Nation's top rose educator shares his wisdom

Nation's top rose educator shares his wisdom

May 14th, 2011 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Ted Mills is known as the "Rose Man" for a reason. His passion for our country's national flower has been blooming since he returned to Chattanooga in 1946 after serving in World War II.

Mills started his first rose garden with nine bushes. He has had as many as 400 but reduced the number by half as he grew older. The 200 remaining bushes include many varieties.

"You have to grow them to know them," he said. "This led me and my wife, Mary Alice, to becoming master rosarians and accredited American Rose Society show judges."

In 2010, Mills was awarded the Klima Gold Medal by the American Rose Society for being the outstanding rose educator in America.

Mills, whose favorite rose is the Mr. Lincoln variety, offers tips on growing roses on his website at


1 Keep rose bushes adequately irrigated. Water is the most important component. Bushes need six to 10 gallons of water per week.

2 Prepare a good home for the bushes. Mix one-third fertile soil with one-third brown creek sand and one-third organics, which may include manures or composted vegetation. A minimum of six hours of sunlight is a must to produce good roses.

3 Roses are heavy feeders, so fertilize well throughout growing season. Composted leaves, manures and organic mixes found at garden centers are excellent meals for rose bushes. It is better to feed roses lightly on a regular basis rather than to gorge them occassionally.

4 Prune weak and dead branches throughout the growing season. Major pruning in the spring enables new and vigorous growth. Pruning assists in good air circulation, which helps prevent disease attacks. Roses are often victims of disease and insect attacks.

5 Deadhead roses regularly. Deadheading is the process of removing spent blooms.