Chili Thrips: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

IMG_0300We’ve once again reached the worst part of the growing season here in South Florida.

The heat is unbearable, the humidity levels are high and the roses are stressed. To add to the chaos of mid-summer come the chilli thrips, here to put the icing on the cake; but don’t worry there is GOOD news on the way.

Chilli thrips are BAD little bugs that eat the brand new growth on the rose canes. They suck all the water out of new leaves and completely stunt the growth of new shoots and blooms. They do terrible damage to leaves, canes and will usually result in an aborted bud or a deformed bud if you get a bud at all.

They are nearly microscopic and are usually always missed by even the most vigilant gardeners leaving them to question what could possibly be wrong with their rose. The damage is UGLY, and almost looks like chemical burn or some sort of chemical damage, but alas, it’s the tiny chilli thrips doing their work.

I first came across chilli thrips about 5 years ago. I had never dealt with them before, but that year, after a road trip to a specialty rose nursery in Tampa, I seem to have come home with more than just 6 gorgeous bushes. I brought back the dreaded chilli thrip. Either way they were bound to find my garden, but that year I dealt with them for the first time.

I don’t even remember how it was that I finally figured out it was chilli thrips that were damaging my roses. I do know that for a long time I thought it was the South Florida heat suddenly wreaking havoc on my new roses. But eventually I figured it out. Most likely through the now defunct website Garden Web (now Houzz), where I learned so much wonderful info on rose-growing.

After much research, I learned that the only way to get rid of them is to use a product called Spinosad. Spinosad is a natural substance made by a soil bacterium that can be toxic to insects. It is used to control a wide variety of pests, including thrips, leafminers, spider mites, mosquitos, ants, fruit flies and other pests.

Spinosad is organic, so it can be used in organic gardening, but it is still harmful to bees and other beneficial insects. When I do spray, I do it in the evenings after the bees and butterflies have gone in for the day. And, instead of bombing the entire garden with pesticide, I only spray the tips of the rose growth, which is the only place the chilli thrips are found. This way, I limit my entire garden being exposed to the compound.

If you are not a pesticide sprayer, like I sometimes am, there is another, less effective, method to get rid of them. You can cut off the affected growth and put  it in a plastic bag away from your garden. By doing this you will remove about 80% of the population, however there is nothing preventing them from re-infesting the roses. But, this is something you can do as a temporary way to keep them at bay until the cooler months, when chilli thrips disappear with the first cool nights come fall.

My roses are usually looking quite bad by the end of summer either way, from the heat, the black spot and the chili thrips, so some years I don’t do anything at all until fall when I prune them back hard and let the new growth come in without the pressure of pest and disease. In the end it’s not much different than having no roses during the winter months up north.

But if it bugs you like sometimes it does me, use a product containing spinosad such as Monterey Garden Insect Spray or Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew and fight the good fight.





The Garden In Springtime!

Rose_Garden02Every year around the beginning of May my garden is at its peak. I recently few shots of the view of my garden right before the rains came. I’m impressed with my Chrysler Imperial that seems to almost always have blooms nowadays, its exceptionally healthy for a hybrid tea and when its in bloom it adds lots of interest to the garden. Sweet Drift like always, is full of blooms no matter where I plant it.

Rudbeckia and snapdragons also make quite the presence as well as trusty old fashioned impatiens that are hard to find now because of the downy mildew epidemic.  I snagged a few at Lowes when I found them this year.


Chrysler Imperial (the red rose) is probably the best red hybrid tea for South Florida. Other good hybrid teas include Wedding Bells, Pope John Paul II and Grande Dame.

Behind Chrysler Imperial you can see Carefree Wonder, to the bottom right in pink is Sweet Drift and the white one towards the bottom is Prosperity.Rose_Garden09

Plum Perfect with Carefree Wonder behind.


David Austin’s Windermere is happy this spring.


Duchess De Brabant, growing very large and healthy has more buds than blooms but is still gorgeous. Here she is surrounded by pink pentas.


Mrs. B.R. Cant pumps out the blooms. This one can get big, so give her room.


A different angel with one Pat Austin bloom upfront (she’s a baby and just taking off), Chrysler Imperial (red), Heritage (light pink). Then from left to right, Carefree Wonder, Sweet Mademoiselle (the coral orange single bloom) and Plum Perfect. Way in the back you can see B.R. Cant showing off her stuff and Louis Philippe next to some Mexican Petunia.


A large bud from Red Riding Hood is getting ready to bloom to the left and a large white dahlia stands proud to the right.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of the garden looking very nice this spring.

South Florida Rose’s 2017 Rose Awards!

The only thing I love just as much as growing roses, is thinking about my roses. I enjoy passing the time thinking to myself about which roses have done well, which need replacing and which new ones I’d like to try. It’s a calming thought as I drift off to sleep or as I sit in the garden enjoying my coffee, tea or the occasional glass of champagne. No other hobby gives me the joy and satisfaction that my garden brings me, so this year I decided to give out “rose awards” to my favorite roses.

Its been fun just thinking about which roses would win which prize (a prize which of course is all in my head, as I’m the only judge and the only competitors are the roses I grow). But pointing out the roses, even if it’s just to my readers, and myself helps me to plan my future garden. Its wonderful to grow the roses that do well for me and knowing which ones thrive in our challenging climate lets me plan a better garden and helps me look for future roses that may do well because of certain characteristics. So without further ado, I give you the 2017 South Florida Rose Awards!


Most Prolific Bloomer: For the most prolific bloomer we actually have a tie. Both Pat Austin and Sweet Drift take the prize.

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Pat Austin: Pat Austin is rarely without bloom, and once the first flush is over, the buds are already growing for the next flush. Pat is an outstanding rose here. It’s vigorous, healthy and has a nice, habit. It grows as a climber for me, but a very bushy climber with little support. Its blooms nod, which is actually lovely considering she grows 10 feet tall, and the blooms look down at the viewer nicely. She has a very unique fragrance that’s all her own. I have no idea how to describe it, but it’s pleasant and like no other rose I grow. Her only fault is that the blooms do not last long neither on the bush nor in the vase. However she is an excellent garden plant and will bring show stopping beauty to the garden. Pat is an overall; winning rose here in South Florida. Mine grows on Fortuniana purchased at Cool Roses in West Palm Beach.

Sweet Drift Rose

Sweet Drift Rose, a very prolific bloomer in South Florida

Sweet Drift: Sweet Drift is the baby pink rose from the ever popular Drift Rose Series by Star Roses & Plants. Sweet drift is my best performing rose by far. Anywhere I put it, it thrives. Even if its in partial shade, Sweet Drift pretty much out performs all the other roses, including all the other drift roses in the garden. I currently lost count on how many I grow because I have them in every little corner where a large rose wont fit. Sweet drift blooms continuously to the point where it is never without blooms. It has a compact, spreading habit that is perfect for a border or ground cover. It is disease free, never loosing its leaves even in the dead of summer. It’s a no-fail, bulletproof rose in our climate. If you are new to growing roses, Sweet Drift will not fail you.

Wedding Bells produces some of the largest blooms in my South Florida garden

Wedding Bells produces some of the largest blooms in my South Florida garden

Largest Bloom: Wedding Bells

This was a tough category to decide because in cooler weather many of the roses can produce much larger blooms than they do in the heat of summer. However, Wedding Bells takes the cake for constantly pumping out large blooms with lots of substance. The blooms are also slow opening and last long in the vase. Wedding Bells is a wonderful rose for many reasons, including its vigor, health and willingness to bloom.

Other contenders that did well in this category were Evelyn, Teasing Georgia and Dames De Chenonceau. But Wedding Bells’ constant production of large blooms takes the prize.

Runner Up: Dames De Chenonceau


Best Disease Resistance: Wedding Bells/Sweet Drift

Again we see these two fabulous roses in the winners circle. It’s no coincidence that the healthier the rose is, the better it will bloom. Both of these varieties grow without disease in our no-spray garden, which is practically unheard of. Both perform well, but are used for very different places in the garden. Wedding Bells is a large bush with very large blooms, while Sweet Drift is a miniature ground cover that stays low and has small blooms the size of a quarter. However both are practically indestructible in my garden.

Runner Up: Earth Angel

Earth Angel offers excellent disease resistance and vigor.

Earth Angel offers excellent disease resistance and vigor.



Plum Perfect

Plum Perfect’s beautiful purple blooms grow easily on a healthy, prolific shrub.

Most Unique Color: Plum Perfect

Plum Perfect is perfect in every way. This rose has grown well for me on its own roots, in a no spray garden. It blooms profusely and has the most beautiful shade of plum-purple blooms. For a rose with such amazing color, its wonderfully healthy and vigorous. Plum Perfect is truly a superb rose and I’ve yet to even try it on Fortuniana. Its only fault being that it takes a break from growing in the summer and it has no fragrance. But it makes up for it the rest of the year.

Runner Up: Pat Austin

Teasing Georgia Rose

Teasing Georgia is one of my most vigorous growers.

Most Vigorous: Teasing Georgia

Never have I had a rose so willing to grow as Teasing Georgia. This David Austin rose grows with very little help on my part and will send out long, strong shoots with healthy leaves. Its only fault may be that it’s more bush than bloom, but when it does produce its blooms, they are fantastic. This easy to grow yellow rose is a rarity as most yellow roses are riddled with disease and lack vigor, so a yellow rose that is so eager to grow is worth its weight in gold in South Florida.

Runner Up: Wedding Bells

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Most Beautiful Bloom: Dames de Chenonceau

Beauty of bloom is so subjective, but for me this Delbard rose has the most beautiful blooms in my garden. I’m not sure what it is about it, whether it’s the large size of each bloom, the amount of petals, or the fact that sometimes the stamens show through the petals, but definitely the shade of pink catches my eye. It’s the warm salmon pink with the center leaning towards yellow that makes me swoon. If only she bloomed more often and had better disease resistance, she’d be my #1 rose.

Runners Up: Spirit Of Freedom, Evelyn

Evelyn is the winner for most fragrant rose.

Evelyn is the winner for most fragrant rose.

Most Fragrant: Evelyn

Evelyn is my most trusty rose for fragrance, but I love this rose for many other reasons too. Not only is she vigorous and a prolific bloomer, but her blooms are large, fragrant and last well in the vase. She has it all. Evelyn is truly a perfect rose and my most deliciously fragrant. Mine grows on fortuniana.

Runner Up: Nahema


Best Growth Habit: Sweet Drift

For me Sweet Drift has the best growth habit. Its always full from top to bottom, never has leggy growth or long gangling arms and always stays compact. If only all roses grow like she does.

Runner Up: Bordeaux


Bliss, although new, shows every sign of being a great rose.

Bliss, although new, shows every sign of being a great rose.

Most Promising New Rose: Bliss

One of my most recently planted roses that seems to be a real winner is the Kordes rose Bliss. This rose came as a tiny half-gallon rooted cutting back in September. After being planted in the garden she immediately took off. She lived through the fall with out a speck of disease, which is the most trying time in my garden. Yet she thrived and bloomed profusely. To this day she’s grown well, healthy and has bloomed incredibly well for a rose so small. Not only that, the blooms are large and tough lasting and lasting both in the vase and on the bush. If this rose continues to grow like this, it will be one of my top performers hands down.

Runner Up: Summer Memories


And now we present the best roses in each color for your South Florida garden:

Chrysler Imperial roses

Chrysler imperial rose is one of the best reds for South Florida

Best Bright Red: Chrysler imperial

If you like the hybrid tea form, there is no other red like Chrystler Imperial. This traditional HT shaped rose is tough, disease resistant and fragrant. No other red hybrid tea has performed as well for me as Chrysler Imperial. The rose was named after the automobile in 1954. Mine grows on fortuniana.

Runner Up: Louis Phillippe

(Note: Louis Phillipe is by far a more vigorous and better growing rose for South Florida, however, its not quite red and the blooms are small and somewhat plain)



Kordes' Bordeaux Rose is an easy care choice for South Florida

Kordes’ Bordeaux Rose is an easy care choice for South Florida

Best Deep Red: Bordeaux

This newer rose by Kordes has been a tough contender in the red department. The coloring is more of a deep red than a bright red, more like the wine for which it was named after. But the vigor, disease resistance and ease of care has put this rose on the list for best red. If you want an easy to grow deep red rose with beautiful, old-fashioned blooms. Try Bordeaux.

Runner Up: Darcey Bussell


Pope John Paul II Rose

Pope John Paul II is by far the best white rose for South Florida.

Best White: PJPII

I usually prefer the old fashioned rose shape like the English roses by David Austin, however, there has been no better performing white rose in my garden as Pope John Paul II. This rose blooms profusely and can have very large blooms in the cooler months. It has decent resistance to disease and can be grown without spraying if given good morning light and air circulation. As an added benefit, the blooms have a lovely fragrance and make a good cut rose.
Runner Up: Windermere


Best Pink: Wedding Bells

What can I say? Wedding Bells is just a superb rose. I love my Austins, but none has grown as strong and as healthy as Wedding Bells. This rose is virtually indestructible, even during chili thrip season she thrives. I can’t say that about any other pink, even the famed Belinda’s Dream pales in comparison.

Runner Up: Spirit Of Freedom


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Best Dark Pink: Vincent Godsiff

Vincent Godsiff is a semi-double china rose (sometimes referred to as a Bermuda rose) that grows well on its own roots here in South Florida. It blooms profusely and has strong, vigorous growth. Although it may get some black spot and loose its leaves, it continues to grow, and bloom without fail. The blooms are a lovely shade of deepest pink and have interesting veining. They also last remarkably well in the vase for such a dainty looking rose.

Runner Up: Mrs. BR Cant


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Best Pale Pink: Duchess De Brabant

Duchess de Brabant, also known as the Teddy Roosevelt rose, is an exceptional rose in every way here in South Florida. Not only does she grow well on her own roots without the need for sprays, she constantly pumps out the most dainty baby pink blooms in the garden. Almost always in bloom, Duchess is an easy care rose that will cover a fence or eyesore in about 2 years time with very little care.  This is one of those roses that make you wonder why its not growing in every South Florida garden.

Best Apricot: Evelyn

Evelyn, as I mentioned before, is an extraordinary rose. Relatively healthy, its her vigor that makes her thrive here. The blooms are nearly always perfectly formed which says a lot for a rose. Not only that, she is fragrant, gorgeous and wonderful in the vase.

Runner Up: Bliss (still in review)


Best Orange: Pat Austin

No other orange rose has ever compared to the profusion, beauty and vigor of Pat Austin. Its overall one of the best performing roses in South Florida despite the fact that its orange, and it will most likely be the best orange rose you have ever grown in our climate.

Runner Up: Summer Sun (still in review)


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Best Multicolor: Dick Clark

There are not very many hybrid tea roses that thrive in our climate. Sure, you can grow nearly any Hybrid Tea rose with lots of pampering and spraying, but that’s now how we like to garden here at South Florida rose. Our goal is to recommend and grow roses that need little pampering and give lots of rewarding blooms in return. Dick Clark is one of the few Hybrid Tea roses that does this. Yes it will black spot in the most humid times of the year, but it will also keep growing and blooming year round. The blooms start off deep maroon and fade to bright pink with yellow in the centers. No two blooms are alike; and with a good amount of disease resistance and vigor, Dick Clark is a truly wonderful rose for Florida.

Runner Up: Summer Sun (still in review)


Best purple: Plum Perfect

I find it perplexing that Kordes roses are not more commonly grown, not just around here in Florida, but in all parts of the humid South. Kordes has been working harder on disease resistance as their number one trait in a rose than any other breeder. No wonder they are well ahead of the game when it comes to healthy, easy care roses.

Plum Perfect is a relatively new Kordes rose that has been turning heads not only for its beautiful purple blooms, but for its health and vigor. Purple roses are not easy to come by and this rose has not only achieved a truly plum colored rose (not one fading to pink as so many others do), but it has succeeded in doing so on a vigorous, prolific, healthy rose that grows well on its own roots and has a nice bushy habit. What more could anyone ask for in a rose?

Runner Up: Violets Pride


Best yellow: Teasing Georgia

A multiple South Florida Rose award-winner, Teasing Georgia is a rose that took me by surprise. After planting it about a year and a half ago as an own root, two-year-old plant (meaning the plant is about 4 years old now), Teasing Georgia has taken off and wowed me. It didn’t set a single bloom in its first year in my garden, but spent a good long while putting down roots and becoming established. This year, she took off and started shooting out large canes with big yellow blooms on the end. Teasing Georgia is a true climber, but can be grown as a shrub with strong pruning. I currently have two in my garden, one as a climber/rambler and one I am training as a large bush. The bush has bloomed less (due to all the pruning) but is a stronger growing plant. The climber has bloomed more and has produced some of the most scrumptious yellow blooms I have ever seen. Over all, this rose is a true winner. Yes, it will take time to establish and it’s a large rose (more rose than bloom at this point) but I bet, like most Austins, it will only get better with age. Still, it has the best yellow roses and is the healthiest growing yellow in my garden. The gorgeous blooms make up for its few faults.

Runner Up: Golden Fairy Tale


Prosperity Rose

Best Climber: Prosperity

On the list for best climbing rose, Prosperity takes the cake. Prosperity blooms continuously and produces more blooms than any other climber in my garden. She’s also a very well behaved climber producing lots of bloom on a relatively compact plant for a climber. Mine grows on fortuniana and I’m interested in getting Pink Prosperity, a sport of Prosperity with pale pink blooms, in the future.

Runner Up: Spirit Of Freedom

There you have it, the best performing roses for 2017. Cant wait to see what 2018 brings!






Roses In Bloom

Here are a few shots of some lovely blooms that I was able to salvage between rain showers (most have rain drops still on them). It started raining about two weeks ago and pretty much has not stopped. Luckily the roses seem to be loving all the extra water and most have stood up well to the torrential downpours.


My First Rose Show

Last month a rose-loving friend of mine came by to visit my garden and pick up a few extra roses that I wanted to get rid of but send to a good home. After a fun tour of the garden and lots of rose talk, she encouraged me to go to the Greater Palm Beach Rose Society’s spring rose show that was being held in a few weeks. I was hesitant, but decided I would wait and see what the garden provided the weekend of the show and if I felt I had something nice, I would go ahead and participate.


A bucket of blooms sit in preparation for the rose show.

A few weeks later, the garden was booming. Its been the best year for roses in my garden. After so many years, so many struggles and lots of learning, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of this rose growing business. By Thursday afternoon, I started walking around looking at what might make good candidates for the rose show. I quickly started getting excited and even a little nervous, but the garden provided, so I went forward.

That Friday morning I got up early and grabbed a big bucket filled it with water and Chrysal (flower preservative) and got cutting. I’ve never done a rose show before, but I knew I should cut stems as long as possible, focus on the most perfect flowers and leave anything that was deformed, small or was passed its prime. The show flyer my friend had sent me in the mail had indicated there would be ten categories in the competition as follows:

  • Class 1 – Hybrid Tea, one bloom per stem at exhibition stage
  • Class 2 – Fully Open Hybrid Tea, one bloom per stem, with stamens showing
  • Class 3 – Old Garden Rose one stem, one bloom is at exhibition stage for that variety
  • Class 4 – Shrub Rose, one bloom per stem at exhibition stage
  • Class 5 – Climbing Rose, one bloom per stem at exhibition stage
  • Class 6- Old Garden Rose floating in bowl no foliage permitted
  • Class 7 – Floribunda, one single bloom, or a spray of at least two blooms, at exhibition stage, on one stem
  • Class 8 – Shrub Rose Spray, one stem of at least two blooms, at exhibition stage
  • Class 9 – Spray Rose – One stem with a minimum of 2 blooms at exhibition stage. Any class or variety of rose, except shrub or floribunda, may be entered
  • Class 10 – Most Fragrant Rose, one bloom per stem, any class or variety

Knowing this I kept an eye on which roses would work well for each category and cut accordingly. The roses immediately went inside my air conditioned home and were kept safe out of reach of children and small animals (our 2 dogs). I would have kept them in the refrigerator, but there were no room for my blooms in there, so no luck. The next morning I woke up bright and early for one last walk through the garden to see if there were any more contestants for the show. I grabbed a few more entries and headed for the show.

The rose show was being held at Mounts Botanical Gardens; a beautiful and well-maintained garden, which alone is well worth the visit. Some of the roses didn’t hold up very well and were left on the cutting room floor, while others looked even more beautiful when I arrived in Palm Beach about an hour later.

2017 GPBRS Spring Rose Show

Toro sits proud among other perfect blooms at the Greater Palm Beach rose show.

For category 1, Hybrid Tea, I ended up bringing a couple of Chrysler Imperials; only one of which could be entered, as only one entry of each variety is allowed. I brought 2 large Toro blooms that were quite impressive, and one Peace bloom, which really was not up to standard, but alas. It ended up looking rather pathetic next to the others in the end, but this was all in good fun either way. You live, you learn.

For Category 2, Hybrid Tea Fully Open, I brought a fully opened bloom of Pink Peace it was very pretty, but the stem was not very long and in the end it was just dwarfed by some of the bigger, longer blooms. I could really see now why long stems and big healthy leaves make such an impact.

For Class 3, Old Garden Rose, I brought a few stems of Duchess De Brabant but did not enter any. My bush was in full bloom and had provided many nice options for me to choose from, so I took a few to decide on the best one once I was there. I ended up entering my largest bloom into the floating bowl category (class 6).

For Category 4 Shrub Rose, I had many entries, as shrubs are my specialty and my favorite kind of rose to grow. I brought a very large and very beautiful blossom of Princess Alexandra of Kent, which was a huge surprise because my bush has never provided much in terms of extraordinary blooms. I also entered one very nice, large bloom of The Ancient Mariner, and one bloom of The Endeavor, that was really passed its prime, but was still very pretty.

2017 GPBRS Spring Rose Show

Collette rose competes for best climber.

In class 5 Climbing Rose, I brought a beautiful bloom of Colette (albeit somewhat small) and a very large and somewhat messy bloom of Papi Delbard. The winner ended up being a large and beautiful bloom of Don Juan, which is no surprise as Don Juan is very impressive.

2017 GPBRS Spring Rose Show

Duchess De Brabant floating in a bowl turned out to be the big winner!

For category 6 Old Garden Rose In a Bowl, I was planning on using Duchess De Brabant as I was unsure if Austin roses would be counted as OGR’s or as Shrubs. As it turns out they are counted as Shrubs. I almost didn’t enter this category as I was torn between category 3 or floating the bloom in a bowl. At the very last minute I floated it in a bowl because there were only 2 other roses in the category. It did look very pretty. This must have been the correct choice as it ended up winning best in show!

For Category 7, I brought a spray of Sunflare and then ended up accidentally entering it in the wrong category. (More on that later)

2017 GPBRS Spring Rose Show

The Fairy (large spray in top center) took the prize for best spray rose.

In Class 8, I had 4 entries. I entered a small spray of Sweet Drift, a large spray of The May Flower, and an even larger spray of The Fairy (the winner!) I also accidentally entered my spray of Sunflare into this category when it should have gone in the class above since it is a floribunda (oops).

For category 9, I had no entries

For class 10 I had a few entries. I entered Grande Dame, Princess Charlene De Monaco (which did not win, but did get a lot of attention) and Beverly. All of these were very fragrant and held their fragrance well. I really enjoyed this category, as going around smelling all the entries was my favorite part of the show. In the end Double Delight took the prize and it was well deserved.

2017 GPBRS Spring Rose Show

The 2017 Greater Palm Beach Rose Show

This was an informal rose show. They did not have official ARS judges. Roses were judged by the visitors who came to observe them and casted votes for their favorites by putting beads into a cup for each category. This had its benefits in that it was a lot less stressful for me as a first time participant. It made it much more relaxing and fun. However, I was a bit disappointed in that I didn’t get to learn how the real judging works, nor did I get to meet any real ARS rose judges. That being said, I don’t think rose growing will ever be that formal down here in South Florida, so it may not be a bad thing. There just is not enough interest in this amazing hobby and I plan to change that, even if it’s single-handedly. But there were still so many amazing things to come out of this rose show that I will be sure to return every year.

Not only did I have a wonderful time at the rose show, I got to explore the gardens, take in a pruning demonstration and even joined the Greater Palm Beach Rose Society. Winning my first rose award was exciting, but the most exciting experience of it all was meeting people who were just as passionate about growing roses as I am.

Ladybugs, Monocultures and Biodiversity!

I first got into rose gardening when my mother brought me a small, unlabeled polyantha rose in a pot as a gift when I bought my first house (and had my first garden). I later found out this trusty rose was The Fairy. It grew easily, flowered often and was no fuss. No wonder I fell in love with roses. I thought I would have the same success with all roses. Little did I know the battle I was headed for.

That one little rose bush brought the first ladybugs into my new, emerging garden. I knew very little about gardening back then, and even less about roses, but the gardening bug had bitten me and I was soon buying all sorts of potted plants and was obsessed with anything that bloomed. Soon, I not only had beautiful blooms; I had many of the pests that came along for the ride. The first insects I remember fighting with were aphids. These little green men where attacking the buds on my hibiscus blooms. I remember asking a fella at the Home Depot why my flowers were deformed and he recommended I use a Bayer All In One granule product to get rid of the aphids that were causing the issue. Of course looking back I have to laugh! That’s like using an atomic bomb to try to get rid of a mouse living in the wall. But unfortunately, that’s what I did, and before I knew it. I had more pests and more problems. I added more pesticide, and the cycle kept repeating itself. I had fewer bees, fewer butterflies and no birds visiting my garden. Yet the pests seemed out of control.

I wasn’t until years later, that I realized what I was doing. By using these pesticides, not only was I getting rid of the aphids, I was getting rid of their natural predators in the garden. This was also getting rid of the birds that ate these predators and any other insects. I was ruining the entire ecosystem! I remember going to a new home improvement store that opened up in my neighborhood and being really excited about checking out their new garden section, only to find the entire “gardening” section consisted mostly of pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers. “When did gardening become about killing insects?” I thought to myself. I was horribly disappointed that this is what most people focused on when growing ornamentals. It was what I had done too, and it was sad. I decided to try something new.

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Roses are surrounded by other plants such as mums, dahlias, and Four O’clocks in order to bring diversity to the garden.

The English have always insisted that we as Americans grew roses in an odd way. Recently on the April 2nd issue of the Rose Chat Podcast and interview with British rosarian Michael Marriott brought up the issue of how we in America tend to grow roses by themselves in beds spread far apart (for good air circulation, I’m sure) and usually with no other companion plants. This creates a monoculture of just one species of plant, which is problematic. Disease and pests spread quickly through a monoculture in this manner and its only asking for trouble. You need diversity in the beds to bring a variety of beneficial insects into your garden. I could not agree more with Mr. Marriott. When he mentioned the term, monoculture, my brain screamed, “YES”, this is exactly what we DON’T want to do.

Ever since I started combining my roses with other annual and perennial plants, I have noticed a much healthier, well-rounded and more diverse garden. At first I thought it was just my imagination because the ‘legginess’ of the rose bushes were naturally covered up and it just gave the garden more appeal. But it’s more than just aesthetics. The diversity brings variety to the garden. It brings a variety of insects, pollinators and predators as well as helping fend off disease. Stronger plants defend themselves from disease better and the over all affect is a healthier garden.


Beneficial insects such as this dragonfly are now common visitors to the garden.

If you leave them, they will come…

I would not have believed it myself had I not seen it with my own two eyes. I always thought, “well that might very well work up north, but here in Florida we have too many insetcts, too much disease pressure, etc”. Yet when I finally stopped the madness of the pesticides, and brought in some variety into the garden beds, it happened.

First I had an infestation of aphids. Oh no! But guess what? The aphids were strictly on the Black Eye Susans and NOT on my roses. Not one aphid was on a single rose bush. I had hundreds of aphids on the tough and sturdy Black Eyed Susans, but none on my roses. I let them be. I didn’t even bother to spray them with the hose. Let them suck on the Susans I thought. At least it keeps them away from my roses. Even then, they were only on the stems and not on the flowers.

Black Eyed Susans bring lady bugs

Black Eyed Susan brings lady bugs to the garden.

Within a couple of weeks I saw an amazing site! Those same aphid-covered Susans were now covered in ladybugs. LADYBUGS! I had not seen a ladybug in my garden in years and now I had 2, 3, no 4, 5, 6 ladybugs of all shapes and sizes crawling all over the Black Eyed Susans. They were on the roses too! And I saw other predatory insects! Dragonflies were everywhere. I even saw a couple of predatory stinkbugs.

I’ve seen more butterflies, bees and beneficial insects in my garden than I have ever seen in all my years of gardening. I also have birds. I have never had birds before, yet now I have birds all over my garden.

I am done with the pesticides and hope that when the chili thrip season comes, I have armed my garden with enough friendly insects to keep them to a minimum. Gardening is not about perfection, nor is it about spraying every insect that comes near your flowerbeds. It is about beauty and diversity, and keeping a good ecosystem going in your garden is key to a healthy, beautiful and wondrous place full of life. And in the end, isn’t that what we want to surround ourselves with when we garden?

See what nature brings to your garden!



Caldwell Pink rose

10 Roses That Should Have A Home In Every South Florida Garden

I’ve been growing Roses in my South Florida garden for over 5 years, and I’m still learning. I learn new things every year but its still very much a challenge in my hot, humid, sandy-soiled, South Florida garden. But having some success, even with many failures, keeps me going. Therefor I decided to pay a little tribute to the roses that have inspired me to continue this difficult albeit highly rewarding hobby. When roses fail to thrive and I feel like giving up, I just think of these beauties that continue to give me joy and know that one day, I can and will have the rose garden of my dreams. Here are the roses that every South Florida gardener should have in their garden:


Easy Does It:

Move over Knock Outs! Easy Does It is the rose for South Florida. It has been my absolute best performer. It’s very much at home in our climate. Grafted on Fortuniana this is one of the few roses that actually performs like a rose should. It has large flushes with multiple blooms, big vibrant blossoms, and disease resistance like no other shrub I have grown. It can actually thrive without a spray program and continues to perform admirably with very little care. If you could only grow one rose in South Florida, this should be it. Even the ever-popular Knock Out series does not compare to the easy care and vigor of Easy Does It. Why this rose is not grown more often around here is just a mystery. Even the chili thrips don’t seem to bother it.


Duchess De Brabant:

Known as an Earthkind rose, Duchess De Brabant is an old garden tea rose that is extremely resilient (not to be mistaken with Hybrid Tea roses), even on its own roots. Earthkind roses were given this classification after vigorous testing proved they could be grown without pesticides. Many of the Earthkind roses do well in South Florida but this one is the best of the lot for our hot, humid climate. Duchess will grow into wide, bushy shrub with lots of globular pink blooms and is essentially care free once established. It blooms in flushes throughout the season and is rarely without flower. Duchess is also known as the Teddy Roosevelt rose as it was said to be his favorite.

Belinda's Dream Rose

Belinda’s Dream Rose is a top 10 rose in South Florida.

Belinda’s Dream:

Another wonderful Earthkind rose, Belinda’s Dream is really a dream for those who wish to grow rose without fungicides. Unlike Duchess De Brabant, Belinda’s Dream produces roses that are very much hybrid tea in form. Its blooms bare a sweet raspberry scent and it makes an excellent cut flower for the vase. This rose does well both on her own roots and on Fortuniana, but will grow much bigger and faster on Fortuniana. She may occasionally get leggy in the early fall, but a light pruning will get her back in shape in no time.


Pat Austin:

Out of all the David Austin roses I grow in my garden. Pat Austin is by far the most carefree one. Grafted on Fortuniana it grows rapidly and steadily, providing tons of bright orange, cupped blooms with a sweet, fruity scent. It will form a large bush with arching canes or can be grown as a small climber where her colorful blooms will nod gently downward. Pat Austin may get some disease, but shakes it off with her rapid growth quickly replacing her leaves and blooming continually. Chili thrips may attack it, but do not seem to slow it down.



Another David Austin rose that does wonderfully here in South Florida is Evelyn. Not only is she vigorous, strong and resistant to disease, she provides some of the largest, most fragrant blooms of all the roses in my garden. Its only downside may be its leggy habit, but grown as a small climber on a fence or trellis will keep it looking attractive and nothing can take away from its sumptuous blooms. This is my absolute favorite rose and growing her on Fortuniana will ensure that it provides years of amazingly fragrant bouquets.


The Drift Series:

The Drift Roses are a collection of small, ground cover roses introduced by Star Roses and Plants. They remain small at about 1.2 feet squared and are wonderful for growing in planters or tucking into the small parts of the garden where a full sized rose would not fit. The best thing about these little guys is they are practically care free once established and they are almost always in bloom. I particularly like Sweet Drift. Its small blooms look like perfect tiny hybrid-teas in deep pink fading to light pink. I find all the drift roses are extremely resilient despite our sandy soil and do well even partial shade. Drift roses should be in every South Florida garden.



Iceberg is probably the most commonly known rose next to the Peace rose. It practically grows wild in the west coast. But, Icebergs do well here in South Florida as well. Few roses are as carefree and bloom as abundantly as the Iceberg rose. Because of its qualities, Iceberg has been an important parent in the rose world; particularly in the breeding of English roses such as Graham Thomas, Heritage and Belle Story. Iceberg also does wonderfully well in a container. Those planted in the ground however, should be grafted onto Fortuniana.



Speaking of English roses. Heritage is one of the best English roses for the South Florida garden, producing lots of blushing pink, fragrant blooms. Heritage prefers morning sun and afternoon shade, and is more shade tolerant than most other roses. Its resistance to disease and vigor make it an ideal rose for our hot, humid gardens. Heritage has even been known to do well on its own roots when grown in well-amended soil.


Don Juan:

Don Juan is another South Florida loving rose that does well in the heat and humidity. It may not be the most consistent bloomer, but it can be left relatively to its own devices and still produce large, deep red blooms with little or no care. However, when given a bit of TLC, Don Juan will reward you with a gorgeous show. This climbing rose does adequately on Dr. Huey rootstock, but will be a better performer if grafted on Fortuniana.



A strong and vigorous rose that is very compact and well behaved, Europeana has some wonderful attributes that make it a good choice for the South Florida garden. An ample bloomer with good vigor, it keeps on going even if black spot does infect its leaves. Europeana makes a great tree rose and is well suited for containers. If grafted on Fortuniana, Europeana is bound to give you years of cheerful color in a compact, well-rounded shrub.

We hope that you enjoyed our list of great roses for South Florida. These 10 roses are sure to do well with basic care and even perform admirably with a little TLC. They are easy to grow and thrive in our heat and humidity. Some take a while to really start showing their best but all are well worth the wait. Give them a try!


Snapdragons In South Florida


Snapdragons are tall beautiful flowers that are wonderful for cutting and come in a variety of colors. Yet they are usually grown in cooler climates, most of which are not well suited for South Florida. There are however certain hybrids of snapdragons that do quite well here and will produce blooms for a long season. You just need to know the right ones to grow.

The first thing you need to know about growing snapdragons in our area is that the tall ones never do well here. Tall varieties of snapdragons need cool temperatures for a long time to reach their heights of up to 4 feet. This is something we cannot provide for them, even in our coolest winters. However, dwarf and trailing types do well here and many are well worth growing.

Garden centers and nurseries usually offer a few snapdragons for the South Florida gardener in mid winter, but the choices are very limited so learning to grow them from seed is a great way to bring more variety to the garden. The key is knowing what varieties to sow.

As mentioned before, most tall Snaps wont do well here in South Florida. Warm days and nights causes them to be weak-stemmed and floppy; and even if they do bloom, the flowers are stunted and short. Look for the dwarf or knew-high snaps. These come to bloom faster and some are quite heat tolerant allowing for a longer bloom season. Swallowtail Garden Seeds offers a large variety of dwarf and knee high-snaps that are sure to be successful in your garden.


The Aromas Series: These above all have performed the best for me. They are easy to grow and have a uniform bloom (meaning they all bloom at the same time) to create a beautiful show. They are particularly heat tolerant blooming well into June and sometimes even surviving the summer and blooming again in the fall. These are by far the best snapdragons we have ever grown and they are well worth the extra price for premium seed. As an added bonus, they are exquisitely fragrant and, like all snapdragons, can last well over a week in the vase. Available at Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Twinny Snapdragons

The Twinny Series: Here is another winner. These may not be a suitable for cutting but they make excellent bedding plants that bloom profusely and cover themselves in 2-inch, uniquely-double blooms. These are not the traditional tall flower but have more of a ground-cover habit that is attractive along borders or in planters. They are available in softer shades of pink, peach, apricot and white as well as ‘apple blossom’ and ‘bronze’. Available at Park Seed.

Arrow Snapdragons, Snapdragons

The Arrow Series: This is another great choice, especially if you are looking to add a wider color palate to your snapdragon bed. These are a little less heat tolerant than the Aroma series however so you may want to time them so that they get their start in the coolest weeks of the year. And be sure they have adequate water until well established. Arrow seeds can be found at Stokes Seed Co. and come in a variety of lovely colors.

Sowing Snapdragon Seeds:

Snapdragon seeds need light to germinate so place the seed on pre-moistened growing medium and do not cover them or spray them with water. They also need temperatures in the mid 70s to get going so you’ll need to wait until the weather cools a bit to sow them. To get an early start on the season, start them in an air-conditioned closet where they can be kept relatively cool. You’ll need a florescent light spaced just a few inches over the seedlings in order to get them growing happy and avoid legginess and dampening off. You will also need to cover your seeds with clear plastic to allow light in and keep humidity high. Learn more about seed starting here (coming soon!).

Happy Growing!



English Rose bed

A New English Rose Bed


I’ve wanted to build a rose bed in the front yard for a while now, but never had quite decided how to go about it as we have a large grassy patch in the front yard and digging it up wasn’t an option (according to my husband). He did however give me the idea of making a large round bed around a Royal Palm we have growing in the front yard.

At first I was hesitant. The palm’s root system would interfere with the roses’ and would probably take all the nutrients etc. But then it occurred to me that I could build a deep raised bed with a retaining wall and keep the roses roots far above the ground level. This would have two advantages. Besides avoiding the palm roots, they could be planted in an excellent soil mix that was full of nutrients and much better than our sandy soil native to South Florida (even when mixed with conditioners and enhancers the sandy soil looses nutrients quickly). Secondly it would provide excellent drainage and great air circulation, as they would be a few feet off the ground. I immediately jumped at the idea.

Memorial day weekend was coming and I knew I would spend it out working on my new rose bed. I already knew that the roses I wanted in that bed would be English Roses. I have developed a passion for the plump old rose form slowly over the years and found that no rose brings me as much joy and happiness as the David Austin roses, and having had much luck with my Pat Austin, Claire Austin, Evelyn and Shepherdess bushes made me an even bigger fan.

Austins are not usually found around here so I knew I would have to get them by mail order (and it would cost a fortune), so I figured I would have to create my rose bed over time. It’s not the best planting season for roses here either, as its already warm and too late in the season to start bare roots. I also wanted most of my roses to be on Fortuniana if possible, or on their own roots at the very least since Dr. Huey doesn’t fair to well down here and some of my roses have done quite well on their own roots. David Austins on fortuniana are very hard to come by and my only sources (K&M and Cool Roses) had pretty much sold out of every variety I was interested in, so it seemed like my rose bed would be very slow to get going if I wanted it all to be English Roses and I’m not that patient.

I decided to stop by my local Lowes to check out what they had in stock. Lowes, has a funny way of getting rare roses in stock once in a while and they carry some of the Kordes roses that have the old fashioned form I’m fond of (Summer Romance, First Crush and the Fairy Tale collection come to mind). I figured I could make a mix of some of the DA’s I already had growing in pots and other roses I had easier access to, to make a mixed bed. To my shock and surprise, they had a huge collection of English Roses that had just arrived. I had never seen DA roses for sale in South Florida. Not even bare root. Ever!

Many of these were mislabeled and it seemed to me like there may have been some sort of mix up, but I took the lot. They were extremely affordable and I didn’t have to pay shipping or wait until next season to get my rose bed. I was thrilled! To top it all off, the manager was kind enough to give me a discount since I purchased so many roses. Like my husband said to me when I got home: “Everything is coming up roses”.

To my delight, most of them were on their own roots and many were correctly labeled. Others I was able to identify by bloom and even though some are still unidentified, I am certain they are all English Roses and I’m confident I will be able to ID them once they bloom.

Here is my rose bed in all her glory! Of the roses I am certain of, the varieties here are:

Alnwick Rose (multiple), Scepter D’Isle (multiple), Jubilee Celebration (at least one), Eglantyne (3 or 4), Huntington Rose (2), Charlotte (multiple), Winchester Cathedral (at least one) and Queen of Sweden (2). All are in the pastel color range, which is what I wanted and of the few that were unidentified one may be Carding Mill and one may be Crocus Rose.

All of the Charlottes went in the back as that is the variety I had most of, then I interchanged between Scepter, Alnwick and Eglangyne leaving Huntington on the borders as it has a somewhat drooping habit and Queen Of Sweden clumped together (it has a tendency to be tall and thin) to form one larger looking bush.

I still had space for a few more, so I planted my new Olivia Rose front and center along with my Boscobal and my Belle Story. I adore all three of these varieties and put them front and center facing my house to create a little excitement in the rose bed.

I usually don’t have huge flushes like they do in the spring in cooler climates, but I hope to keep these roses clean and well fed in order to make the most of them. I’m extremely thankful to my hubby who helped me organize this rose bed and cannot wait to see all the lovely blooms.

Below are some pics of the roses and the bed as its come to life. The bees and butterflies have already discovered the roses and seem to be as thrilled as I am.