By Any Other Name

Country care roses provides a garden of knowledge on rose care and history
The Mrs. B.R. Cant Tea rose, grown by famed rose breeder Benjamin Cant

It began as a weekend project. Bill and Rhonda Spilman would drive up from Sunrise to their 10 acres in Fellsmere to get back to nature. “I told the man doing some grading for us to clear a spot behind the house for a rose garden.” Rhonda smiles at the memory. “He looked at me like I was crazy and declared there was no way roses would grow in this dirt.” She set out to prove him wrong. 

Spilman began as most gardening enthusiasts do, buying from big box stores and spraying, pruning and fussing over temperamental roses that looked their best the day they came home. She soon realized this was not how she wanted to spend her time and began extensive research, frequenting libraries and seminars to learn everything she could about roses still on their original root, before hybridization and grafting altered the destiny and growing habits of the celebrated flower. “I learned that the old roses were hardier and better equipped to handle our hot summers,” she recalls. “I spent hours on the internet researching information and purchasing from Vintage Roses in California and Roses Unlimited in South Carolina. These were very special places with old growth roses they had nurtured for years.” 

The Spilman’s secret garden known as Country Care Roses is tucked away off of two dirt roads a few miles from downtown Fellsmere. My car’s GPS gets me within a quarter mile and gives up. I find the long driveway and keep pace with the neighbors’ dogs racing down the fence line and turn into Country Care Roses, where the fruits of Spilman’s labor fill my senses. Rose bushes in neat rows mound, climb and drift in every direction overtaking bowers, trellises and spreading along the ground. Bees dive deep into flowers and lift off slowly like tiny dirigibles laden with their pollen cargo. “The first thing we did was plant nectar and host plants for bees and butterflies and trees that produce fruit and berries for birds. The balance of nature is a big part of the success of these roses.”

Categories: Features, Home & Garden