When he last appeared in this column ten years ago, Glen Myrie was still buying miniature rose seedlings, 400 to 500 at a time, planting them in pots in February, and selling them as bushy blooming plants by Mother's Day. Glen L's Rose Nursery was well known in the area and over 300 roses bushes bloomed year round in his half acre yard in Valrico.
The rose garden that fills his front yard is just as lovely now that he has only about 170 bushes for his own enjoyment and no longer has a nursery.
Glen Myrie with a Tiffany rose in his front yard garden.
A decade ago Myrie was a robust 82. He is slightly frail now, but still amazingly young. "But I can't get up and down as well and I am glad to have good help to do some of the work," he says. He is also glad that he can still do much of it himself.
There are a few more antique roses than there used to be. These heirloom roses require no spraying.
Almost half of his plants are in large decorative pots. "Some of them do better in containers," he says, "especially those that are most sensitive to nematodes." Almost all of his roses are grafted on the Fortuniana rootstocks to give them resistance to both crown gall and certain nematodes and help them adapt to Florida's climate and sandy soil.
He and his wife Florence, who will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary on Dec. 11, belong to both the Tampa Bay Rose Society and the American Rose Society and Glen still occasionally exhibits his roses. He has won many awards over the years for his roses and once had the Tampa Tribune Yard of the Month. A passerby recently stopped to note the address and informed this writer that "You have to go see those roses." It was pleasant, when I did, to remember I'd been there before.
Myrie has stopped using his sprinkler system and waters entirely by hand, even though that takes "a couple of hours three days a week. "I can save half on my water bill that way," he says, for hand watering allows him to put the water right at the roots where it is needed. Roses take three times as much water as other thirsty plants, three inches a week to do their best.
He knows the name of every variety but has no favorites. "I love them all," he says.
"I have had trouble with the standard or tree roses. With that long trunk between the rootstock and the grafting point, it seems harder for them to take up the water and nutrients. I have to mist the tops often to keep them in good condition," Myrie says. He is planning to grow fewer of those. Some, like the tree form of the Knockout roses, do very well, but others take too much work and worry.
He is campaigning to get reclaimed water to the area. He and his neighbor Gloria Colvin are also redoing the planting at the entrance to his subdivision, Rollingwood Estates. They have been going door to door asking the homeowners for donations to help buy the plants and soil amendments. They could definitely use more support in this matter, but either way, they will do their best.
Born in Cuba, Myrie spent much of his years working as a medical photographer in Long Island, New York, where he only had 25 to 30 rose bushes, plus a vegetable garden and an orchard. Now his backyard is full of tropical fruits. Some of the trees tower over the house. He has long been a member of the Rare Fruit Council.
When he isn't working in his garden or planting the new entrance garden, he makes inlaid wood tables with rare woods from all over the world. His tables are in many states and in Canada now and he has the next two years of woodworking already ordered.
He's been an usher at Nativity Church's 10:30 Mass on Sunday for the last 24 years, but is now promoted to greater. Every Sunday he makes some 20 to 24 rose boutonnieres, takes them to church and gives them to the ushers and Eucharist ministers to put in their lapels.
"I've done everything I wanted to do in my life," he says, and he keeps on doing it every day with awesome vigor and contentment.