).

Anyway, back to Mr. Stokes. Best grown (like most on the perennials here) with some afternoon shade. Mine has been thoroughly abused (replanted twice in the cool season) and continues to thrive. The first year I got, maybe, 10 blooms. This year it's been non-stop blooms for weeks. Makes for an interesting cut flower which lasts for at least three days. The downside (at least through year two) is that the stems are too short for really interesting cuttings: If you were to take a long stem (say 18"), you'd have to sacrifice a bloom in bud. You could do it, but it would be a pity. Maybe next year the plant will put out sufficiently long stems, or sufficiently large that I won't miss the bloom.

It's native here in Central Florida. If that matters to you. I haven't seen any seedlings, but it's clearly divisible: Fat, tangled roots, not unlike (again) liriope. (Liriope is in the lily family, while Stokes Aster is (predictably) in the Asteraceae.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Grandmother Greer's rose

I got this rose from my grandmother's farm in Bardstown, KY as a small, sickly rooted cutting. My grandmother had it growing for fifty years, up a bell pole on the farm; planted in that red clay, it's wonder it grew as well as it apparently did. (That bell now lives in Florida, too. I have a 'Don Juan' and 'Prosperity' growing up its pole now. My mother tells me that the bell was only rung in emergencies; my son and daughter, on the other hand, ring it nearly every week, just to delight in the sound. When I mounted it a few years ago, I noticed that it was a school bell, with the year and PS number carefully etched onto the inside. I should have jotted down that information, since now 'Don Juan' is tangled up inside the bell's skirt.)

I don't ever remember seeing this rose in bloom on the farm, but my mother says that some years it was a blanket of pink.

A few years ago, I planted the Greer rose at the base of our gazebo, on a lattice. It's ambled its way up onto the roof, mixing it up with several R. laevigata that I planted there. The roof gets well above 130 degrees in July, so you know these are tough roses. They've formed a dense mat of canes from which new, vertical growth arises. It's vigorous -- I have a tough time keeping it tied up, and new basal canes are always erupting upwards and outwards.

The R. laevigata hasn't bloomed yet. I don't know this for certain, but my guess is that laevigata only blooms on old canes -- apparently older than two years. I hope to see some blooms next spring.

Today, for the first time, I noticed these tiny pink blooms growing on the roof of the gazebo. I almost missed them. I expect that this is just the first of (hopefully) many blooms this season. I don't know when it bloomed in Kentucky, but apparently it's a early summer bloomer here. I wonder what it is?