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Vince Pilz' Rose Garden Gift

If you've noticed a striking rose garden in a yard along the west side of Bryan Road, Vince Pilz is the man who did the deed and the garden is a gift to every passerby. It has only been there for nine months and he didn't really mean to start a rose garden.

Along the west side of Bryan Road, this rose garden is a gift to every passerby. Vince Pilz is the man who has made it happen just in the last nine months.

"But Lowe's was having a sale of roses for $5. I couldn't resist," he says. "I bought three and then went back and bought six and went back and bought twelve."

Roses can be addictive.

"I had grown roses in New Jersey in the 70s," he says. He moved to Florida in 1985 and lived in Lakeland where he had a jungle. The year before last he moved to Brandon to be near his three-year-old granddaughter, Rhiannon.

"There were all sorts of thorny bushes in this yard when I came. It wasn't a good place for a child to play." He has taken out many of the pricklies and is having a wonderful time replacing them. There is now a child's swing in one of the trees.

Pilz has two of the largest blue and orange bird of paradise plants ever seen and he says they are fantastic when they bloom. Azaleas were still blooming in the shady parts of the yard.

Two of the things he likes best about flowers are their fragrance and their multicolors. The rose garden perfumes the air on that side of the house. Orange trees and jasmines take care of the rest, at least in the spring. An amazing bush of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is blooming on the back fence.

Various roses: orange 'Remember Me', white with red edges 'Double Delight', pink to burnished gold 'Kaleidoscope', deep orange and covered with bloom 'Charisma', red stripped 'George Burns'.

Many of his roses are like the antique 'Mutabilis' that changes from peach to pink as it opens or like 'Double Delight' with white centers and red edges on the outer petals or 'George Burns' with peppermint-like stripes of red and white running from the center of the rose to the edges. 'Kaleidoscope' has several subtle shades from pink to burnished gold. Even the most solidly colored roses have the charm of some variation of color as the petals unfurl.

Vince Pilz stopped by Walter Knight's Nursery on Airport Road in Plant City some years ago when the owner was unable to work with a broken leg. Pilz just pitched in to help and they have been friends ever since. So now, whenever a plant falls the smallest bit below Knight's ideal quality, it goes into Pilz truck and home to his garden.

"He gives us all plants," said a neighbor passing by with his dog. "He wants to make the whole neighborhood look good."

Pilz bought quite a few more bushes when Personal Touch Roses sold out their retail stock. "I hated to see them close," he says.

His beds are edged with landscaping timbers and filled with soil amendments. They are accented by several small trees--a crape myrtle in the center, a tree of gold Tabebuia, a tea olive, white orchid trees, and Confederate roses on tall standard stems.

"Part of that was luck since some of the trees were already there," he says, and he is knows that he will have to keep them pruned so they won't shade the roses too much.

The view and the fragrance get better and better as one gets within the rose garden.

He waters everything by hand and is out there at the end of the hose every morning as soon as it is light enough for him to see. Steel rebar strips covered with PVC pipe are placed throughout the garden where they are needed to keep the hose from going over the plants.

He sprays once a week and his favorite food for the roses is Bayer, "just like the aspirin", because it has trace elements, but he wishes it came in larger quantities. He uses his truck to haul in large amounts of peat, humus, and potting soil.

"I made a wish list for Jackson and Perkins, Nelsons, and Weeks nurseries," he says. Most of his roses are on Fortuniana root stocks to give them protection from the nematodes in Florida soil. The few that are not he has in large pots. "The soil in the pots is not Florida soil so it has no nematodes," he says.

The small fence along the sidewalk is to keep out dogs. "I don't mind if people come walking through," Pilz says. "But some people have no idea what a dog can do to a garden."

Besides the roses, he is experimenting will all sorts of other plants. This is definitely a garden to keep an eye on. Drivers on the busy road, please use caution.