full sun gardening

Roses in Central Florida

old blush antique climbing roses

I was born in June and roses are my flower. My babcia had tons of abundant and beautiful climbing huge red roses in her backyard in New Jersey. When I first purchased my 10-acre property near Tampa, Florida, I drove all the way to Eustis north of Orlando to purchase two rose bushes from an antique rosarian. Both are carefree heritage roses (before 1867) on their own root stock. One is Old Blush, a pink China climber rose (1752). The other is Louis Philippe (1834), a crimson China shrub rose with a climbing habait. It is also known as “the Florida cracker rose.” Both are considered “beginner” roses that do well in Florida’s humidity. These were totally neglected for six years and still perform beautifully.

In master gardener classes, we were taught that besides black spot and humidity, nematodes are a big problem for roses here in Florida. For this reason, the roses that grow best here are grafted onto Fortuniana root stock. The second-best option would be own root stock like knock-out, drift, and antique roses. Other root stocks that apparently don’t do well here: Dr. Huey, Multiflora, Odorata, and Manetti… so be on the lookout for the type of roots your potential rose purchases have.

I also have a few knockout roses in a peachy salmon and others in red. I have had the peach ones for at least six years. While they bloom prolifically, the bushes themselves look scraggly at times and the leaves get blackspot in the summer, although right now the leaves are perfect! One of them I transplanted in the middle of June because the lemongrass took it over. I thought for sure it was a goner but, to my amazement, it is alive and well! I do have to cut these back to encourage more branching and to remove dead canes.

knockout rose
knockout rose
planting roses alongside the RV pad
getting ready to plant red knockout roses directly into the Florida sand with some amendment soil at the ready.

Some of my favorite tough and carefree roses are drift roses. They grow 1-2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, great at the front/middle of a border. They have massive clumps of blooms that deadhead themselves and smell heavenly. Here are the coral pink ones in the sun garden.

I also have magenta drift roses and salmon drift roses. Here are white ones at the edge of my moon garden:

drift roses
drift roses
tuteur trellis
newly planted pink drift roses

Well, I have caught the “rose bug” again. I ordered three mutabilis roses from the same farm where I purchased the antique roses 15 years ago. However, they have not been responsive despite having sent a confirmation on the order. Multiple emails to them came back undeliverable over several months. Multiple phone calls and voice mails yielded no response. I waited three months for roses that never came. While we were in Orlando for the Paul McCartney concert, we drove to the rose farm to assess the situation and to take home the three mutabilis.

The farm was a disaster. The landscape roses were all dead and the front yard was horribly overgrown. It was not the same beautiful dream rose and herb farm of the 50-year old woman who had a sparkle in her eye when you talked to her about roses a decade and a half earlier. Back then, she was excited to tell us her story of taking the leap from the corporate world to living her passion gardening herbs and roses. It was now in shambles. The husband was outside having a cigarette quite perturbed we pulled into the driveway of what we had known to be a farm where the public used to be welcomed. When I explained to him that I had waited 3-months for roses I ordered online from them and we lived 2.5 hours away, he simply gave me his phone number and told me he was on lunch break and had to go back in. He said he was unsure of their inventory and his wife was busy. And so we left empty handed. I texted him so he would remember to have his wife call me. She texted once and I never heard from them again…ghosted.

Still on a quest for these fun, colorful shrubs, I searched, and searched, and searched online and everyone was out of stock… except Heirloom Roses in Oregon. I really wanted stock that was born and raised in Florida. I kept checking with a vendor in Newberry near Gainesville but came up empty handed. I became frustrated that these beauties seemed to vanish off the face of the earth (at least in June and July when vendors set their stock to zero not wanting to ship them in 90-degree weather). Some of the vendors said the product was “discontinued” and didn’t explain why. Heirloom Roses are quite expensive (twice the cost of other vendors) but I had no other option. At least, when they arrive, I would have the experience of purchasing from them in August.

I have a design plan in mind that required three bushes but didn’t want to purchase three mutabilis at that price. So, I looked up the best roses for Florida according to the IFAS web site and ordered Mrs. B. R. Cant, Duchesse de Brabant, and Belinda’s Blush from Antique Rose Emporium in Mississippi. Silly me, I got the vendor names mixed up and thought I was ordering from Rose Petals Nursery in Newberry, Florida. Oh well, I will surely make the 2-hour trip up there when the weather cools. I also found another Florida antique rose dealer near Ft. Pierce I would like to visit.

I have so many more roses on my wish list. Here is a list of roses, from my research, that may do well in our humid, sandy, nematode riddled conditions. I haven’t verified all of these myself. These names were researched from IFAS, Florida Rose Societies, and Nurseries in Florida that specialize in growing roses here.

Mrs. B. R. Cant
Rosa laevigata
Don Juan
Maréchal Neil
Belinda’s Dream
Abraham Darby
Dames De Chennonceau 
Caldwell Pink
Mrs. Josephine Schwartz
Spice-Bermuda Mystery
Single Pink
Rugosa Alba
Ebb Tide
Cecile Brünner
Champney’s Pink
Old Blush
Liz’s Charm
Tahitian Sunset
Olivia Rose Austin
Gold Medal
Richard’s Rose
Baldo Villegas
Robin’s Rose
Abby’s Angel
Gartendirektor Otto Linne
Mr. Caleb
Donna’s Grace
Touch of Class
Little Queen
Daddy Frank
Vernon’s Laugh
Julia Child
L.D. Braithwaite
Christopher Marlowe
Sophy’s Rose
Miss Caroline
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Summer Wind

Rosa banksiae
Easy Does It
Pat Austin
Claire Austin
Mademoiselle de Enfert
Mme Alfred Carriere
Monsieur Tillier
Mademoiselle Antoine Mari
Sir Thomas Lipton
Souvenir De St. Anne’s
Midas Touch
Caldwell Pink
Clair Matin
Martha’s Vineyard
Francis Meilland
Dancing Pink
My Lady Barbara
Tin Can Derby
Jewel Grace
The Squire
Shawn Sease
Marijke Koopman
Sister Jane
Big Red
Pete Musser
Bees Knees
Shirley Raye
Maroon Eight
Marie Pavie
Golden Unicorn
Marie Van Houtte
French Lace
Karen Poulsen

Louis Philippe
Rosa rugosa
Catherine Nelson
Duchess De Brabant
Belle Story
Souvenir de la Malmaison
Haynesville Pink
Darrow’s Enigma
Mrs. Dudley Cross
Princs Charlene deMonaco
The Fairy
Maman Cochet
Marlon’s Day
Hanna Gordon
Marilyn Monroe
Veteran’s Honor
Deidre Hall
Pete Musse
Bold Ruler
Grace Seward
Double Delight
Rio Samba
Love Song
Diane Sommers
Frances Dubreuil
Martha Gonzalez
Sally Holmes
Fashion Statement

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