Growing Great Roses in Alabama

Blooms From My Alabama Garden

Blooms From My Alabama Garden

It is an awesome time of year. Our roses haven’t  broken dormancy and all the new roses i’ve ordered haven’t been delivered yet. These quiet times afford us an opportunity to review our garden plan.

With just over 100 roses under cultivation, you need to know that each one was added to my garden with a purpose. Each one has been planted for color, form, fragrance, or in memory of someone I love.  I call it “The Road to 100.”  I set a goal of 100 roses on our very small subdivision lot about three years ago. I had about a dozen at that time and everyone said I was crazy. They said it could not be done. Well, as you can imagine, I took the naysayers’ remarks as a challenge. I saw it as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of growing roses, and also to show the chatterboxes a thing or two.

My wife wanted color in the garden, so I planted floribundas.  Floribunda roses are a cross between Polyantha and Hybrid Tea roses. They produce a profusion of blooms from spring until fall.  Many of the newer varieties are quite disease resistant.  We admire the beautiful yellow blooms of the ‘Julia Child,’ a floribunda introduced by Weeks Roses.  It is said that Julia Child herself selected this rose because it reminded her of “scrambled eggs.”

I wanted form in the garden, so I planted hybrid teas. Hybrid teas first came into being during the Napoleonic wars. Empress Josephine was creating a stupendous rose garden a Malmasion just outside of Paris. She sent horticultural envoys all over the globe to collect specimens. They each had special travel papers allowing them to cross enemy lines to collect roses.  Upon their return, hybridization of various specimens produced “LaFrance”, the first hybrid tea.  The work that began in her garden is alive and well in gardens around the globe.

We both wanted fragrance, so we planted old garden roses.  ‘Reine Des Violettes’ is a deep purple Hybrid Perpetual rose introduced when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It is the most highly fragranced rose in our garden.

External characteristics are not the only factors we use to determine which roses we plant. I planted the rose named ‘Peace’ in memory of my mother, and pink roses for my grandmother.  My mother loved roses.  I think she loved them for what they represented in her mind: Love, Friendship, Reverence, and Honor.   She always wore a rose corsage on Mother’s Day. I can remember the ladies dressed in pink dresses, with big hair and even bigger pocketbooks; all wearing corsages, white and red, some carnations, but mostly roses on Mother’s Day.  My mom explained to me that they wore flowers on this day to honor their mothers and that the color and type of flower you wore had something to do with whether or not your mom was alive.  For as long as she lived, my mother made sure that her mom always had a rose to wear on Mother’s Day. Even when my grandmother died suddenly in the fall of 1971, my mother had a pink rosebud corsage made up, which she insisted on pinning to her mother’s chest. These women wore corsages like badges of honor, having somehow earned the right to wear a rose.  As my roses bloom this year, I remember with fondness my mother and all those women who through the years have earned the right to wear a rose. They hold our families together by a strand that is unseen, yet felt by all. Through good times and bad, they teach us about faith, hope, and love. They pray over our lives as they mold and protect us.

So, as I continue down the road to 100 and beyond, I consider the roses very carefully.  I want my garden and my life to mean something.  I want them both to have a purpose and a plan.  Roses, like people, have a story to tell.  Are you sharing yours?

Be sure to check out my list of roses that grow well in my Birmingham area rose garden. 

I’ll be sharing my love of roses at the Birmingham Home & Garden Show Feb 14-17 at the Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Center in Birmingham AL. I’ll be sharing how you too, can have the rose garden of your dreams.

You can find me on the Southern Living stage. I hope you’ll come out and see all that the  show has to offer. When I’m not on stage, I’ll be hanging with the folks at the Birmingham Public Library booth. Come by and say hello.  Discount tickets can be had by using the code LIBRARY at checkout.  Hope to see you there!

Chris at the BHG on the Garden Stage

ABC 33/40 – Redneck Rosarian – Talk Of Alabama – TV Appearance
CBS 42 – Redneck Rosarian – Wake Up Alabama – TV Appearance


About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
This entry was posted in #MooPooCrew, #roses, Alabama, Articles, Best Of Birmingham, Birmingham and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Growing Great Roses in Alabama

  1. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Garden Roses |

  2. Loved the way you share your story and your roses.


  3. Ogee says:

    Thanks for sharing the joy of your garden and its meaning to you and your family. 🙂


  4. Nell Jean says:

    Great post on how you choose your roses with some background on each. In my garden, Julia Child out-performs Sunny Knockout in every aspect.

    Wish I could join all of you in Birmingham — or maybe I’d rather see you at a nursery somewhere where the only distractions were more roses. I look forward to reading more as the season progresses.


  5. Holleygarden says:

    What a wonderful story about your rose garden. I can imagine you walking through it, with so many memories and attachments. Not just a rose, but a bloom for your heart. Good luck with your presentation in Birmingham.


  6. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Natural Soil Nutrients |

  7. starproms says:

    It’s a little too far from England I’m afraid, but I wish you well and I just know you’ll come back and tell us all about it. I have followed how your garden grows over the past year and enjoyed the journey very much. Keep growing!


  8. Laurie says:

    Our weather has been crazy this winter. My roses have already started coming out of dormancy … in Kansas in early February! Enjoy the rose show …


  9. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Rose Care Tid-Bits |

  10. What a lovely piece! I love the thought and planning you’ve placed in your garden. The remembrance to your mother and grandmother I’m sure would have them smiling and tearful at the same time. Not only do you have the magical green thumb, but like I tell my husband “you’re a good man Charlie Brown”.


  11. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Cottage Gardening |

  12. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Gardening in the neighborhood |

  13. Pingback: Growing Great Roses in Alabama | Anything Goes in the Garden |

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