Every gardener’s calendar should be marked for Wilmington Cape Fear Rose Society’s 13th annual Rose Tour, coming up on May 7. Folks can tour for free nine homes with incredibly lovely rose gardens, with rose enthusiasts on hand to answer questions and encourage a “you-can-do-it-too” attitude in growing America’s national flower.
The nine homes on the tour will be marked with a decorated straw hat on a shepherd’s hook. All have spectacular rose gardens, but here are a few highlights.
Mike and Debbie Caulder have 140 rose bushes, with favorites including Double Delight, Pope John Paul II, Veteran’s Honor, Rainbow Sorbet, and Hot Cocoa. As wel they have Parade—a hot-pink climber espaliered on the Caulder’s white picket fence.
“This is our third year in this home and we’ve found that climbers (and other roses) take that long to really bloom,” Mike says. “The first year they sleep, second year creep and third year leap! We also have an Alzheimer’s garden in honor of my mother. Her nursing home will visit our garden the day before the tour.”
Mary and Billy Barwick maintain their own rose garden as it provides balance to their busy lives. Mary loves the dusky, deep purple Ebb Tide with its clove scent. Though it almost died, it survived the year once she moved it to a sunnier location (depending on the rose, four to six hours of sun are required). Ebb Tide is an early bloomer and Mary is hoping it will still be showing off come tour day. She keeps a rose-care calendar to remind her of what needs to be done to keep her plants healthy.
In Bob and Vonnie Fry’s garden, grandchildren steps lead through a border of roses to a trellis covered with Winner’s Circle and White Knight-climbing roses. Another climber, Fourth of July, scales a fence draping over to touch a David Austin rose named “Abraham Darby.”
Karen and Bill Arnau are partial to a big-blooming grandiflora rose named “Rock & Roll.” It has a knock-out fragrance and creamy buds that open up to reveal wild stripes of burgundy, red and ivory petals surrounded by glossy green foliage.
David Lawrence and Barbara Hajek have an unusual garden in that many of their roses are in pots. These containers are easy to move around for optimal sunlight.
“Visitors are attracted to our favorite, Blue Girl,” Barbara says. “Blooms are dressed in shades of pale blue to lilac, and it has a ‘full-bodied roses-in-bloom’ fragrance. Its unusual color stands out amidst the reds and pinks.”
Amending the soil is a must for rose growers, and many choose compost manure, soil conditioner, lime and sulfur to achieve the ideal pH of 6.5. Chris and Maria Wilkinson have spent 12 years working triple-shredded hardwood mulch into their fine black sand to make it rose-friendly.
“I can’t name a favorite,” Chris admits. “Our 35 roses are like a large family. I love them because they all provide unique combinations of color, fragrance and flowering characteristics that change from day to day.”
On the contrary, Rick and Marilyn Davis quickly name the deep coral “Fragrant Cloud” and bright red “Crimson Bouquet.” “Fragrant Cloud has been ranked in the top 10 most fragrant roses in the world,” Rick says, “and I encourage visitors to smell it. Crimson Bouquet is a happy rose in this climate (think the dreaded black spot), and produces clusters of blooms all season long (late March through October).”
Bob and Linda Knerr, long-time rosarians, have a rose named for them: the red and white Bob & Linda Hybrid Tea. The Knerrs exhibit in rose shows with hybridizer John Smith, who liked them so much he named one of his hybrids for them.
Charles and Deborah Cooke have more than 100 roses, naming Limelight, a soft-butter yellow with lime-green cast, and Randy Scott, a white blend with yellow cast, as favorite hybrid teas.
The Wilmington Cape Fear Rose Society was started by its president, Bill Hartzell, some 14 years ago—who won Best in Show prizes for three hybrid tea roses: the fragrant Double Delight with creamy center and cherry red outer petals; St. Patrick’s with chartreuse buds that open to yellow; the hot-pink Signature with 5-inch blooms; and a miniature rose named “Fair Hope” with light yellow, fragrant flowers. Hartzell’s favorite this year is Veteran’s Honor, the epitome of the ultimate red hybrid tea.
Visitors to these landscapes are welcome May 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.