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Roses 101.

There is little wonder why the rose is called the "queen of flowers." Roses have long been cherished for their beauty, fragrance, and wide range of color. No other flower has been used more to express love, honor, or sympathy. Give someone a bouquet of roses, and you are sure to see a smile.

Fossilized evidence indicates that roses grew in prehisotric times. It is believed they were first cultivated, probably in China, some five thousand years ago. Today, there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from, and contrary to popular belief, many are easy to grow.

Modern hybrid teas are the roses most people are familiar with because these are the roses used in florists' arrangements. They also give roses the reputation for being hard to grow. It is true that hybrid teas take almost daily care, but for the rose hobbyist and accomplished gardener, their caretaking is an enjoyable task.

David Austin English roses are modern roses that appeal to almost every rose grower. This group is classified as a shrub and combines the fragrance of old garden roses and the everblooming power of modern roses. These roses are vigorous and very hardy in Southern gardens. Many other breeders have followed Austin in creating new roses in the old world style.

Old garden roses are roses belonging to classes developed before 1867. These roses not only produce beautiful flowers with very little care, but their lush foliage makes them wonderful landscape plants. The revival of interest in these roses has made rose gardening more appealing to novice gardeners.

Whether you want a whole garden of roses or just a few to add to your landscape, there is one to fit practically every garden purpose. This versatility is another reason why the rose is so popular with gardeners.



When the roses are in bloom in front of the University of Southern Mississippi, it is a wondrous sight to behold. Rows and rows of hundreds of different varieties explode in a full range of colors, from a very pure white to a deep velvety scarlet. A heady scent washes over whoever traverses the wide, neatly kept rows of bushes. Many students have spent time in the garden over the years; some have even proposed to their intended with the fragrance of roses all around them. The rose garden has become a trademark of the university, and people from across the southeast travel to Hattiesburg to experience its beauty. So how did this magnificent natural display come about?

Well, in the late hours of a mid-summer's evening, the six charter members of the Hattiesburg Area Rose Society knelt before a long ribbon of white paper. Pencils and crayons in hand, they began a painstaking process of crafting the perfect design. Ideas became shapes, shapes became patterns, until finally patterns became a layout. Around 2 a.m., a consensus had been reached. The group agreed a fan shape would best showcase its latest brainchild, a nationally recognized rose garden to be located at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Planting rose gardens was nothing new to the HARS, whose purpose was to locate, display, and enjoy the flowers. Started in 1972 by Dr. and Mrs. William Eure, Mr. and Mrs. William Wicht, Sr., and Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Waltman, the group had already planted a memorial garden at the Shreveport, Louisiana, headquarters of the American Rose Society. In fact, that project inspired members to bring the beauty of a rose garden to Hattiesburg, but on a larger scale. According to Dr. Eure, the garden's site--a large grassy area in the front of Southern's campus--was an obvious location. "It seemed like it was crying for a rose garden," he said.

With the concept, location, and design settled, the group's next move was to convince then university President William D. McCain to allow the garden on campus. A serious and respected leader, McCain had vowed to keep the campus "muddy or dusty with construction" during his tenure. Creating and maintaining a rose garden didn't exactly fit in with those plans. HARS President William Wicht, however, resolved to persuade McCain of the garden's importance. "Mr. Wicht was determined to make the rose garden a reality," Eure explained. "He would be at Dr. McCain's office every morning at 8 with our plans in hand."

William Wicht, Jr. agreed. "My dad drove McCain crazy about putting in a rose garden," he said. "I've heard stories of how Dr. McCain said the quickest way to get my dad out of his office was to agree to the rose garden."

So vigilant was Wicht that McCain made a point of mentioning him at the rose garden's official dedication in April 1974. "Dr. McCain said he was more or less required to build this rose garden," Eure said with a laugh. "You have to remember that Mr. Wicht was German, and he could be tough."

In addition to being persistent, Wicht and his wife, Evelyn, were expert rosarians and often served nationally as rose judges. When McCain finally relented, the Wichts immediately put their expertise and connections to use. The couple attended the annual American Rose Society national meeting and convinced the majority of rose growers to send their blooms to Hattiesburg. By the time the garden was planted in 1973, growers from across the nation had sent 600 bushes to fill the 32 beds. By 1975, the garden was approved as an accredited Public Rose Garden by All-American Rose Selections Inc.

The tradition of displaying roses from across the country continues today. New blooms are selected by the American Rose Society, said Pat McDonald, director of grounds maintenance and president of the newly formed USM Rose Garden Society. "The ARS selects the best roses each year and sends 25 varieties of each to us," he explained. "This year we are planting the 2002 winners."

Caring for so many blooms has been made easier by the garden's design, which was carefully mapped out by the HARS. Aisles between the rows of roses are extra wide to accommodate maintenance crews and pedestrians. The ample width also affords enough space for machinery so work does not have to be done manually. Beds are elevated to alleviate any flooding caused by heavy rain, and a waterway system is located beneath the garden.

Even with its logistically sound layout, the garden requires yearlong care from a dedicated shrub pruning crew. During the garden's growing season, which typically lasts from April through October, a crew from USM's Grounds Maintenance spends up to 12 hours per week caring for the blooms. According to Sid Krhut, landscape superintendent, even with the garden's various hybrids, the crew employs a broad care system. The amount of water, nutrients, and sunlight are all constants, he said. Preventing or containing diseases, however, is where care can differ.

"Some roses are more susceptible to disease than others," he said. "Black spot is a common disease that roses get, but the newer roses coming out are more resistant to it. To prevent or contain the disease, there should be a regular spray program. We spray our roses every two weeks for half of the year, then depending on the weather, every three weeks."

Another maintenance measure the crew takes is radical pruning. "We do major pruning around mid to late February," Krhut said. "Then we do dead-heading, where we remove stump blooms or dead blooms every two to four weeks. When we dead-head, we don't take off major height. We have shrubs that are 18 inches tall and shrubs that are six-feet tall."

Krhut added that the crew also prunes shrubs during the fall and typically keeps three to five healthy canes per bush.

When planting season nears, the maintenance crew begins preparing the beds for the annual influx of roses. To make room for the newest blooms, the crew uproots the least productive beds and puts them through a rigorous sterilization process. "We dig out as much soil as possible and add new compost and new soil," Krhut explained. "We combine one-third aged pine bark compost, one-third topsoil or sand, and one-third horse manure. Then we treat the bed with a granular soil sterilant, which kills weeds and bacteria. The bed is covered for 20 days then left uncovered for 20 days, after which it is ready for the new roses."

Krhut said healthy roses either remain in the main garden or are replanted in various spots around campus. Currently, there are beds in front of the president's home, the baseball field, the Payne Center recreational complex, two of the residence halls, and the new fieldhouse.

With lush blooms sprinkled across campus, it is understandable that many students are tempted to pick a rose every now and then. According to campus lore, the university penalizes would-be pruners caught picking flowers, with hefty fines ranging between $50 and $500 per rose.

Even though USM occasionally contends with rose pickers, officials with Grounds Maintenance said having the garden on campus is worth it. "The rose garden is the signature effort of our department; we put a heck of a lot of work, time, and money into it," McDonald said. "The garden is symbolic of USM, and USM has become famous because of it. I like to think of it as the heartthrob of the university. At every commencement, at every reception, the roses are on display. We take great pride in them. The garden truly displays the best of the best roses."

Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, past university president, echoed McDonald's sentiments. "The rose garden has brought immense beauty to our campus," he said. "It's one of the first things people see when they come to campus.

"I understand that when people decide they want to grow roses, they are told to watch the rose garden at USM," he continued. "When they see us spraying, pruning, or watering, they are told to do the same. So, in a way, the rose garden also serves as a model for rosarians."

In addition to having a model garden to follow, Hattiesburg residents also benefit from the garden's appeal as a natural attraction. "The rose garden at USM grows more beautiful every year," said Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree. "The university puts a lot of time and expertise into making it a masterpiece for all passersby. Having a visually beautiful city is very important. People say it's what's on the inside that counts. That is true, but only after people decide they want to stay long enough to find out what Hattiesburg is about. They won't do that if they are not visually drawn to our city first."





It is best to cut roses the first thing in the morning, when their water content is the highest. Cut the stem at an angle with a sharp pair of scissors or cutters just above the leaf node. Place them immediately in a bucket of water. If buying flowers, get them into tepid water as soon as possible for at least a couple of hours or longer. Before arranging roses, always recut the stems with a diagonal cut and remove all leaves that fall below the water level. Use clean vases and a commercially formulated flower food to inhibit bacteria and to feed the plant. You will not need to change the water with a flower food, but top off your vase each day with fresh water.


Three methods for drying roses are air-drying, microwave drying, and silica gel or fine sand drying. Air-drying is the most common method. It is the best way to dry rosebuds that are just about to open but still retain their shape. Simply hang the roses from their stems on a string in a warm, dry, and dark place with good ventilation for a couple of weeks. Microwave drying is suitable for short stem roses. Lay the flowers on a paper towel and put in the microwave on the lowest setting. Microwave on the lowest setting 1 minute at a time. Check to make sure you do not over dry. For silica gel (available at craft stores) or fine sand, put a layer about 1/2 to 1 inch deep on the bottom of an airtight container and lay roses on crystals or sand making sure that they do not touch. Cover with silica gel or sand completely and tightly seal the container. Keep at room temperature for about 7 to 10 days before removing the gel or sand.


To make potpourri you will need lots of dried petals and leaves. To dry leaves and petals, place freshly picked rose petals and leaves separately on absorbent paper in a cool place with good airflow. Petals must be totally dry to make potpourri.

9 ounces dried scented rose petals
3 1/2 ounces dried delphinium
 flowers and marigold petals large
 jar with screw top
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground orris root
 (available at craft stores)
8 drops rose essential oil or
 rose geranium oil (available at
 craft stores)

Mix petals and flowers in jar. Add other ingredients one at a time and shake well between each addition. Screw on lid and leave 2 or 3 days in a dark place.

9 ounces dried scented rose petals
3 1/2 ounces dried lavender
airtight container
dried grated peel of 2 large lemons
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon orris root

Mix flowers and herbs and dried lemon peel together in an airtight container. Leave for 2 to 3 days. Add spices and orris root, shake well, and leave for a week, stirring occasionally.


Find a beautiful old jar or vase and give it to a friend or loved one with a special flower inside and instructions for a memory jar. It makes a great gift for a teenage girl to store her memories. Add any special flower from a special person, event, or memory to your jar after it is dried. Add a few drops of your favorite oil and enjoy special potpourri. Teenage girls may want to save all corsages and flowers and throw as potpourri on their wedding day.

(pictured at left)

3 large juice cans (pineapple juice
 cans are a good size)
plastic coated bicycle hook
metallic paint (I used bright gloss
 yellow to match the plastic-
 coated bicycle hook)
gold marking pen
5/8-inch wooden dowel cut to
 23 inches long
3 wood screws
electric drill
screw driver
Liquid Nails gule

Cut dowel to desired length. Paint dowel and three large cans inside and out with desired color. Paint three coats. Edge tops and bottoms of cans with gold marking pen. Drill a small hole in each can, the first 1/2 inch from top, the second 3/4 inch from the top, and the third 1 inch from the top. Screw each can to the dowel making sure they are all level on the bottom. Glue the length of each can to the dowel with Liquid Nails glue. Drill a hole into the top of the dowel and screw the bicycle hook into the top for a handle. Fill each can with about an inch or two of water and head for your rose garden.

Styrofoam ball
tiny dried rosebuds
hot glue gun and glue sticks

Glue roses to Styrofoam ball side by side until entire ball is covered.
7 ounces highly scented dried rose
1 1/4 pounds fine quality tea

Mix together and store in an airtight container.


May be used to sweeten tea, coffee, cream, or sauces. It can also be used for baking, perhaps in your favorite sugar cookie recipe.

5 cups highly scented dried rose petals

1 cup super fine sugar

Grind rose petals in food processor to coarse sand consistency. Combine with sugar and store in airtight container.

1 cup butter
5 dark pink or red scented roses
1 loaf thinly sliced white bread

Wrap butter covered in rose petals in muslin cloth and refrigerate overnight. Remove petals from butter and spread on bread cut into heart shapes. Place fresh rose petals in each sandwich and sprinkle petals on plate of sandwiches.

(pictured on page 76)

fresh roses
egg whites, slightly beaten
super fine sugar
wire rack
tissue paper

Brush each petal with beaten egg white. Sprinkle with sugar. Allow flowers to dry on wire rack. Store for a few days on tissue paper in dry place.


Growing healthy, beautiful roses is an achievable goal, even for an amateur gardener. Sid Krhut, USM's landscape superintendent, offers the following tips for starting a rose garden.

* Buy quality roses from a trusted nursery. Make sure the roses look healthy, the canes are not brown or dry, and the foliage is not diseased.

* Pick a good location. Make sure the roses will be in a full-sun area, and plant the roses away from trees to keep tree roots from posing a problem.

* Use good soil, and consider using a sand-based soil. Make sure the soil is well drained as roses will not grow in low, wet situations. The easiest way to ensure proper drainage is to elevate the beds.

* Keep roses on a pest management program, whether for insects or diseases. Spray once a week for most of the year and, if conditions are dry and hot, spray once every two or three weeks. Most pesticides are specifically labeled, but consult your local nursery or county agent's office for assistance.

* Roses require a lot of food when blooming, and during that time, Grounds Maintenance feeds the USM Rose Garden once a month. Toward the end of the growing season, roses are given extra fertilizer to help them last throughout the winter.

Local rose expert Miriam Ethridge adds:

* Roses need approximately five to six hours of sun per day. Old garden roses can tolerate less.

* There should be good ventilation to help prevent disease.

* Plant in holes twice the size of the root mass. Mulch after planting.

* Roses need one inch of water per week.

* Pruning is essential to keep roses properly shaped. It also encourages new growth and flowering.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Downhome Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Ethridge, Miriam
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2002
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