Hybrid Tea Roses...Anyone? Anyone?
Nancy wants to know if ANYONE grows hybrid tea roses anymore.
Nothing speaks Southern more than a cut glass vase full of homegrown roses. When we first moved to Athens, I visited Jerry & Lewis Scruggs' home on Woodlawn Avenue. During summer months, Jerry always had the most beautiful hybrid tea roses gracefully sitting around their living room. Both she and Lewis were avid rose growers and spent many an hour tending their roses.
Jerry shared with me their pungent recipe for great blooms: To the best of my recollection, I used fish emulsion, Peters fertilizer, epsom salt and several other things. Once a month I mixed it in a big trash can and fed the roses using a pitcher. It smelled to high heaven. Other than that, Lewis or I sprayed them weekly and fertilized them in March and August.
Their love for growing roses was passed down by Lewis' father, Bubber Scruggs. He grew beautiful roses. He taught us how and we spent hours talking about our roses, and what performed for us and what products worked and didn't. In January, you would always find Bubber with the rose calalogue trying to decide what to add to his garden.
Today, Jerry laments not having a rose bed but she can always visit her daughter's lovely garden. Nancy Scruggs Dyleski is following in her parents' footsteps...well, almost. She and her husband, Mark, are of the generation who grow the new Knockout roses....no spraying, no fertilizing and blooms from April to October. It's a lot less stinky that way. This younger generation might just have the answer.
Another past rose gardener in Athens is Jean Argo. She grew hybrid teas roses for at least 25 years but explains one reason why she gave it up. The deer did me in, she says. At one point Jean had 75 hybrid tea roses. She reminisces: It was definitely a labor of love, but the joy of sharing over powered all the work. Still, she also misses her roses, although not all the work.
I first started growing hybrid tea roses 15 years ago and only have two of them left. My favorite English rose, David Austin's Abraham Darby, is still alive, and Tropicana is holding its own. The Spring of 2005 was my best year for blossoms as large as peonies and so fragrant. My father became ill that summer and I had more important things to care for, so my roses suffered.
Before that year, I would feed my roses with a systemic fertilizer every two weeks from March 10 until late October. I also kept soaker hoses on the rose garden and sprayed every two weeks. Pruning time was in February and I usually cut them back rather severely to about 12 inches above the ground. Years ago when Flora Faircloth was growing hybrid teas, she pruned her bushes every July so they would have larger blooms in the Fall. I was always too scared to do that.
Are any rose growers out there now? Real hybrid tea rose growers, I mean. Those who create their own special sludge to bring the roses up? Those who dutifully prune, weed and tend to a finicky rose's every need? I confess, I haven't given my hybrid teas this serious attention in the last 5 years. Is everyone too busy these days?
If you don't have the time or strength to care for hybrid teas, climbing roses are one answer. Georgia's State Flower is the Cherokee Rose, which is easy to grow. It is so prolific that I have started training mine to grow down a fence. Another easy and very fragrant climber is New Dawn. You can see photos of both of these.
While recently looking for more climbing roses, I found the website of Brushwood Nursery www.GardenVines.com. Lo and behold, this is a local nursery, so I took a little ride out Tallassee Road and met with Dan Long, the owner. Their roses are not grafted and are grown on the premises. You will enjoy looking at their website, where they feature a large variety of clematis as well as climbing roses. Please note they only sell from web orders.
For any of you brave enough to tackle hybrid teas,, I have a few suggestions: John F. Kennedy (pure white), Mr. Lincoln (velvet textured red), Queen Elizabeth (pink and grows quite tall), and of course, the all-time favorite, Peace.
J.T. Sanders, Jr., another former rose hobbyist from Charlotte, North Carolina, thinks the most fragrant and beautiful copper-red rose is the Dolly Parton. Mr. Sanders tells me: One blossom will perfume a whole room. We want to know which hybrid tea rose you Southern ladies and gentlemen think is the most fragrant. The fragrance of a rose is perhaps as important as its color or texture. Even my next-door garden apprentice, Molly, at age 2, knows when we cut a rose...the first thing she does is smell it.