A gorgeous new book on growing roses at home offers tips according to how much time you have on hand.

Flower farmer Felicia Alvarez
Felicia Alvarez in the fields. Photo by Jill Carmel.

In my front yard, I have a copious number of ancient roses that refuse to give up the ghost. Admittedly neglected, for much of the year they put out large, fragrant blooms that I can clip and scatter all over the house. But what if I put, say, just an hour a week into my flowers? Would they bloom more? Look healthier? Be more generally successful?

According to Felicia Alvarez, author of Growing Wonder: A Flower Farmer’s Guide to Roses, the answer is yes. Not only is her book lovely to look upon, it breaks down practical tips according to how much time you want to spend growing the flower that, by any other name, would smell as sweet.  

Maybe one of the reasons the book is so useful is that Alvarez teaches rose growing workshops at her farm, Menagerie Farm and Flower, in Live Oak, about an hour north of Sacramento. “I do a lot of mentoring of new gardeners, and I’ve gotten to know different types of people [where roses are concerned],” she says. “There are those coming to me and saying, ‘I want to start a flower farm,’ and then there are people who are more home gardeners. Some people only have maybe one or two hours a week to fit in their garden tasks, while others want to spend three, four hours a day in their gardens.”

If you can squeeze in only one care activity each week, make it deadheading. Deadheading regularly ensures you will have beautiful repeat blooms and cut-flower stems all season long.

Felicia Alvarez
Yellow and purple roses

Ashley Lima

As a result, she organized her book according to the different types of “rose personalities” she met in her workshops. “I wanted to give people a book that’s effective and that they can do without feeling too overwhelmed,” Alvarez says.

While reading the below, ask yourself, Which rose personality best describes me? Then take advantage of the tips, which include winter pruning, which varieties to try, and more.

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

The Weekend Warrior (1-2 hours per week)

Pink and red roses in vases

Ashley Noelle-Edwards

I want the most bang for my buck. I want to achieve big impact with a small investment of time. Give me the essential tools to enjoy success with just a few beauties!

Three Success Tips

1. With a limited schedule, it’s important to commit to spending time with your roses. Set a regular “rose appointment” on your calendar and don’t skip it.

2. Select easy-care, disease-resistant, and low-maintenance varieties. Leave the roses that are the divas for the Aspiring Rosarians to tackle.

3. If you can squeeze in only one care activity each week, make it deadheading. Deadheading regularly ensures you will have beautiful repeat blooms and cut-flower stems all season long.

Three Roses to Try

‘Iceberg’

‘Princesse Charlene de Monaco’

‘Mother of Pearl’

Everyday Gardener (3-5 hours per week)

Yellow and orange roses

Jill Carmel

I love roses as much as every other flower, but I’d like to learn how to successfully integrate roses throughout the landscape to complement other plantings. Help me become proficient with cut garden roses so I can grow them more confidently.

Three Success Tips

1. The best defense is a good offense. Observe your roses every week for the presence of insects, diseases, and weeds. At the first sign of issues, start control measures to ensure your roses are not overtaken by any of these unwanted invasions.

2. Get a soil test annually. See what your soil or growing media needs, and let it guide your fertilizer and amendment applications throughout the season.

3. Don’t skip winter dormant pruning or winter rose care. It’s the single, most important step you can do to prepare for a successful rose-growing season.

Three Roses to Try

‘Bolero’

‘Crown Princess Margareta’

‘Francis Meilland’

Aspiring Rosarian (2+ hours a day)

Florist/farmer Felicia Alvarez in field

Ashley Lim

I’m all-in for all roses, all the time. I’m passionate about growing all types and want to learn as much as possible. I’d like a dedicated rose garden where I can harvest roses all season long, or I’d like to add roses to my small cut-flower farm.

Three Success Tips

Growing Wonder book cover
Buy the Book

Growing Wonder

  • Growing Wonder: A Flower Farmer’s Guide to Roses, by Felicia Alvarez

1. Keep focused. Set yearly and long-term goals for what you want to achieve. How many varieties do you want to grow? How many stems do you want to harvest? Where and what are you going to use cut flowers for? By setting goals you can make sure not to over-commit to too many roses with too little time.

2. Rise and shine. Get out there and harvest in the early morning when it’s cool and the roses have tight buds to give your cut stems the longest life.

3. Don’t be afraid to remove roses from your collection. Disease-ridden, insect-damaged small blooms with low vigor and short, weak stems are not your friend. They will suck valuable time that you could be spending on better-performing varieties. Bid those poor achievers a fond farewell.

Three Roses to Try

‘Wollerton Old Hall’

‘Honey Dijon’

‘Yves Piaget’

Roses in carts

Jill Carmel

Excerpted with permission from BLOOM Imprint copyright © 2022.


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