The Magic of Roses

By Karin Fabry • Photos By John Jernigan

Jim and Linda Wilkerson have been living in their 1924 Ocala home for 23 years. When they first moved in, the yard left much to be desired. Jim planted two rose beds, shaped like kidneys, to cheer his wife who was having a difficult time dealing with her mother’s recent death.

“It was a surprise for Linda,” Jim says. “Those bushes have become very sentimental to both of us.”

Today, the Wilkerson’s yard is in bloom with thousands of different roses that fill the air with a sweet fragrance every spring and summer.

“We have a very prominent lot on a relatively busy intersection,” Jim says. “When I added our first rose bush, I did it for our own enjoyment. But our neighbors, friends, and passersby got just as much joy from our roses as we did. So now, we keep up our roses for everyone to enjoy.”

“The roses signify that my mother is happy and wants me to go on and be happy, too,” Linda says with a smile. “And the roses do make me happy. They make me think of a lot of wonderful memories.”

“We both love the beauty of the rose,” Jim adds.

And while the Wilkersons acknowledge that caring for their roses can be a detailed job, they’re both quick to admit that the work is well worth the results.

“It’s a great hobby for me,” Linda says, “and it’s something we can keep up with together.”

The variety in the Wilkerson garden is stunning. Tea roses, Don Juans, Mister Lincolns, and Double Delights are just a few types of roses on display. Bright blooms in varying shades of red, pink, peach, yellow, and purple are a feast for the eyes.

Linda and Jim each has their own personal favorite when it comes to roses. Lois favors the Simplicity rose, a lightly scented true pink flower while Jim prefers the Mister Lincoln, the most sought-after hybrid tea rose ever created. The deep red color of the Mister Lincoln is both rich and romantic.

“From my standpoint, roses are just breathtaking,” Jim adds. “I’ve always been amazed by roses — that something so beautiful can be created by water, soil, the sun, and a few nutrients is outstanding. The new foliage in the beginning of spring always looks so fresh and green. Soon after, the buds form and you know the flowers are just around the corner. It’s exciting each and every season.”

And when the flowers bloom at the Wilkerson home, they really bloom. With more than 100 bushes, each plant can produce 50 to 75 blooms at a time. The Wilkersons will be the first to admit that roses will continue to bloom all season long. As one flower wilts and is ready for pruning, another bud will emerge, waiting to open.

As a rule, the Wilkersons always try to keep fresh-cut roses in their home so the flowers can be enjoyed both indoors and out.

“Jim is funny about cutting the stems,” Linda says. “When he cuts the roses to bring inside, he always waits until they’re open and full. He says he wants the neighbors to be able to enjoy them as long as possible outside before he brings them in.”

That’s what roses are all about, according to Jim — allowing others to enjoy them. And the Wilkersons make a habit of sharing their blooms with others whenever they can. It’s not uncommon for friends and family to leave with a vase full of vibrant blooms. Jim adds that once they even gathered fallen rose petals for friends to use down the aisle at their wedding.

“The rose is one of God’s greatest creations, “Jim says. “You don’t have to have a large rose garden to enjoy it. That’s one of the best things about roses. You can have just one plant and get as much joy out of it as you would if you had a yard full of roses.”

The Wilkerson’s Tips For Rose Success

1. Make sure roses are planted where they will get plenty of sunlight.
2. Don’t use plain potting mix. Look for a “true mix” for roses that’s available at local gardening stores.
3. Get a good Florida rose book or join the Rose Society and plant according to the advice you get.
4. Make sure to keep the plants watered when it isn’t raining. When it’s hot and they’re blooming, each plant could go through several gallons of water a day.

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