Coming up roses

May 21, 2006|By NANCY TAYLOR ROBSON | NANCY TAYLOR ROBSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There are rose enthusiasts and rose aficionados, and then there is Donna Beth Joy Shapiro.

Shapiro, who has 23 rose varieties stuffed into her Bolton Hill garden, borders on rose fanatic. Good thing, because roses, as thorny and high maintenance as rock stars, demand something close to fanatical devotion.

"It takes a particular kind of person to grow roses," Shapiro observes. "You have to love 'em."

Shapiro, whose grandparents cultivated a rose garden, has loved 'em from childhood. She dotes on her prickly brood, waiting impatiently for its annual "critical mass" of bloom. The minute it hits, she throws a Rose Party.

"Last Saturday everything was blooming -- overnight -- two weeks early, so I quickly called about 30 rose admirers to come over," she says. "It's fun to share."

She used to plant only antique varieties, like the Bourbons and 'Baltimore Belle,' which was hybridized here in the 1840s. But lately she has been seduced by some non-antiques ("I can't pass up a Home Depot rose for $1!") and her collection now includes moderns like Hybrid Teas and David Austins. Yet for form, growth habit and especially smell, she still prefers the antiques.

"Roses should have fragrance," she insists. "A lot of modern roses aren't scented and when you stick your nose in the bloom -- and everyone does -- if it's not fragrant, you feel cheated."

Among her favorites are 'Scentimental,' with red-and-white variegated petals, and peachy 'Molineaux.' She's especially fond of sunny shades of orange and apricot, which make her "froth at the mouth."

"And I'm a fool for my David Austin yellow," she says with a laugh.

Despite her devotion to these prima donna plants, she never sprays, not even for black spot. She has dogs, and grows edibles among the roses and so chooses to trade perfection for family safety.

"Once or twice a season it looks like Agent Orange has gone through," she admits, "but then it all regenerates and it's fine."

Visitors may stop and smell the roses in Shapiro's garden during the Bolton Hill Garden Club's June Garden Walk, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on June 4. Tickets cost $10 and will be available at Fitzgerald Park, 1600 block of Bolton Street, on the day of the tour. Information: 410-345-5176.

SHAPIRO'S TIPS FOR GROWING ROSES

* Do your research and look for fragrant varieties. Also check on cultivation needs of specific varieties. Most roses want full sun but some will grow in semi-shade.

* If black spot hits, pick the leaves off the bush and off the ground and throw them away rather than compost them. To prevent spreading the disease, sterilize your clippers and wash your hands between plants. And don't get discouraged.

* "No matter what you do, if black spot's gonna get ya it's gonna get ya," Shapiro says. "And realize that you're gonna lose things every year. Don't take it personally."

SOURCES

Heritage Rosarium 211 Haviland Mill Road Brookville, MD 20833 301-774-2806

Vintage Gardens 2833 Old Gravenstein Hwy South Sebastopol, CA 95472 707-829-2035 vintagegardens.com

Jackson & Perkins 1 Rose Lane Medford, OR 97501 877-322-2300 jacksonandperkins.com

Maryland Rose Society Inc. Josephine Forrest, Treasurer P.O. Box 33 Upperco, MD 21155 e-mail: bconkwright@mgs.md.gov

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