A new year... A new book! Come on in the Water is Fine...

Referring to my new book... "Roses Without Chemicals... 150 disease-free varieties that will change the way you grow roses"

I know this is a book about roses but I thought to start with a metaphorical conversation about swimming and getting in the water.

“Come back in the Water is Fine!” Are you familiar with this phrase?  Can you hear someone in your lifetime urging you to come back into the water?

The above statement makes me think of the movie “Jaws.”  The 1975 Movie directed by Steven Spielberg that certainly made a person think twice (at least it did for me) before going into the water after seeing the movie.  I didn’t even want to put my big toe in the water let alone go swimming!  Do you remember the haunting music by John Williams that even to this day evokes a feeling and image of daunting fear… “dun duh, dun duh… dun dun dun dun dun dun?”  Can you remember the scene of everyone screaming and running from the water because of the danger of this giant man eating shark!

I don’t know about you but for this writer it took a while to have the confidence to go back into the water after seeing the movie.  Is the shark gone?  Does the danger still exist?  Maybe you shared the same feelings of fear, anxiety, doubt?  Maybe you were thinking yes, the water is oh so beautiful to look at, but oh so deadly and terrifying to enter in with those sharks around!

Well, I use the above as a metaphor to explain more about roses… Oh so beautiful to look at, but oh so overwhelming and terrifying to grow them!

Now back to roses…

If I had a penny for every time I have heard the following statement in one form or another many times in my career…  “Yes, I would love to have roses in my own garden but I am afraid that I don’t know how to grow them or (even worse) that I really don’t want to use all the chemicals needed to grow them.”  I would be so rich with all those pennies!

The purpose of this book is to help give confidence back to the home gardener to grow roses again.  With thousands and thousands of roses available on the market over the years, the choice to the home gardener can often be daunting and confusing.  I get that.

“Aren’t all roses alike?” You ask in puzzlement. 

“If I buy a pink one and a yellow one, aren’t they going to grow the same?  Isn’t a rose just a rose… like any other rose?”

Perhaps you like that pink rose?  But is there more to it?  Did you know that maybe that pink rose also had a specific hybridization effort behind it – or no thought behind it at all?

In my many years of purchasing and growing roses, there has always been the desire to find a rose that is better than the one I am growing presently; i.e. the “next best thing.”  Does this sound familiar?  I know some of my friends have this desire with fashion – always wanting the “next best thing.”  I always thought roses are fashionable.  That color can be hot one year and out the next… faddish.  We all have our obsessions I guess!

I smile (and frown) at this because of all of the pretty pictures of roses in all those gardening catalogs that I have looked at over my many years of being a gardener of roses, I have wanted to grow all of them!  Yet, when I find a pretty picture of a rose in a catalog and determine that “I must have that rose or else…” I order it, plant it, cultivate it... love it so much, and yet, it gets disease, is lack luster on any given number of accounts, or worse even... the rose bush dies.

Going back to the fashion reference above, perhaps you have looked at several magazines and catalogs over the years and determined that you just had to have the latest sweater (or shoes)!  And… when you get it home, you love it so much, you wear it the very next day and/or maybe you immediately spill something on it and ruin it forever.  Or maybe it just doesn’t fit right and becomes obsolete.  But… then you go back and buy another sweater in hopes that no stain will ever come near this one!  Ugh, the cycle.

Often times when I am in the rose garden talking with people about roses, one of the first things they will say in the conversation is “they can’t grow roses.”

The conversation begins…

         I respond… “Let me guess, you saw a beautiful picture in a catalog and decided that you must have it?”

         “Yes!”  They reply.

         “And... Once you received that rose in the mail, you planted it, cultivated it, grew it, loved it, cared for it... perhaps did everything but (or including) sing songs to it, and it died?

         “Yes”, this person says.       

         Then I continue “...And, the next year when the catalog comes out again (as in the “Spring (or fall) Collection” in the fashion world), you look at the beautiful pictures again and think “if only...” and go ahead with the temptation and buy it again.  Once you got it in the mail, you planted it, cultivated it, grew it, love it, cared for it... and perhaps this time thought you knew exactly the right kind of music that was good for it (thinking the tunes chosen last year were not right in some way), and yet still... the rose bush died?”

         Again the reply is an even more emphatic “YES!!” 

         This person exclaims… “Peter, This is why I tell you I can’t grow roses!”

Then I reply with a comment something like...

         “It is certainly understandable that you think that you can’t grow roses giving the history you have with them.”

Maybe you never wanted to buy that next sweater.  “It’s just a waste of money and I’m bound to spill something on it again.”  “It is just another sweater.  After all, a sweater is a sweater.  It will get ruined or worn out at some point.”

Here it is common for me to think of the phrase “a rose is a rose, is a rose”  -- to make reference of the Gertrude Stein line in her 1913 poem Sacred Emily.  It is fun to use this phrase when talking with people in the rose garden because what I have learned is that in some version or another, everyone has heard it.  And, lucky for me, the phrase contains the word “Rose.”  But what does it mean?  When you research this phrase from the poem you might come up with the interpretation “Things are what they are.”  And, if you use this interpretation for the rose world... possibly meaning that a rose is... a rose... is a rose... Therefore after all, roses are the same and that is what you get.  So, no matter what pretty picture you look at in the catalog, they are all going to be the same, grow the same, perform the same, etc.

With my many years experience of growing roses, my own particular poetic license or variation on this phrase would be  “A rose is (not) a rose, is (not) a rose.”  (A possible alternate title for this book!)  My purpose of this phrase is to enlighten the American gardener who is buying roses that possibly, just possibly, they are not all created equal! Or, probably the better statement is they are not all created with the same intent.

Let me explain further with a story of hybridization.  Hybridizing roses is the process of crossing one rose with another rose to create a new rose.

Let’s say for example that I want to hybridize roses.  I like the color pink.  Let’s say that my one and only goal of hybridizing roses is to create new pink roses.  So... tapping into my elementary school color wheel for a basic color illustration of my point, I would take a white rose and cross it with a red rose in hopes to get a pink rose?  Or... I would cross a pink one with another pink one with the expectation that I would get a new pink one?  Let’s say for the sake of this discussion that I was successful in these color matchings (or crossbreeds) and that I came up with a collection of new pink roses.  I’m proud of my pink roses.  Pink, pink, lovely pink, everyone should grow my pink roses!

Now, let’s say that you love pink (go figure… but bear with me).  And you express...

         “Peter, I would love to buy some of your pink roses for my garden.”

I am excited for your love of pink roses and agree.  The exchange is made and everyone goes happily ever after. 

THEN... Next year comes around (not so happily ever after) and you call me up and explain…

         “Peter, (or maybe your tone of voice is that slightly higher and the more direct one I knew from my parents whenever I was in trouble)… PETER!  I have a bone to pick with you!  You know those pink roses that you sold me last year?   I’m rather unhappy with them!” 

         I reply…

         “I am so sorry to hear that.  Tell me more about the situation.  I thought you were happy with the pink roses?  What happened?”

         You continue…

         “The pink roses got all kinds of disease and they weren’t very fragrant to say the least!”  “Aren’t all roses supposed to have fragrance?!” 

Of course this is upsetting to you because once you got the rose from me, you planted it, cultivated it, grew it, loved it, cared for it... perhaps did everything but (or including) sing songs to it, and it died.

         And my reply back to you is…

         “I’m so sorry that you are upset about the lack of hardiness, fragrance, and disease resistance; but... really, all I was going for in my collection was the color pink!  I never said anything about anything else such as fragrance or disease resistance.  I never promised you a rose garden… all I promised you was pink!

Here is the point:  Not all roses are created equal or are created with the same intent.  Perhaps the qualities you think are there, all the qualities you desire, just aren’t there.

Going quickly back to the fashion reference… Not all sweaters are created equal.  Some last a lifetime and some don’t even last the season.  Doesn’t it reflect on the quality of the material and intent and skill on the making of the sweater?

There are many reasons and/or goals that roses are hybridized.  In the above example, my reason for hybridizing new roses was to simply to create new pink ones.  That's it.

For another example, some roses are created with flower form in mind.  Maybe the hybridizer likes a certain cupped flower form and has this goal in creating new flowers.

Some roses are created with hardiness in mind.  The hybridizer wants or needs the roses to survive harsh winters. 

With these above two descriptions of “flower form” and “hardiness” you can see that just with these examples of hybridization that they are very different in the effort/intent/goal behind them.

Roses are hybridized for whatever purpose the creator of that rose is going for... or, the hybridizer could be going for nothing at all (more random throw caution to the wind.)  Or, in my example above, just going for “pink.”

This book will help the reader understand that there are some very specific hybridization efforts towards disease resistance and sustainability that allow for success in the garden.  Roses that can be grown without chemicals are the topic of what this book is about.  Of the thousands and thousands (and thousands more over the years) of roses available on the market, I choose to write about the focus of growing the roses you want to grow knowing you have a good chance of success.  Success because of the hybridization effort towards disease resistance or the genetic propensity towards disease resistance -- This is what this book is about.

The other point I want to bring to attention to the reader is that where you live is another factor in determining which roses to buy.  In other words, understanding you particular area of the country and climate region can determine the success of rose growing.  Is it reasonable to understand that the roses that might be successful to grow in Miami might not be successful roses in Maine?  Roses that are great in Texas might not be the best choice for Minnesota.  But… if we can identify roses that are good roses based on region and climate, then we can help the home gardener have greater success based on this theory alone.

In my opinion, it is the understanding of these different specific hybridization efforts that makes the difference in a sustainable rose garden – one of ease of care and maintenance compared to one that requires lots of effort and chemical intervention.

I like to refer to these “new” roses as the “new melllinnial” roses for the new mellinnial rose garden!  (I even thought this would be yet another good title for this book.)  I am defining the “new mellinnial” rose garden to be a rose garden that is filled with roses that don’t need to be sprayed with chemicals.  To coin a current phrase, we are talking about creating a “green” rose garden. (another title?)  Ha!

But now, I want to introduce the idea of the mellinnial rose and these are the roses that this book is mostly about.  The “new mellinnial rose garden” is a phrase that I have created to set up a newer category or better yet, a new era or rose growing.  This “new mellinnial rose” is a rose that, in my opinion, is introduced with the idea that the general gardening public can grow easily and without much chemical need.  These are roses that have been specifically created with disease resistance as a forefront or… they have a proven track record of great disease resistance over the years.  In general, these new modern roses can be grown with ease in the landscape and without chemical intervention.

With apologies to any chemical company, I have to honestly say the phrases “I don’t want to spray” or “I don’t want to use chemicals” are absolutely beyond a doubt, the two most common phrases I hear about the home gardener’s concerns about growing roses.

I do admit that sometimes the right chemical at the right time can help to solve any number of problems in the garden.  And I am most grateful for this.  Unfortunately, for the people that I have dealt with in the public garden arena, what often comes right after these phrases about not wanting to use chemicals is “… therefore, I don’t want to grow roses.  Roses are too difficult to grow.”

Many times I want to say regarding the gardener’s failure in growing roses is that “it’s not your fault!”

This is worth repeating… “It is NOT your fault!”

Pushing the limits of being annoying, can I say it just one more time…

“IT IS NOT your fault!!”

(Ha… yet another title of this book!)

Thank you for letting me get that out of my system but indeed I believe that rose garden failure of most kinds has not been the fault of the rose gardener themselves.

Although I am aware there can be a number of contributing factors here, I would like to say that perhaps one of the main contributors is… the roses that the gardener has been purchasing for their own backyards haven’t been great roses in the first place.  Perhaps the roses purchased were doomed to fail purely on the poor genetics of the plant.  Perhaps the roses purchased would never do well in the climate region you are in – the rose you purchased would florish in Florida but you live in Colorado.  As easy as this seems to understand, then why are the same roses in Florida being sold in Colorado?  And with the ease of buying roses over the internet, the discussion of regionality (a new word for this book in which I will talk about later!), in my opinion, is a harder one to convey or even seems to get lost.

Would you agree with me that there is a chance that some rose genetics are better than others – or at least better suited for your particular climate or region than others?  Perhaps the hybridization goal behind the rose you bought was just a color – like pink.  So, how does one know this?  The gardener is saying “I just want to go to the garden center and trust that the roses they are buying would do well in their own backyard.” 

The roses outlined in this book are roses in which I have had the pleasure and success of working with along the eastern seaboard of the country – an area known for hot and high humidity.  This high humidity is a virtual paradise for many fungal diseases.  So with that said, the roses in this book have a proven toughness towards the resistance to disease.  Also, the roses in this book have been extensively proven or trialed in various regions across the Unithed States.  Perhaps some of them are better to grow in the south than the north and these comments will be seen on the individual rose pages.

For many of you, the roses in this book can serve as a starting place.  The roses have proven successful for me not only for disease resistance but for a variety of reasons listed on these pages.

The roses outlined are not meant to be comprehensive or decisive in any way.  These roses can start you in a right direction – a direction that can lead to success in growing roses.

I always say the best way to learn about roses is to grow roses!  It can be as simple as that.  By trial and error, you find out what works best for you.

Often times I get told by a gardener “how much they love a certain rose and how they have success in growing it.”   My only answer to that is “FANTASTIC!  Keep growing it.  And… in turn, tell all your neighbors your successful rose story and that your rose might be a good rose for them to try since it is doing so well for you and in your area.”  Let us all find rose success and tell the whole world about it… wouldn’t that be great!  A world full of more roses sounds like a pretty nice goal indeed!

It is good to know that what works for some people may not be great for others.  There are too many variables in consideration when growing roses... Not to mention the obvious ones of water, weather, climate, regional, microclimates, and soils.  

This book is meant to greet the reader with roses that should have the propensity towards success!  I always look forward to feedback about the readers own experiences about roses as it helps to add to the data about what works for people and what doesn't.  I love it when the list of great roses to grow gets longer and longer.

Hence, comes the purpose for this book.  Let me talk to you about the concept of “The New Mellinnial Rose Garden” – a rose garden that is easy to grow and doesn’t require sprays or chemical assistance to battle fungal diseases in order to be successful.  How does that sound?

Come back to roses because in reading this book you will have a new understanding that not all roses are created equal and that in choosing some roses over others, you will find success.

Come back to roses because of the great work of the hybridizers these days, their roses are easy and reliable to grow.

Come back to roses.  Come back in… grow roses in your garden again.  Experience the joy they can give. 

This book intends to eliminate the sharks.

Come back in… the water is fine!

Happy Rose Growing.