Kathy Crowley on Unearthing and Bringing Back the Revered Old Garden Rose



The Old Garden Rose, also known as “antique” or “heirloom” rose, is often described as tough, sturdy, disease-resistant, carefree and prolific. Old Garden rose shrubs require very little, to no tending, and have resiliently existed for thousands of years. However, after 1867, the “modern” rose came into existence when the first hybrid tea rose was discovered. Today, about 80% of all roses grown are of the modern class—usurping the heirloom rose from many landscapes and gardens. 

If you love all things vintage, or maybe just love having flowers in your garden your neighbor likely won’t have, don't fretsome can still be unearthed today.  If you’re looking to incorporate a bit of history and distinctive fragrance in your yard by planting an heirloom rose, seek Kathy Crowley of Crowley Nursery & Gardens Inc. Located out by Myakka City, her and her family discovered a pleasant surprise when they found Old Garden roses. Now growing at her property for close to 20 years, “Some we have uncovered under weeds,” she says. “Some started blooming that we forgot all about and we realized how easy they are to grow.” 

SRQ: So what are some particular tidbits you’d like to share about tending to these vintage keepsakes? 

Kathy: Old garden roses tend to get yellow leaves that just fall off on their own—you do not have to do anything special to them like pick every leaf off and seal in a bag and throw them away.  Also, they do like to be a little on the acidic side, so think about adding coffee grinds or maybe some diluted pickled juice around the drip line of the plant. They come in different colors, some are climbers and some are large or small shrubs.

Louie Philippe (named for the 1800’s French King) is one of the biggest sellers, as it blooms year-round and buds profusely. It can be a large shrub or climb to the top of an old oak tree. Another favorite of ours is Prosperity, which is a cluster of white with as many as six to eight blooms in a cluster. We love the scent of these two roses. There are very few modern roses that can be grown on their own roots like old garden roses can. Belinda's Dream, for example, is a very large pink rose that blooms year-round and does not have to be put on a rootstock. We spray ours with our Atomic Grow and Key Plex to keep the thrips (plant damaging pests) off of them. 

We sell our old garden roses year-round and you can also find new roses from time to time. Newer, modern roses do require a bit more work. They need to be sprayed and their yellow leaves put in a bag and thrown away. They are grown for the flowers, not the foliage. And being on a rootstock, you need to watch that it does not take over the plant and kill it, as the rootstock is stronger than the rose.

If you have a particular gardening question you'd like answered and featured in a future column, email SRQDailyGardening@srqme.com 

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