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Beautiful Roses Need Not Be Difficult

Clarence & Karen Prevatt live in the middle of a rose garden that most of us don't dare to dream of having.

Marilyn Bertch and Clarence Prevatt pause in front of the Prevatt rose garden.

Ten Knock Out rose bushes line the busy road along the front of the yard and reward the passersby with thousands of constant blooms.

"They've only been in a year. They will fill out more and also absorb some of the traffic noise and lights," says Clarence Prevatt, who is retired. His wife was busy with her law practice. But they grow, show, and judge roses together. In fact, they have been all over the world as rose show judges: New Zealand, Australia, Agrentina. They will soon be making a trip to judge a show in Osaka.

But success was not instant for them. "We tried to grow roses for 10 or 15 years and had no luck," Prevatt says. "Then my sister-in-law gave us a membership in the Tampa Bay Rose Society and our roses improved immediately."

Marilyn Bertch, who also belongs to the Rose Society, agreed that such a membership is the best way to learn. For $15 a year, a person or a family gets 10 newsletters. They learn from the experts at meeting that are great fun and even have consulting rosarians such as the Prevatts who will come to their gardens and tell them what they can do better.

At their present home near Sun City, the Prevatts have two long raised beds of hybrid teas that border the driveway and hold the largest of their 250 rose bushes. A round bed of miniature roses blooms abundantly by the garage and roses are part of the foundation planting around the front of the house.

Roses along the fence make lovely landscaping. Roses in long raised beds line the driveway, show up to great advantage, and sometimes stop traffic.

"People stop and ask us how we grow such roses," Prevatt says. And more than once he has signed them up as Rose Society members on the spot. Starting last summer the Prevatts started a new chapter called the South County Rose Group. This one meets every second Sunday at 2pm at the Sun City Center United Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Blvd. Call (813) 258-3311 for more details. The one in Tampa meets every third Tuesday at 7:30pm at the Seminole Garden Center, 5800 Center Ave, Tampa. Call (813) 949-6177. People from Brandon are welcome at either or both.

This coming weekend, everyone can visit the Brandon Mall, go in at the Macy's entrance, and see just how beautifully roses do grow in this area. There will be hundreds of the very best, all marked with variety names. Take a pen and notebook to note your favorites. There will also be an information table to tell you where to buy such roses, how to feed and water them, and the maintenance system that is necessary for each kind.

For most of the show roses, weekly spraying is a must, but these people take it in stride. Bertch has 100 rose bushes and says, "They aren't that hard. I work full time at Busch Gardens and can easily take care of them."

Both growers agreed that roses are ideal for anyone with a sunny spot, even a balcony or patio where they can have a few in large containers. "Roses are perfect for full sun where everything else burns up and we don't have to worry about freezes in the winter," says Bertch.

Although they like from 1 to 3 inches of water a week, they never wilt in the ground. If you have them in pots, they might wilt if they get too dry. Prevatt has his on automatic drip watering that takes care of them when they are away on trips. He feeds them once a month with special rose fertilizer he gets from GroMor in Plant City. When he is going to be away, he sprays with Banner Maxx that lasts two weeks.

"But for people with just a few roses," he says, "you can get a spray bottle at any garden shop that includes insecticide, fungicide, and miticide and just use that," he says.

Only about 5% of the members show their roses. "It's a lot of fun," he says. But until one gets Exhibition Fever, it involves work, watching, and careful cutting of the last flush of bloom 33 days before the show.

"I only go to our local show," says Bertch. The Prevatts go to several to show and others to judge. "But it only takes about six bushes to get enough rose fever to enjoy the growing," she says.

White Success is Prevatt's favorite.

Let Freedom Ring is a new introduction since 911.
    Now's the time to...
  • Tell you again that if you don't want to spray roses, you can grow the antiques or the few but glorious varieties that will do well without spraying such as Knock Out, Don Juan, and Belinda's Dream.
  • Even my Belinda's Dream has shown a few signs of buds turning brown before they open. Clarence Prevatt tells me this is caused by Chilean thrips that have blown in with the hurricanes. One or two times of spraying each bud as it first shows color should take care of them.
  • He always wears a mask, long sleeves and trousers, and a hat when he sprays. You may want to wear gloves, too.
  • Experienced rose growers keep records of how long each variety goes between flushes of bloom. This can be 30 to 45 days. Marilyn Bertch times her winter pruning to have full bloom on Easter weekend. If you are entering a show or planning a wedding or a garden party, you can adjust the blooms by when you prune off the last flush.