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Roses are red, and symbolize love

February 11, 2011
By JOYCE COMINGORE, Garden Club of Cape Coral

Roses are red and violets are blue, for Valentine's Day they give you a clue

What do you give for a Valentine's gift? Most say chocolates and red roses. You help eat the chocolates and let her smell the roses, only modern long stem roses have had the fragrance bred out of them. The perfect long stem red roses with tight buds are the usual picture of which most people think about, symbolizing love. Not many people I know can grow these in their gardens.

I am not here to tell you I'm an expert on the most popular flower in the world, for centuries - roses. I've tried.

When I first started my garden, I had the audacity to put my bushes out in my front yard. Tea roses, even, I bought them grafted onto fortuniana rootstock. This is must for roses grown here in Southwest Florida. Some people like Dr. Huey rootstock, but, most growers like fortuniana. Research at the University of Florida has shown roses grafted onto fortuniana rootstock grow larger, are more vigorous, produce more flowers and live much longer than any other rootstock, which is needed because of our nematode problem.

I planted two tea roses, one grandiflora and one Louis Phillippe, an old garden rose variety on its own rootstock that climbed the front of my house over the garage. I bragged to my neighbor and he said, "We'll see." They lasted three years. And that was about all the time my attention span could stay on top of their needs.

I'm your basic, survival of the fittest gardener. They eventually have to leave my tender care and survive on their own - any plant. Now if I feel like tending to roses and enjoying their beauty, I go to the Rose Garden in front of the Historical Society on Cultural Boulevard. Twice a week, volunteers from the Garden Club of Cape Coral go there to weed, mulch, prune, deadhead, spray, fertilize and water, led by two very dedicated rose lovers, Barbara Salafia and Linda Keirstead. I salute the two of you!

I can give you some of the facts, folks, but the time and dedication is up to you. KINGDOM, Plantae-DIVISION, Magnoliophyta-CLASS, Magnoliopsida-ORDER, Rosales-FAMILY, Rosaceae-SUBFAMILY, Rosoideae-GENUS, Rosa.

Roses can be divided into three classes. Species or wild species roses are mostly five petal roses with fruiting hips. The wild species usually bloom once in the summer. Old garden roses cluster with their cabbage rose look, and their delicate beauty and fragrant perfume, that last on their own rootstock, mainly, because they've fought the battle of survival. Often referred as "antique roses," they are great in the home garden. Then there are the modern roses, any rose identified after 1867, the result of crossbreeding the hybrid tea and the grandiflora roses.

Pick a site with at least six hours of sunlight, preferably morning light. This dries the dew and cuts back on fungal diseases. Protect them from salt water, in spray or well water. Amend not only the soil in the hole, but the whole bed, because roots quickly spread beyond the amended hole. The best PH for roses is around 6.5, but anywhere from 5.5 to 7 is acceptable. Good drainage is important, use raised beds when soils are poorly drained.

Plant roses four feet apart, with shrubs top slightly above soil line, because it's going to settle down more into the hole as rains come. Use soaker hoses to water in and keep moisture off the leaves and petals, preventing fungus and the dreaded black spot. I like to use Systemic fertilizer to feed and fight bugs. It does both. Apply a two to three-inch layer of mulch and irrigate for six to eight weeks to establish, keep the flowers cut to encourage renewed flowering on hybrid teas and floribundas. Remove spent blooms, deadheads, by pruning one fourth inch above a branch with a cluster of five leaves. If you can prevent fruit or hips formation, this directs plant energy into new growth and blooms. Remove all suckers below the graft. Keep soil clear of all fallen leaves, carrying them away from plants to keep the area disease free.

Join our local rose society where like minded people compare notes and methods.

There are low-maintenance roses that thrive with minimal care such as the OGRs, old garden varieties, and the newer knock out roses. Knock outs are supposed to be the most disease resistant and are the most widely sold rose in North America.

Being winter hardy, heat resistant and self cleaning so no need to do deadheading, on these clusters of small roses that bloom every 5 to 6 weeks. There are some varieties in the Rose Garden at the Historical Society. Enjoy a stroll there sometime.

Now if we are into gift-giving, a pot of miniature roses is sweet to give, but nothing says lovin' like long stem roses. It saves me time, energy and money to invest in a floral display. I used to manage a floral shop in a grocery store years ago, and when the store manager wanted to impress his wife, he'd buy the dozen long stems, baby's breath, fern and big bow. Later his wife would tell me, the simplicity of a single red rose would have done the trick.

At this time of year, the price is so high, that a vase of three or six with baby's breath and fern can do it.

But we still want to thank a tree. Happy Valentine's Day.

Joyce Comingore is a master gardener, national director of the American Hibiscus Society and Garden Club of Cape Coral member.



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