Web Extra: Your Own Bed of Roses
When you’re trying to grow roses in Texas’ challenging climate, everything doesn’t always come up, well, roses. Editorial intern Claire Ronner chatted with Mike Shoup, owner of the Antique Rose Emporium outside of Brenham, to collect tips for TH readers on growing and maintaining the thorny, flowering plant. Here’s what Shoup had to say.
Don’t be daunted by roses
“There’s a lot of prejudice out there about roses. A lot of people feel they’re very difficult, that they have fussy spray schedules and have to be pruned a certain way, but it really depends on the kind of rose you have that determines its success. Many roses available in nurseries have been bred just for their flowers. Breeders have essentially made weaklings out of those plants. Homeowners get frustrated because their roses die and it’s not even their fault.
But the antique types that we grow at the Emporium are tough. They don’t need man’s hands in order to grow. Those are the ones we’ve embraced, that the public would enjoy having. They give you fragrance, which ha been bred out from many of the modern breeds.
There’s a little tagline we have, since we found the antique roses thriving in cemeteries after years without any attention—if dead people can grow them, anybody can.”
Look for older shrub types
“The antique roses don’t have the inbreeding of modern roses, so they’re tougher and easier to grow. I’d say make sure you get some of the older shrub types, the garden types, unless you want to have a show-quality rose, which in many cases requires a greenhouse and many other things that aren’t normal.
People plant roses that don’t survive because aren’t adapted to our climate in Texas. Some of the good old garden types will be sure to bloom a lot, have a wonderful fragrance, and don’t require spraying and pruning. We’ve got roses in our garden that are 20 years old and don’t require any effort.”
Start with the soil
“If you’re gardening in clay gumbo, sandy loam, or caliche, you can use the existing soil as long as you mix it with good organic matter. That matter is best in the form of a composted material, like manure, leaf, or bark derivatives (scraps of manure, bark, and leaves), or compost. The compost doesn’t smell bad, it actually smells earthy and mushroomy.
Add about two inches of your chosen organic matter to about every 4 inches you dig out, mix it together and put the roses in the mixture. Put coarse bark on top of the roses, not in their soil. This bark converts into byproducts that are good for the plant.”
Plant at the right time
“In the South, the best time to plant is from September until about February. Once you get into when roses start growing, which is March, you don’t have a whole lot of time until the worst part of Texas climate hits the roses. The more time you give them, the better.
Roses can survive the Texas heat, but if you plant them late your challenge is to keep them watered until you get a root system developed.”
Take time to enjoy your hard work
“I love the personalities of the roses. I love being privy to their growing process—they’re so diverse and so different in how they present themselves. They’re begging you to use them in certain ways in the garden.
The memory associations with a fragrance definitely are another favorite part for me. One of the best things is walking around the garden and listening to people who might not know I’m the owner, and they’re having conversations about family, about their memories of a smell. It’s like the garden takes them away from the busy bustle of their lives and allows them to be who they are.”
The Antique Rose Emporium began outside of Brenham more than 30 years ago when Shoup and his employees stumbled on wild roses growing in unlikely places. The Antique Rose Emporium has since expanded to include a branch in San Antonio. Call 979/836-5548 for the Brenham display garden and 210/651-4565 for San Antonio; www.antiqueroseemporium.com.
From the June 2012 issue.