Starting Over with Roses

Why Start Over?

hybrid tea rose

Starting over leaves you with endless possibilities, so you can create something totally amazing and totally your own!

There are many reasons to start over; a new job, starting a career, or to be close to family. You may have a vacation home or want to downsize but still want to garden. We moved back to Illinois because we both grew up in Illinois. Our work situations had provided us with the opportunity to travel extensively to every state in the union. During my husband’s travel he decided he loved Illinois and there’s no place on earth he would rather be.

A corporate transfer for me from Chicago to New York City, then Plano, Texas resulted in building a home in Plano, Texas in 1987 and acquiring over 200 roses by 2011. In 2011 we decided at that point we had acquired the house in Central Illinois and the house in Plano, Texas and thought rather than keep working all the time to support two homes and that lifestyle we would downsize and start over in Illinois.

Starting Over Offers New Opportunities

elevated rose bed One of the elevated beds that I started over with!

You may not go willingly, but once you set your mind to it, the change may be filled with new opportunities. We sold the Texas home and moved to Illinois from Texas in 2011 leaving behind rose gardens that I had invested heart and soul creating. The Illinois property sits on 3 1/2 acres of rolling sandy loam hills, and did not have a single rose. Leaving behind the rose gardens in Plano, Texas (the safest city in America of its size unless you’re my kidnapped lawn decorations) that took 20 years to collect, I wanted to put in a rose garden that would get the quickest results. I decided to put rose gardens in in stages and share it with you dear readers.

What Type Rose Garden Could I Plant For The Quickest Results

rose petal


That type rose garden that gets quick results is a floribunda rose garden. Floribundas are known for their ability to bear flowers in large clusters and profusion of bloom. Another advantage floribunda roses have is their ability to bloom continually whereas hybrid teas exhibits a bloom cycle every six to seven weeks. Let me give you a little back story here, this Illinois property is located 40 miles from Starbucks and 80 miles from Home Depot. * So to locate my new roses I thought I would just pull up the list of roses online from a large garden center like I did in the DFW area, order my roses and have them delivered. Now I have come to learn a valuable lesson the hard way, or I would have dug up quite a few roses I probably will never be able to locate again. And also a large segment of the population that wants roses like I grow doesn’t live in large Metro areas.

From 3 minutes from a Starbucks to 40 miles

Now after living in Plano, Texas; a totally consumer centric life style driven by hopping in the car for a 3 minute drive to Starbucks for coffee, Whole Foods, and Central Market type of living to being 15 miles from Walmart I was in culture shock. A friend down the street said his son told him “Susan and Richard are in the witness protection program.” His dad asked him why would he think that? He said “Why else after all the wonderful cities that they’ve lived would they ever move to Ramsey?” Susan what’s your point? They don’t sell potted fancy rose bushes out here either. Can you imagine my shock trying to find a landscape center that sold potted hybrid teas? I called the nearest landscape center 40 miles away and asked if they carried hybrid teas and the answer to my question was “what’s that?”. You see there are trade-offs to my ‘Green Acres’, lifestyle. And I’m not saying starting over is always easy. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, but it has been worth it.

Come To Papa! Papa Floribunda Gene Boerner That Is


The Gene Boerner Rose

So now you see why when I spotted Gene Boerner at Rural King, in September of 2011, I was shocked and nearly shed a tear. They carry primarily Star Roses KnockOut® roses, which I love also but I wanted more than only KnockOuts®. They had very little selection in hybrid tea or floribunda roses, so to see one ‘Gene Boerner’ which has a stellar reputation and came out in 1968 and is still rated in the ARS* Handbook of Selecting Roses an 8.2 I grabbed it and planted it as the first floribunda in my Illinois floribunda garden. Once I looked up the history of ‘who is Gene Boerner’ the irony wasn’t lost on me.

Gene Boehner is known as Papa Floribunda. A jovial man he worked his entire life at Jackson & Perkins where he hybridized more than 60 roses. I’m so glad the first rose in our floribunda rose garden was and is Gene Boerner. Known as Papa Floribunda of Jackson & Perkins Gene Boerner is symbolic to me for many reasons. Jackson & Perkins is a brand that is symbolic to America for roses. Also Gene Boerner you see pictured here is one of the first roses to bloom each spring. This rose is also very disease resistant, has a fabulous shape and color, and it blooms in clusters and lasts forever.


Sometimes Back To Basics Is Best

Soon I realized the remaining roses I wanted were available online. Many folks don’t realize that their garden centers order their roses from growers bare root and get them early in the season and pot them in containers so they leaf out by the time the weather is lovely and spring like when we are ready to shop in the garden centers for our potted roses. Years ago when I first started growing roses all the roses I planted were barefoot that I got from my local Northeast Rose Society. If you haven’t checked out your local rose society please do folks because most members are willing to help you and share their knowledge. When I was new to growing roses, rose society senior members would stop by my house and make sure I had all my questions answered and that was way back when I was in my twenties living along the North Shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. What’s important in the roses you get is the grade and how many healthy canes are on the rose bush. Be sure you have at least three healthy canes.

The Illinois Floribunda Rose Garden



So here are the stages of the first rose garden in Illinois, beginning with Jackson & Perkins ‘Gene Boerner’ then I found their exclusive ‘Kimberlina’, ‘Iceberg’, I planted bare root, ‘Betty Boop’, ‘Playboy’, ‘Sunsprite’ and ‘Rainbow Sorbet’.

Rose Legends: Papa Floribunda, Bill Warriner, & Dr. Keith Zary created 100’s and 100’s of the World’s Best Roses of Today while at Jackson & Perkins


The Kimberlina Rose at my home, and Dr. Keith Zary, his wife, and I at the Biltmore Rose Trials.


While working with Jackson & Perkins Roses, Jackson & Perkins – at the time a nearly 80-year-old rose propagation company in Newark known for its award-winning roses named for famous people, Warriner introduced the prize-winning hybrids Gay Princess, Gene Boerner and First Prize.

He later won 19 All-America awards for his rose introductions still while working on Jackson & Perkins hybrids.

His hybridizing accomplishments were outstanding. In his job as overseer of some 100,000 seedlings in the Jackson & Perkins research facility in Irvine, CA where he developed new rose strains, he became the only rose hybridizer in the 40-year-old All-American Rose Society to win All-American honors for three new breeds, Love, Honor and Cherish, in one year, 1980. I planted all three in my Plano, Texas garden.

Trust Roses That Have Won Multiple Awards by the World’s Best Rose Breeders

Bill Warriner retired as director of Jackson & Perkins research after working with the company for 25 years and developing 150 varieties of roses! His creations have continued to gain prestige since his retirement. Bill Warriner passed away at the age of 69 in 1991.

Dr. Zary is only the second US rose breeder to win the President’s International Trophy (PIT) and Gold Medal Award of the Royal National Rose Society. The rose that won is called ‘Greetings’, a white centered, purple shrub/landscape-type rose that is currently not available in the US, but is sold in England.

floribunda rose
Floribundas are easy and make a statement! This is my floribunda garden at home.

Another one of the first roses I planted in the Illinois floribunda garden is a rose exclusive to Jackson & Perkins called Kimberlina bred by Dr. Keith Zary. Why is this important to you? Because we want you to be successful with the roses you buy and plant. The American Rose Society requested we review some roses in our garden. Here are some of the the roses of the season that are the first to bloom: with a video of Kimberlina to show hundreds if not a thousand buds ready to burst into bloom.

If you want lush candelabras of roses, rapid bloom cycles, and a rose garden to enjoy for color and the joy of being in your own rose garden you want floribundas.


About Susan Fox

Susan Fox is a consulting rosarian, an author, and an award winning Getty® Images photographer and event planner that speaks, grows, and shows roses and gardens. Founder of Gaga’s Garden®, and author of Four Seasons of Roses Monthly Guide to Rose Care, Ms. Fox was awarded the American Rose Society's (ARS) Presidential Citation "for Promoting the Rose and Rose Education Via Social Media.”